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4.2 out of 5 stars
Last Light
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2007
I love Alex Scarrow's brother's (Simon) Roman novels and I discovered Alex via Simons website while seeing if there was another Macro & Cato coming soo. What I found- a thousand suns- was a pretty good pageturner set in WW2 & the present day. Not a book that made me think by any means but well worth reading.

'Last Light' is different, not least because its set in the present. In a nutshell all the worlds oil supplies are shut down by the simple act of setting off a big car bomb outside the main Sunni shrines in Saudi Arabia. Iraq shows us what happens next.... all out inter-muslim civil war which engulfs the oil producing regions. Add in a bomb or two in Russias oil fields and low and behold Britain has a weeks worth of food, clean water and oil.

The book itself jumps between an oil engineer stranded in Iraq with a depleted platoon of british troops, his daughter stranded in an apocalyptic London ruled by gangs of looters and his estranged wife desperately trying to get from Manchester home to London to reunite the family. This works well and keeps the story flowing fast without interupting any of the characters sub-plots.

The recent floods in England show just how easy it is for essential supplies to be interupted and any idea that we have a 'Blitz Spirit' is nonsense... we panic buy at the drop of a hat. The whole book was far too realistic for comfort and made me realise just how little food and water I have in my house. Its also made me (a self confessed global warming sceptic) realise that we are far too dependent on oil, not because of it enviromental impact but because our very lives are dependent on a few thin pipes running from very unstable countries.

I'd have given this book 5 stars but for two reasons: as with Scarrows previous book there is annoying little errors. The M1 doesn't run past Birmingham, Easyjet don't fly 727's etc. A good editor should have picked these up. The second is the 'shadowy global conspiracy which involves Kennedy's assassination' which I won't describe as it will spoil the plot. This is unneccessary and makes a horribly realistic book just a little too conspiracy theory driven. Frankly the simple explanation is usually the best and unrest in the middle east doesn't need secret western cabals to spark it off.

As some of the other reviewers have said: read this book and think about it. If everything goes wrong a bit of pre-planning as suggested here might just save your life.... and there's not many fictional books make you say that!
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2007
Alex Scarrow has written a frightening story that may seem to have an obvious premise (in a nutshell, we're far too reliant on oil); however it's all the more frightening for how little serious consideration we give this issue.
Various events - it'll spoil the story to go into too much detail - result in the world's oil supply being more or less destroyed. Throughout the world and especially the UK, chaos and panic begin. Those with supplies of food and water are relatively prepared. Unfortunately, they're also targets for those without and any ideas of decency and civilisation go out the window in the struggle for survival. There is no 'Spirit of the Blitz' mentality; it's everyone for himself.
In the middle of this, Andy Sutherland attempts to get back to England from Iraq while his estranged wife works her way from Manchester to London in order to get to their two children. The problem is, someone else is after one of their children for reasons connected to the cause of the disaster. At the same time, the country is tearing itself apart.

Read the first couple of pages and get ready for a ride.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
There's no doubt that Alex Scarrow researched the Peak Oil topic at length to the point where he seems to have become an evangelist on the subject.

The threats of the issues Scarrow addresses are well, and poignantly made, which makes you wonder especially with some of the Middle East States in some degree of turmoil.

So full credit to Scarrow for this.

I even found the Kiwi Geologist Andy Sutherland quite engaging and what he represented was very plausible.

So the build up to the book was of great interest, well crafted and kept me gripped.

However it the started to fall apart at the seams due to too many plot sceanarios which were far fetched and unreal.

An unkown cartel which has been going for some time who were behind the events of WWII, his daughter who saw some of the key members of this cartel and is now the target of this group (who hire an assassin aka The Ghost to murder her), Andy's wife (they are starting divorce proceedings) making her way perilouslly back to London through the carnage caused by the catalysmic events with some guy she has met en route who doesn't seem to play a significant role and so it goes on.

This was, for me, a book about a wake-up call to the the fact that we over-rely on oil to the point that we are doomed without it (unless we plan better for a future without oil).

The story that Scarrow weaved around it was OK.

Positives were ...

It scored well by describing the impending social apocalypse, the subsequent chaos with people going native and by panic buying all remaining supplies of food and water.

There was a very well described scene at a Motorway Service Station as to how close the line is from a civilised society to one in which we behave like animals.

I suppose it's very easy to think that we're safe in Britain.

Whilst we suspect events in the Middle East won't really affect our way of life and blindly believe that the oil will just keep on coming.

But what's Plan B when the oil runs out?

Negatives were ...

Too many implausable aspects of the storyline which spoiled a very good idea.

The apocalyptic genre has many terrific examples.

This could have up there but just missed the gold.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
There was a James Burke series 20 years ago that pointed out how interconnected the world really is and how just one circuit breaker plunged the North American eastern seaboard into darkness.

This books premise is that
a) we are absolutely dependent on oil
b) we have no idea how to survive if this oil is stoppped
c) someone thinks they should plan ahead for the time oil is no longer available

I read this book in a day because I could not put it down - the way society is said to break down so quickly when certain very basic tihings like food and water are gone - I can't remember who said we are just three meals away from revolution - this book brings that whole thing to life and potentially shows that civilisation is a pretty thin coat on some very basic needs

One of the best reads of 2007 for me
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 October 2007
Alex Scarrow lives a nomadic existence with his wife Frances and his son Jacob, their current home being Norwich (you can`t get much more nomadic than that). When he left college he led an interesting life chasing record deals and the next 12 years in the computer games industry, which I suppose is the same kind of thing, chasing dreams and fantasy.

