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


Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

This week I’ve been trying to push on with my reading.  I did finish Last Exit by Max Gladstone and by the time this post goes live I also expect to have completed another of my SPFBO finalists.  Hopefully reviews up soon.  I have had a rather full week and haven’t managed to catch up with things the way I’d have liked but I’ve made a start blog hopping and hope to get back on trace and uptodate with reviews this week.

Books read this week:

1 x SPFBO book

Next Week’s Reads:

I have another SPFBO finalist lined up and also I’ve made a start on The City of Dusk by Tara Sim.

  1. Sundial by Catriona Ward


Last Exit by Max Gladstone


Friday Face Off : The most recent book you’ve read that has covers to compare


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

I’ve added themes in below. For information, I’m trying out some new ideas so along with coming up with particular items for book covers I thought we could also look for certain elements contained within the book or that play a large part in the story – this really broadens things out because I have plenty of more ideas with this – I’ve gone for a few of the Tough Travel Themes (so a book with that theme – just choose any book – the theme isn’t necessarily on the cover, then compare covers), also, I’ve thrown in some genres and some colours.  Hopefully this will open things out a little and give us some more freedom to come up with new books.

This week’s theme:

The most recent book you’ve read that has covers to compare


18th – Somewhere over the rainbow – a very colourful book cover
25th – A book of few words – a one word title
1st Spring forward – compare the covers for two books you’re excited about
8th – Fresh and Green – a cover that is predominantly green
15th Genre – a book or series that is urban fantasy
22nd – Tough Travel Tropes – unknown magical ability
29th – Long/pointed ears
May the Month of Wyrd and Wonder
6th All about the women – kickass moms, daughters, grans, etc
13th A favourite book to film
20th Sunny and bright  – a cover that is predominantly yellow
27th Books with ‘You’ in the title
3rd  Under the Sea – anything you like
10th Sparkling like the sea – a cover that is turquoise
17th So pretty – exactly what it says
24th Daddy Dearest – a book with a strong father role
1st Genre – epic – any book that fits into the genre
8th Hazy and hot – a cover that is predominantly orange
15th Tough Travel Tropes – Snarky sidekick
22nd Off the TBR
29th Gigantic – monsters, giants, buildings,insects – anything at all
5th Tough Travel Tropes – out for summer – school or academic setting
12th Dark/sky/navy  – a cover that is blue
19th Scantily Dressed
26th Tough Travel Tropes – Vacation time – the quest
September RIP
2nd Fallen leaves – covers that are brown
9th Armour/Protection
16th Rage against the machine – anything, cogs, clockwork, AI
23rd Tough Travel Tropes – Coming of Age
30th Genre – horror
October – Horror/Dark
7th Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?
14th Witches vs warlocks
21st Tough Travel Tropes – Good vs evil
28th  Covers that are black
November – Scifi Month
4th Red skies at night – Covers that are red
11th Tough Travel Tropes – The gang
18th Genre – Swords and Sorcery
25th Genre – And they all lived happily ever after – fairy tales retold
2nd Tough Travel Tropes – Assassins
9th Tough Travel Tropes – Darklord
16th Genre – Grimdark (most recent/favourite, etc)
23rd Decadent and rich – a cover that is purple
30th Completions – a satisfying conclusion to a book or serie

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week I mentioned that I was pressing on with my SPFBO finalists and those plans managed to stay on track.  I completed the book I was reading and also managed to fit in another SPFBO book which means I’m now at the halfway point. In review books I read The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley which I really enjoyed and already reviewed earlier this week.  I also read Gallant by VE Schwab and my review for that one shall be posted soon.  I do have some catching up to do.  I’ve not been responding to comments and I’ve not been keeping up with my buddy read or blog hopping – I thought I had to push on with my SPFBO and make some headway and also I can’t deny that recent ‘world events’ have definitely had a very negative impact.  I won’t go into that on here though.

Books read this week:

Next Week’s Reads:

I shall of course be starting another SPFBO book.  I’ve started Sundial by Catriona Ward and I’m also hoping to pick up Last Exit by Max Gladstone.

  1. The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn
  2. The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Outstanding reviews:

Gallant by VE Schwab

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone #TimeWar

This is HowTIHYLTTW is such an unusual book, quite extraordinary really.  Thought provoking, clever and the type of read that will appeal on multiple levels.  I loved it.

Here we have a most unlikely love story, told primarily in epistolary format, this is a tale that spans the ages and cunningly side steps some of the issues that can sometimes accompany time travel and science fiction.

On the face of it this is a story of two agents, both jumping back and forth through time in order to manipulate the timeline.  Both pitched against each other and yet eventually, through loneliness, finding a place in each other’s affection that could prove deadly should that affection become known to their commanders.

I’m not going to enter into details of the plot to be honest.  I think each reader will have a different experience when reading this and so to try and sum it up in a nutshell is not something I’m keen to do – plus at just over 200 pages I really believe this will be best discovered with no prior knowledge going into the read.

So, what else can I tell you.

This works quite simply as a story of two people, adversaries to begin with, who slowly become enamoured with each other.  The writing is beautiful, flowery maybe but also with so many unique concepts that it is simply fascinating.

This brings me to the sci-fi elements.  This is the type of science fiction that doesn’t over elaborate – which means I love it.  It also means that it doesn’t become convoluted with over ambitious explanations.  The time travel element simply ‘is’.  I don’t know how it works, I don’t really know what missions both of these agents are undertaking, I don’t know what the objectives are – I just know that things happen and taken on face value like this there’s a sort of easy acceptance to it all.  Time travel can be another very complicated thread with all the paradoxes and getting turned around in circles but the simplicity here means no headaches for me – and no doubt no headaches for you too.  Now you might be thinking that you want all those explanations and details – and maybe I would have liked some hints – but, at the same time I found I really didn’t miss them.  It’s incredibly odd – they simply weren’t necessary to the story.  In fact, given that the two characters are so firmly rooted in this future world why would they need to explain anything to each other.  They wouldn’t – and so any such detail would only end up feeling forced.

The writing is really rather lovely.  There’s a sparsity to it where nothing at all is wasted, everything has a meaning here and it’s the sort of writing that makes you want to stop and reflect.  Don’t be too keen to gobble up these pages in a rush, you will be missing out if you do.

I may have mentioned that I love letter writing in my stories and this is no exception.  The letters here are sprinkled in the most unlikely places, scattered amongst seeds and other unexpected items.  I loved reading them.  The thoughts and desires but more than that the way the letters change over the course of time becoming something that both correspondents are desperately waiting for and have in fact become dependent upon.  On top of this there is the almost poetic style which when coupled with the unlikely romance between the two main characters gives it an uptodate Shakespearean feel.

I loved all the references, the ones I picked up on anyway, I’m sure I missed a good few or they were simply above my head as this is a clever little nugget.  And this brings me to my final thoughts, which I’m still dwelling on.  This is a story that I felt had a subtle underlying message.  The two central characters are fundamentally opposed in the first instance purely as a result of their own make-up.  This is set in a far future that has seen advances not only in technology but also in nature and yet the two don’t sit well together – in fact they’re at war with each other – right up until they discover they can get along.

Anyway, this book is very different, very unusual in fact, and, very good.

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

4.5 of 5 stars.

Finally my thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for including me in the blog tour for this wonderful novel.  I’ve posted the banner below so you can see which other bloggers are taking part and maybe pay them a visit to check out their thoughts too.

Time War blog blast.png




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