Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What Mrs N's Been Reading - The Last Book in the Universe

Ok, not the actual last book in the universe, but Rodman Philbrick's The Last Book in the Universe. I'm a big fan of Philbrick's Freak the Mighty, so I'm not sure what took me so long to get around to this one. It's the story of a young boy, Spaz, who lives in a futuristic society, long after a cataclysmic earthquake has rendered most of the world a rubble-filled wasteland. Spaz has epilepsy, so the seizures make him a bit of an outcast. Areas are controlled by, essentially, gang leaders, who rule by fear. Spaz's life is changed when he is sent by the local gang leader to steal whatever an old man named Ryter has of value. This usually happens right before an execution order. Most of the people regularly use mind probes, that are actually, physically stuck into your brain, as a virtual reality escape, but the probes tend to fry your brain over time. Ryter is the only person left who has any knowledge of life before the earthquake, only because he can read, and he doesn't use the probes. He wants to write as much as he can with what time he has left. Ryter irritates the bejeebers out of Spaz, but he finds himself drawn to the old man. When Spaz gets word that his old foster sister is deathly ill and wants to see him, he and Ryter, along with a feral child that lives near Ryter, set out on a quest to find and try to save the foster sister. The book uses a lot of futuristic slang. It bugged me a little at first, but I got used to it quickly. I thought that maybe Philbrick let up on the slang after the first couple of chapters, but I went back and reread the first chapter after I was done, and apparently I just got used to it. Anyway, it moves well, with characters that you care about. It also gets you thinking about how society treats different segments of the population, how greedy we can become based simply on where we were born, and what would really happen to society if there was a truly devastating event. Very good book, and fine for both middle and high school students.

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