Last Exit by Max Gladstone

Posted On 14 March 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : A Book To Be Savoured


Last Exit is a book that I have no hesitation in recommending.  It’s thoughtful, thought provoking, entertaining and character-led.  At its core it’s a book of hope wrapped up with fantastic prose, found family and friends.  It has echoes of Gaiman’s American Gods and also shades of King’s IT and is a wonderful mix of science fiction, fantasy and horror.  The only proviso I would mention up front is that this is not a book that you will race through.  It takes it’s time and ponders life and friendship along the way.

This is a book told in two time frames.  A few years ago a group of intelligent students became good friends and, having made a discovery about how to manipulate probability and travel through alternating worlds, went on many adventures (ultimately seeking something better).  Unfortunately their final adventure ended on a dark note with one of the party (Sal) having fallen to a darkness that prevented her return.  The gang split apart and all tried to make new lives, except one character, Zelda, who lost the love of her life that fateful day and has been fighting the darkness (or rot as it’s known) ever since.  Zelda eventually realises that Sal is returning and calls the gang back together for one final foray.  She believes that during their travels they inadvertently spread the rot to our world and it’s now trying to push further in leaving destruction in its wake.  This is their chance to set things right – a make or break finale.

The characters are all very well drawn.  I couldn’t help favouring Zelda though who is really the central focus although there are pov switches.  Gladstone manages to really highlight how they’ve changed.  Ten years have slipped by and during that time they’ve started businesses, had children or entered new relationships but this isn’t the only way that we see them change.  It’s more that they started out as idealistic young people, everything was fun, exciting and a bit crazy – right up to the point where it all turned deadly serious and they realised they were dabbling in things that were actually dangerous. They now have responsibilities and ties but at the same time they can’t deny their past or the need to come back together to preserve their future.

The setting – well, there are many settings, some only briefly visited, others horror soaked and post apocalyptic in style.  I can’t really say that any of them would have made for a preferable location to the world the characters were from and perhaps that’s one of the overriding messages of the story.  The grass isn’t always greener after all.

The fantasy elements here are fairly slim.  There are the alternative realities and the ‘knack’ that each of the characters develop.  On top of this there is a strange character that seems to follow the gang trying to prevent them from their mission.  This character takes the form of a cowboy, his face always in shadow beneath the rim of his cowboy hat.  A decidedly creepy character who brings the horror elements to the story.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I mentioned above that this is a book that you won’t speed through and whilst that isn’t particularly a bad thing I did feel that it took quite some time for things to really get going.  I noticed on Goodreads that this has 400 pages but I think that might be a little lighter than the reality.  I would have guessed to be closer to the 600 page count and that isn’t really a criticism so much as a word to the wise that this may be a longer book than you’re anticipating.  In contrast to the excellent characterisation the world and some of the plot elements were a little skimpy.  The whole, mind bending probability discovery is only briefly touched upon, you just have to go with the flow and accept it for what it is.  Similarly with the ‘rot’ which I couldn’t help likening to the ‘nothing’ from the Neverending Story – a sort of bleak and dismal despair that sucks people and places in and leaves them devastated.

Overall, though, slight reservations aside, this is an impressive book.  A road trip with muscle cars that travel through universes like a tardis dipping in and out of realities and escaping death just in the nick of time.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 stars


6 Responses to “Last Exit by Max Gladstone”

  1. Tammy

    I wish I had time to read this, I do love this author. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it, and being able to savor a slower book is a plus😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      It definitely involves a time commitment and I think in some respects that frustrated me a little because it felt a little longer than the 400 pages it’s quoted as – but it’s very well written and thought provoking, certainly worth reading but I think in retrospect I would have fit it in over the course of a month with smaller books to fill in during each week.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    After reading your review, I’m certain this book would prove fascinating for me, because there are many elements (not least the focus on friendship and the way it might change over the years) I would enjoy. Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, it’s definitely a book with a lot of careful thought and it’s absolutely intriguing.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Okay, this does sound like a challenging read, but there are things about it that I think I will like, the different time frames and alternate realities notwithstanding!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think it’s a great book and very well done, definitely a book to be savoured.
      Lynn 😀

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