JoJoTheModern's Reviews > The Last Book in the Universe

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick
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's review
Jul 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, ya
Read in July, 2011

Three words: Freak the Mighty.

Same author. Different genre, as FtM was contemporary and this is sci-fi of the dystopian persuasion. Same heart. If there is anything Rodman Philbrick really excels at, it's writing books with heart. No matter the genre.

The Last Book in the Universe is more like Max the Mighty in its construction (road trip, kids and adults interacting), but if you've read FtM you'll have a general idea of what to expect from TLBitU. Man, I hate comparing books this way.... It makes it sound like I'm just weighing an author's books against each other rather than letting each work stand alone. So ok. Let it be said that all three aforementioned books stand alone in my estimation. Now let it be said that Rodman Philbrick approached all three books with the same sympathies, romanticism, and affection for the good and fragile things that blossom in the cracks of a hard life.

In TLBitU, a 16-year-old boy grimly survives in the crumbling remains of a civilization long destroyed by a global earthquake that bordered on an extinction-level event. He is known as Spaz because he has epilepsy, a condition that freaked out his ignorant adoptive father and got Spaz banished from his own district. Forcibly separated from anything he could call home and the younger sister he adores, Spaz has resorted to living alone, and stealing to placate the local violent gang. Everything changes when he is sent to steal from an old man with unusually lively eyes and the handwritten pages of what may be the last book in existence....

Resignation meets the nerve to dream and write in a world where no one reads anymore. Spaz has learned to live at all costs and doesn't know what to make of the serene old man known as Ryter. That ticks him off.

I won't say why this mismatched pair goes in a road trip across the broken concrete of a dying world. It's an abrasive and homicidal world that isn't dying peacefully. But it's a journey made in hope, albeit a heartbroken, desperate hope. Spaz can't afford to be resigned now. Someone he loves needs him. He will risk his life to do his best for them.

It's a human-positive story. Rodman Philbrick also took things in an interesting direction by writing a book-positive story that is less about the importance of reading and more about the importance of writing.

He also stresses the humanity of memories, of equality, of consideration for others outside one's circle. For a reading level of 6, TLBitU the book has a lot of ideas crammed into its pages.

My ONLY complaint? The world's slang is overdone- it's all through the narrative, and made me curse the fact that Anthony Burgess did what he did with the slang in A Clockwork Orange. Darn it, Anthony, you ruined dystopian sci-fi forever.

But don't let splat guns and being asked if you're zoomed keep you away from this book. The Last Book in the Universe is a quick read and a thoughtful one for readers both young and grownup. Note that it is written at the 6th-grade level.

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