This is the most disappointing Westerfeld I’ve ever read. Normally, I love his books.
Spoilers if you haven’t read PEEPS. If you have or don’t plan to, you should be fine to read on. *No* spoilers from The Last Days.
The Last Days is a sequel to PEEPS, but not in the traditional form of sequels. The world is the same, the spreading (vampire) parasite is the same, but the characters are all new. Cal and Lace come back for the last third, when the book gets a little more interesting, but even then they’re only side characters to help explain what’s been happening behind the scenes.
In this book, five characters come together to form a rock band. It’s these characters that made this book distasteful for me. (Well, they’re one thing. See below for the other.) Four of five of them were the sort of people I can’t stand. Zahler and Moz are mild Beavis and Butthead types. Pearl is a preppy musician from Julliard High School trying to become a famous rocker any way she can. Minerva is an infected girl who has been nursed back to semi-health by her Spanish witch-doctor woman (an “esoterist”). The last member of the band was the only character I liked – Alana Ray, a dreadlocked drummer who specializes in paint buckets for her sound and who grew up in a school for people with “disabilities.” She has an extreme form of synesthesia, it seems: she sees music. They call it hallucinations. She’s also pretty OCD and is heavily dependent on her medication. Despite her being the one with the mental illness, she’s the sanest and most logical person in the bunch. She’s also, unfortunately, the character we hear from the least.
So the five get together. They play music. They try to get signed. Meanwhile, in the background, signs of the whole crisis mentioned in PEEPS are getting stronger and more obvious. The book explodes with worminess, that same worminess that bothered me at the climax of PEEPS. Only this time, thanks to Cal and Lace, there’s an explanation. Woo-hoo! The thing that was missing from PEEPS! While I still don’t like the whole B-grade sci-fi movie thing, I was at least satisfied this time. At least there was some scientific-ish explanation behind the worm thing. The last third of the book was better because of that explanation. The first two-thirds not only had people I couldn’t stand but worminess that was still as ungrounded as when it was in PEEPS.
So that’s the good news – I got the explanation I very much wanted, and nothing newly weird happened. The bad news is that there were lots of big white worms, and I don’t like big white worms. They’re just a little…cheesy. I had to deduct at least a star in my rating for the worms alone.
I do admit, though, the writing was clever, as it always is. For example:
Immune systems are dangerous things: lupus, arthritis, and even asthma are all caused by our own defenses. Fevers have to be controlled.
That’s where the Watch came in, to organize the peeps and keep them from doing too much damage. Like your mom bringing you aspirin and cold compresses and chicken soup–but with ninja uniforms.
I like the humor. I always like Westerfeld’s humor. Unfortunately, it couldn’t make up for the plotline. Half of it was whiny, petty band stuff, the other half was something that ought to have a place on Mystery Science Theatre. (Okay I just reread my PEEPS review and realized I described the worms the exact same way back in April. Nice to be consistent.)
This is actually the last YA Westerfeld book I had left to read. Too bad it was a disappointment. His next book, Leviathan, comes out in October, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!