The author has spent a number of years researching an issue that affects us all. He has written a spine-chilling thriller that leaves the reader in no doubt, how fragile the human society has become and is now. It is only a nanosecond away from oblivion.

What leaves society teetering on the brink. The world's oil supplies. The book shows what could happen to society if these supplies were ever cut. It is of course a fictional novel but the story shows what could happen if somebody sabotaged the world's oil supplies. Oil a natural product that society has come to lean on so heavily. This is a terrific read and a really convincing story. Maybe, just maybe it could happen . .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
For his second instalment into the world of writing, Alex tackles something that has fascinated him for a few years since originally reading about it and boy does it show. The passion behind the writing of a possible uncomfortable world only a short time away, takes the reader upon a rollercoaster where they're never sure exactly where they're going to end up.

Add to that believable characters with personal issues and a realistic possibility of the events of tomorrow and this book is just something that will keep you glued to the last page, especially in light of recent worldwide events. Wonderfully creative, well written with a touch of the apocalypse thrown in and you have a tale to close for comfort that will keep you up at night wondering how far away this world really is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I couldn't put this down. And when I wasn't reading it, I was worrying about what "was happening" and if the various characters "would be ok". In other words, total suspension of disbelief as I spent a few days tied to the story.

Scarrow writes with an immediacy that had me gripping the book in a tight hot hold, hardly daring to breath. I had this book for a long time and was put off by the 1-star reviews but once I started I was hooked. I liked the main characters, I liked the way Scarrow wasn't afraid to kill off some good characters before they had much chance to develop (I found that realistic) and sometimes in dumb ways.

OK, so it's a page turner. Is it realistic? No, probably not. But it had me constantly wondering how my family and I would survive in a world out of control as described here. I lay awake at night picturing scenarios.

Oh, and I'm off to change to a power supplier that uses 100% renewable energy sources such as wind power. We are way too dependent on oil. OK, so the idea of some unknown powerful group orchestrating the whole thing is kind of silly, but hey, that's just a back story and not really the point of it all. It's just a device to pin the story on, and I'm ok with that. But the real fact of the world's total dependence on oil supplies that could be stopped within days or weeks is true and scary.

Or maybe I've been reading WAY too many apocalyptic novels lately and it's starting to make me paranoid. I'll just quickly read the sequel (I MUST find out what happens in the next one...) Then I'll definitely calm down with a few tai chi sessions and get back to my 19th century novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2012
The story is based on an engineered world oil shortage and specifically how badly it would affect a developed country such as the U.K. The action is set in 2007.Chapter 12 has the P.M's advisors updating him on the crisis.P.60 "We import most of our gas and coal"."what about nuclear" "We produce less than five percent of our needs from that right now" "There's also a residual drip-feed of oil still coming in from the North Sea"
In 2007 Nuclear provided 26% of our electricity. We imported 21% of our gas but only 4% of our oil.
Due to the geography of the North Sea, almost all Norway's oil and gas were pumped ashore in Britain.
If the author had set his scenario in say 2015 he would have been far nearer the mark.
Similarly p 63 "Your basic food stocks like wheat,grains,root crops, meat...We don't grow that kind of stuff over here any more"
in 2007 we were self sufficient in grain, exporting wheat, barley and oats and importing maize and rice.
We imported a quarter of our potatoes,60%of our vegetables and vegetable oils,45% of our meat and 15% of our eggs and milk.
We usually had a surplus of pulses (peas,beans etc.)Our worse deficit was fruit-95% imported( citrus,bananas,pineapple etc)
We also imported half our fish and 40% of our sugar.
Provided we maintained our energy needs, we would be able to feed ourselves though not quite as well.
Nonetheless the book does raise a valid point about the dangers of over-reliance on a fragile global supply chain.

Two minor quibbles, p.260 "we're as island of 65 million" 2007 official population just over 61 million.
P.387 "..over Hungary right now,not far off Bucharest" Indeed not but Budapest was probably intended.

A recommended read, as it is well-paced.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I thought Scarrow's first novel was okay and showed potential here he delivers on that potential and then some....
This is scary stuff, I have lost count of the thrillers I have read where the tag line suggests a chilling view of what could happen, but this struck me as being exactly that.
Imagine how long out society would survive if the oil stopped flowing? Well in this novel, an orchestrated series of events sets off civil war in the Middle East, and key sites are targeted with the result that the oil stops and in very short order, society breaks down.
The story is set around a family, an oil consultant caught out in the Middle East having to fight his way to safety with a small group of British troops, his wife caught in Manchester and trying to get south to their son and daughter, and the daughter trying to protect her brother from a society that has gone feral. The story whips through the three perspectives as the first days go by and they all try to find their way to safety and each-other. Against this backdrop is the conspiracy that has brought about the events and the sinister plans that a small group of people have.
This is scary stuff indeed and an absolute page turner. I hope this is not as realistic as it sounds, because if it is, we are in big trouble.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2013
Total shutdown of communication from me to family while I was gripped by this book. Scarily plausible, I was so freaked out that I immediately bought a book on growing your own vegetables. Other than scaring the pants off me, I found the chapters were a little short and EVERY one left you panicking about what was going to happen next, which got exhausting after a while, to be honest. Not fair! I read the last 2/3 in one sitting. Bottom line- very realistic, very thrilling, you will never look at the world in the same way again. Right. Better start planning the veg patch, then.
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