The Last Days
Scott Westerfeld
Razorbill, 2006

The Last Days is the sequel to Peeps; while it could be read and enjoyed without reading Peeps first, things will make more sense if you read them in order. Last Days is basically a young adult vampire novel, although it has a little more content than many of its genre. It also moves away from the vampire vibe of Peeps to an end-of-the-world zombie feeling. Compared to Peeps, it makes a rather drastic transition from science geek to music geek.

The Last Days takes place shortly after Peeps, as the plague sweeps New York. No, not that plague; If you had bothered to read Peeps, you would know that this is a plague that causes the infected to destroy everything they love and start eating people. However, this story doesn't follow the Night Watch. Instead, it focuses on a group of (mostly) uninfected youngsters as they try to form a band.

The five teenagers in the band are a diverse group; Moz and Zahler have been playing together for years, and while they would like to form a band, they haven't been able to get one together. This changes one day when Moz comes across a woman throwing her worldly possessions out her apartment window -- the most impressive item being a 1975 Fender Stratocaster with gold pickups (an expensive guitar). He manages to save it from smashing with the help of another passer-by, Pearl. Pearl happens to be another music geek who has recently lost her band due to her best friend and the band's lead singer becoming infected with the plague. Her friend, Minerva, is slowly recovering, with the help of lots of garlic, crosses, and mandrake tea. As a matter of fact, she may be about ready to start singing again. And finally, Alana Ray has been playing plastic paint buckets on the street for money; she might be willing to join the band, if they can put up with her various neurological conditions.

Of course, this is not just the story of the band. They happen to be coming together just as New York City is collapsing. The plague is picking up speed, rats are taking over the alleys and the subway, and the mysterious 'angels' are kidnapping anyone who starts looking like they might bite someone. No one really knows what's going on, but it's clearly something big. This would be scary enough, but with Minerva still eating lots of raw meat and avoiding the sun and making eyes at Moz, it looks like the plague might be spreading into their group. And worse, it appears that strange and dark creatures, even worse than the plagued humans, are attracted to their music.

Peeps distinguished itself as a highly scientific work of fantasy; The Last Days is obsessed with music and the experience if being in a band. I am not a musician of any sort, and therefor cannot say how compelling this aspect if the novel may be, but the author seems quite knowledgeable and I found it interesting even without any musical background. Of course, the most interesting part is the characters and the collapse of civilization.

Which goes down pretty well, all things considered. For the most part the end of civilization looks a lot like a bad garbage strike crossed with a police strike. No one feels safe on the subway, rats rule the alleys, and the whole city is staying inside (or leaving). This isn't a traditional zombie apocalypse, mostly because the zombies (or whatever) are taking care of their own. The excitement starts not when zombies start chasing people, but when people start poking their noses into the zombie's business.

This is a pretty good book, although I enjoyed Peeps more. I recommend starting with that book and seeing what you think -- if you like it, the sequel is worth reading. I found it a little less dramatic than I expected, and I would have preferred it if the battle for humanity's existence had had enough content for another book or two to flesh out the series, but overall I found the story engaging and the characters likable, so overall a good read. Sadly, this is the final book of the Peeps 'series'.

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