Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Last Town on Earth

From Publishers Weekly
It is the autumn of 1918 and a world war and an influenza epidemic rage outside the isolated utopian logging community of Commonwealth, Wash. In an eerily familiar climate of fear, rumor and patriotic hysteria, the town enacts a strict quarantine, posting guards at the only road into town. A weary soldier approaches the gate on foot and refuses to stop. Shots ring out, setting into motion a sequence of events that will bring the town face-to-face with some of the 20th-century's worst horrors. Mullen's ambitious debut is set against a plausibly sketched background, including events such the Everett Massacre (between vigilantes and the IWW), the political repression that accompanied the U.S. entry into WWI and the rise of the Wobblies. But what Mullen supplies in terms of historical context, he lacks in storytelling; though the novel is set in 1918, it was written in a post 9/11 world where fear of bird flu regularly makes headlines, and the allegory is heavy-handed (the protagonist townie, after all, is named Philip Worthy). The grim fascination of the narrative, however, will keep readers turning the pages. (Sept.)

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This was an interesting book to read and I can really imagine a good book club debate on the topics Mullen writes about.
  • Can murder be justified for the "greater good"?
  • Who determines what is best for the most people?
  • Does anyone have that right?
  • Does keeping yourself blocked off from the world save you from it?
I was a little disappointed at the way the book ended...it was a little too open-ended for my taste. However, thinking about it more has made me realize that there probably was no better way to tie up the loose ends.

There are some descriptions of violence that were a little tough for me to take (but I'm a wimp for blood and beatings) but they weren't gratuitous at all. They served its purpose in the plot and were necessary for the story to be believable and compelling.

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