In the country of last things
In the country of last things is the first stage of the Apocalypse, it’s what comes before The Road – although, in all fairness,it’s not as engaging or as terrifying. It all takes place in an unnamed city (which everyone was quick to assume is New York), isolated from the rest of the world, where all that one would consider ‘normal life’ is falling apart, slower at first – then faster and faster, much like an avalanche of resurfaced baser animal instincts. Where The Road goes for total destruction and devastation, In the country of last things deals with the gradual changes: people losing their homes, their livelihoods (and thus the birth of new ‘occupations’), an isolationist, ineffectual, corrupt State that only retains functions to punish and clear the waste (and the dead) and people who can no longer deal with the new realities finding themselves more and more inventive ways to commit suicide, probably in an attempt to find some kind of meaning in this new world order (the runners, the leapers etc).
The novel is a letter written by Anna Blume, a young girl who used to be spoilt in another lifetime and who now finds herself in the city searching for her brother Michael. She ends up chronicling her experiences in this disintegrating society, so her story doesn’t contain any background (how it all started – one can only guess) and it mostly covers her own experiences – first alone, scavenging, then with Irene, a woman whose life she saved and then, once Irene dies, with Sam, a man who came from her own hometown with the same initial mission (him and Michael were both journalists for the same paper) and who becomes her lover. It all ends on an optimistic note – but this doesn’t diminish the impact of the last things, of how everything is slowly disappearing, from objects, to people, to words which lose their meaning and end up forgotten – a whole language that will soon no longer make sense, no longer be able to serve its purpose. And somehow, through this slow death and disintegration, the loss of the means and desire to communicate is the most frightening.