Andy Sutherland is an oil engineer. Eight years ago he was commissioned to write a report by a group of people, the identities of whom he does not know, on the fragility of the world due to its reliance on oil, and what would happen should the oil stop flowing. His findings have haunted him ever since and have largely contributed to the breakup of his marriage, as he has become obsessed with the theory that one day, the world will reach 'Peak Oil' which will occur when all the easily extractable oil in the ground will dry up and it will no longer be economically viable to remove what's left.
It begins on a Monday morning. Andy is out in Iraq doing some private contracting work and is travelling with a somewhat depleted and very fatigued platoon of British soldiers. Meanwhile his estranged wife, Jenny, is in Manchester for a job interview - the start of her new life, she hopes. Their two children, Leona and Jake, are in London, at University and boarding school. A news report comes in - a massive bomb has gone off outside one of the main Suni temples in Saudi Arabia. Over the next few hours a chain of events takes place around the world that effectively shuts off the global oil supply. Events that Andy had outlined in his report years previously...
Much of the UK's armed forces are out of the country. The police and what military resources remain are being deployed to guard oil refineries and other strategic installations such as petrol stations and supermarkets. Motorways are blockaded to stop people moving around the country. Electricity and water supplies are cut off. Great Britain is on lockdown. Meanwhile, society is rapidly descending into lawlessness and anarchy as people realise that that they are now without rule of law. There are no police on the streets and people are being pretty much left to their own devices. Houses are being looted, people are being murdered for food and water(or even just for fun), and women are being raped.
In the shadows a lone figure is searching for Leona. His job is simple - to find her and to eliminate her. For Leona could singlehandedly topple those who hold the future of civilisation in their hands. A group of people who wield enough power to shape history and world events. A group of people who paid her father an awful lot of money to write a report, eight years ago.
As things begin to unravel each member of the Sutherland family faces their own personal hell as they try desperately to survive the rising chaos and terror that is unfolding.
I read this book in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down. And it scared the bejeezus out of me, for two reasons. Firstly, it really brought home to me just how reliant we are on a few pipelines snaking across far away, politically unstable lands, carrying the 'black gold' that we in the Western World rely on for almost everything in our daily lives in one way or another. Secondly, how quickly things will turn to custard if the taps carrying that black gold get turned off for any reason. It's a sobering thought. And it's not an unthinkable one. One day the oil is actually going to run out. Already the race is on to find alternative energy sources with only varying degrees of success. Currently we are almost wholly reliant on oil to keep the cogs of our daily lives turning. Money doesn't make the world go round, oil does.
Any romantic notions that you may have about the British Blitz Spirit and communities working together to help each other will be shattered upon reading Last Light. We live in a just in time society these days with most people only keeping two or three days supply of food in the house. When people are starving and dehydrated they will do pretty much anything to survive, including things that in 'normal' life they would consider unthinkable. We take everything for granted and assume that the Governement will just step in and 'sort everything out'. But that ain't necessarily so.
The book flits between the different strands of the storyline chapter by chapter. Although this won't suit all readers I personally did enjoy this style of writing, as at any given moment in time you are fully immersed in exactly what's happening, and it really gives you a flavour of how quickly events are unfolding in the different locations.
I would encourage you all to read this book. It's definitely an eye opener and you may find yourself having a few sleepless nights once you've finished it. Or you could just google Peak Oil if you REALLY want to terrify yourself. You may even find yourself, like me, planting a few vegetables this year and keeping your larder better stocked. You know - 'just in case'.
Last Light ISBN: 9780752893273
At the time of writing new paperback copies of Last Light are available from Amazon for £5.35.
Alex Scarrow has written a second book , Afterlight, which follows on from Last Light and is about how society copes in a post oil world. I haven't read that yet, but it's next on my list.
Review of 'Last Light' a novel by Alex Scarrow.
I am reviewing the paperback edition of the novel, ISBN 978-0752886152 , 352 pages, published by Orion, jacket price £6.99. Genre- Thriller.
The plot is the story of the breakdown of the oil industry following targeted sabotage of all the world's major oil fields and oil processing plants and the drastic effects on society that a lack of oil has. The plot follows Andy Sutherland, his wife Jenny and their two children Leona and Jake, the British Army in Iraq and other characters that it would be impossible to mention without ruining the plot for others!
Oil engineer Andy Sutherland is stranded in Iraq with a company of British soldiers. He is desperate to get home to his family, but finds himself trapped as transport links and the very infrastructure of Iraq begins to collapse around him.
Andy's wife, Jenny, is planning to leave her husband. On the day of the oil disaster, she is in Manchester for a job interview. Leona is at University in East Anglia and Jake is at boarding school. Andy manages to phone his wife and daughter and tells them to get back to London as soon as possible. At first they think that Andy is over-reacting as he has been obsessed by what he terms 'Peak Oil' for some years. He has written reports and warned of the disaster should societies reliance on oil come under threat so often, that his wife has had enough and is seeking a life away from her obsessive husband.
Within hours of the oil sabotage, the news spreads and so does panic. The government takes the decision to block all rail, air and road travel and shut down petrol stations to conserve energy. The general public very quickly begin to panic buy, emptying supermarkets and riots develop as people rush to obtain food and bottled water. Police and the Armed forces are deployed to guard petrol and oil reserves and to block off Britain's motorways to ensure the public do not travel.
The Sutherland family, spread across the UK realise that Andy was right all along in is warnings of a dire future and the plot tells of their struggles to get home and Andy's near fatal escape from Iraq.
The book describes the feral youths who treat the crisis as a God given opportunity to behave however they wish, in four short days, and the terror with which they rule Britain's towns, means that Britain becomes a savage playground for these young hooligans. What starts off as groups of Hoodies taking advantage of no law enforcement swiftly degenerates into a very realistic and frightening situation of anarchy and lawlessness.
The storyline is not a new one, yet the plot feels fresh and exciting. For the outcome-sorry-you'll have to read it for yourself!
Alex Scarrow is the brother of author, Simon Scarrow. Alex lives in Norwich with his wife Frances and their son, Jacob.
Before becoming a full time author, Alex Scarrow worked in the music industry and in in the computer games business as a graphic artist and eventually as a games designer. He worked on several popular games such as Waterworld, Evolva, The Thing, Spartan, Gates of Troy and Legion Arena .
Further information about Alex Scarrow can be found on the website he shares with his brother.
**Price and Availability**
My copy was actually bought from a public library book sale for 20p, however it bears the jacket price of £6.99.
'Last Light' can be purchased from www.amazon.co.uk from £2.42 new or 49p used.
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
I cannot remember when a novel affected as much as Last Light did! I actually stayed up most of the night in order to finish the book, in fact I read it in less than 24 hours!
In my opinion, the subject matter is topical and the effects of no oil would be so devastating to the modern world, that I do believe that society could break down should a situation such as that portrayed in Last Light occur.
Alex Scarrow's plot and characters are very well drawn and believable, so much so, that when I put the book down and went into my garden (for a cigarette after reading a particularly harrowing chapter!), I found myself checking that there was no one lurking around waiting to seize our food and water!
The novel is a fast paced, action packed, thriller, it has drama, twists, turns, political intrigue, secret groups who in effect, hold the world to ransom for reasons which are known only to a handful of selected people, a little of everything that a good thriller should have!
The subject is possibly one that may make some readers uncomfortable, but I feel this is a novel that should be read, if only as a warning to an oil greedy world!
Thank you for reading.
NB My review may be found on other review sites under the same user name, brittle1906.