Monday, 1 April 2013

The Last Wild, by Piers Torday

The Last Wild is a charming animal adventure led by a young boy who is simply looking for answers and a place to belong.

Kester lives in a world ruined first by severe global warming and then decimated by a virulent virus. The remaining population lives in protected cities and watched over by Selwyn Stone, head of the governing corporation Facto. All the animals were wiped out by the virus - nicknamed Red-Eye for the effect on the sufferer’s eyes created in its final stage - and so the only food is the nutrient-rich gunk bestowed by Facto. Well, not all the animals: vermin remain, cockroaches and spiders and moths. And pigeons.

At least, this is what Kester has always been taught. After his mum died he stopped talking and he was taken away to live in a home for difficult children. But one night Kester wakes up to find not only that there is a flock of pigeons swirling about in his room, but that the pigeons are speaking to him. He can understand them, and they can understand him. In fact, they believe Kester is the boy in their prophecy, the boy with the Voice; the boy who can save them. But are they right?

The pigeons help Kester escape the horrible, unloving home he has been locked up in and take him out beyond the city and into the wild, where he discovers that not all the animals are dead after all. A few remain and they need his help. He must lead them back across the island, through enemies both natural and unnatural, to find his father, the only man Kester believes that might be able to help. What will be waiting for him when - if - he makes it?

Piers Torday has written a good little adventure with plenty of ups and downs to keep young readers enthralled. While the set-up sounds bleak, the fact of global warming is barely touched upon after the beginning as the story’s focus becomes the animals’ plight and - of course - the governmental enemy. There are a few plot holes (for instance, the background story of Kester’s world leaves many questions open) and the writing is just a tad stiff, but it’s good all-round entertainment and bound to ensnare youngsters in its web of adventure. Quercus (the publisher) have put together a lovely website which includes a map of Kester’s route across the wilds and provides some thoughtful questions about certain events in Kester’s pilgrimage - he has to make some tough choices along the way, so how does he know which ones are the right ones? Which ones would you take?

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