The Last Exodus by Paul Tassi
|Book Name:||The Last Exodus|
|Publisher(s):||Skyhorse Publishing: Talos|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Science-Fiction / Dystopian|
|Release Date:||10 January 2014|
I don’t read much Science-Fiction, but:
“What would happen if you threw Independence Day, The Walking Dead, and Guardians of the Galaxy into a blender? I can’t say for sure, but it’d probably look something like The Last Exodus.“
How could I not check it out, right?
Things kick of with a grim view of future Earth. Out of nowhere, aliens appeared (Independence Day) and all but destroyed our beloved planet. Our cities, our culture, our people – there’s very little left (The Walking Dead). The few humans who do remain don’t bother to hope, they’ve little to live for – thick red clouds keep survivors in darkness, the planet is heating up rapidly and water is disappearing. With food and water almost impossible to find, people have become so desperate that you can’t trust anyone. The vast majority of those who remain have turned to murder and theft as their means to survive. Cannibalism is commonplace and seems to have resulted in some-kind of insanity amongst those who have chosen it as their path.
The protagonist of The Last Exodus is Lucas. Lucas was away working when the aliens unleashed their devastation. With communications down, he was never able to find out what happened to his family. When we meet him, Lucas is heading back home as a means of finding out. You get the impression, however, that our ‘hero’ already knows what is waiting for him and is ready to end things once he confirms his suspicions. Indeed, once he arrives at his destination, it’s not just his family or his home he finds missing, but the whole of Portland: it’s little more than a crater.
Before Lucas can make a decision about what to do next, he comes across an alien spaceship. Within it he finds an alien who – rather than kill him where he stands – offers him a way off the Earth. If Lucas can learn to fly his alien ship and trust this alien creature then perhaps he can find a new life… doing something… somewhere. He doesn’t really know where he is going and neither do we, and that’s a big part of the book’s appeal: what next?
In addition to Lucas, there is a completely unstable female character named Asha. Once Asha boards, she seems just as likely to kill Lucas and the alien-traitor as she is to help them. Despite this, if Lucas’s mission is successful, it’s likely she will be the only human that he will ever communicate with again. That is until Noah, a baby, is brought onto the ship. So, in addition to dangerous missions to salvage parts required to repair the spaceship, the odd-ball crew (Guardians of the Galaxy) must protect and bring up an infant.
The dynamic between the characters and their changing relationships is the perfect blend of amusing, nail biting and touching. The characters are forced together and their pasts and recent experiences should have seen each kill the other within seconds of meeting. However, the human (and, seemingly, alien) need to communicate, to survive and to support sees them find a way to work and thrive together. It’s quite a powerful message and although Paul Tassi doesn’t explore human nature as deeply or as directly as other speculative fiction novels do (i.e. it’s subtlety done), the characters’ journeys and reliance upon each other does hit you at numerous points throughout the novel.
In addition to providing a message, these relationships also help the pace of the novel, which is relentless. One minute we are in the middle of a gunfight, the next we are learning to fly a ship, the next we are learning about alien technology, the next an elite alien seeking vengeance appears to take us out, then… well, I won’t spoil it all. But there’s plenty more awaiting you. You do sense that there will be a slowing down of things in the second novel. This first novel was an explosion of action, as I’ve said, but there were some clever ideas and space-opera reminiscent plot-threads that will likely see this series of novels head more in the alien politics and alien warfare direction from the very beginning of book two, The Exiled Earthborn.
Now, I said I don’t read much Science-Fiction and that’s true (I’ve only really read the popular stuff – Iain Banks, Phillip K. Dick, Alistair Reynolds, and so on). However, I do know that a lot of Science-Fiction readers can be quite picky when it comes to the details and explanations given in terms of how tech was created and how it works, etc. Tassi’s explanations never really go beyond: this is an x and it works by the power of y. You won’t get a chapter or even page worth of detailed manual-like explanation. I imagine a large part of this comes from Tassi’s background as an avid video game player and renowned blogger working within that industry. Certainly, the technology featured feels far more as though it came from Gears of War, Halo or Deadspace than novels like Banks’s Culture, Robinson’s Red Mars or Reynold’s Revelation Space, for example. The upside of this is that nothing is restricted to the author – the alien, Alpha, is forever creating cool weapons, cool armour and cool modifications for the ship. I think those not used to Science-Fiction will appreciate this and those who grew up playing games like Duke Nukem and enjoying the absurdity of the BFG-type weapons from that generation of gaming will be in for a treat.
I’ve tried not to talk too much about the antagonist in The Last Exodus, because to do so would ruin quite a few reveals and twists, in addition to the direction of future novels. What I would say is that he is a badass and suits his purpose very well. Just like the very best video game villains, he is pure evil and his tactics for solving a problem are stop it moving with maximum possible brutality. Paul weaves in a good backstory for him and I hope that there is more about his particular breed in future novels.
Evidence suggests – when you combine his blogging/journalism/social media output – that Tassi is a guy who writes 5000-10,000 words a day. Certainly, at no point during this novel do his prose feel amateur. Readers looking for a fast, fun, action-packed novel that offers memorable characters, terrifying and seemingly unbeatable foes, cool tech and a twisting-turning storyline that could head just about anywhere will really enjoy this debut from Tassi and be quick to pick up the sequel to see what trouble our oddball cast of questionable heroes find themselves in next.