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The Last Human

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Most days, Sarya doesn't feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy. Most days, she's got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn't casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.

And most days, she can almost accept that she'll never know the truth--that she'll never know why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist. Or whether she really is--impossibly--the lone survivor of a species destroyed a millennium ago. That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter and a miles-long kinetic projectile leaves her life and her perspective shattered.

Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship--with the dubious assistance of a rebellious spacesuit, an android death enthusiast on his sixtieth lifetime, and a ball of fluff with an IQ in the thousands--Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth. What if humanity's death and her own existence are simply two moves in a demented cosmic game, one played out by vast alien intellects? Stranger still, what if these mad gods are offering Sarya a seat at their table--and a second chance for humanity?

The Last Human is a sneakily brilliant, gleefully oddball space-opera debut--a masterful play on perspective, intelligence, and free will, wrapped in a rollicking journey through a strange and crowded galaxy.

400 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 22, 2020

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Zack Jordan

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 535 reviews
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,070 reviews2,674 followers
August 1, 2020
The Last Human is a futuristic sci-fi featuring Sarya, the last Human in the universe, and the adoptive daughter of a dangerous, aggressive, quick to destroy, Shenya the Widow, a giant beetle-ish creature. Sarya has been living under a false identity ever since she was found by Shenya but their luck has run out, as she has been discovered by a bounty hunter. All hell breaks out when Shenya puts an end to the bounty hunter's quest, and Sarya is on the run, with the help of a cast of characters that may or may not want to help her. My favorite character is Eleven, a sentient bodysuit, but I also enjoyed the arguing of a couple of her other mates. 

The book is clever, though too wordy, and at some point, pretty much lost me. I enjoyed the first part of the book and thought I was going to be there for the entire ride but at a certain point, my brain started taking vacations, especially during the philosophizing where things got too deep and boring for me to continue to make heads or tails of what was going on in the story. I did finish the story because I wanted to know Sarya's fate, but it was a long, long, journey to the end, for me. 

Published March 24, 2020

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for carol..
1,517 reviews7,722 followers
March 27, 2020
The Last Human is an intriguing sci-fi debut that has a serious case of over-reach. When I began it, I knew nothing except the blurb and that it knocked my friend Geoff’s mind sideways, and I looked forward to the experience. I would agree in that the first third was riveting, the second third interesting, although completely different, and the remaining section a bit too esoteric for my tastes.

One of the initial catchy concepts is the interplay of adopted culture between Shenya the Widow, “a void-cold killer,” and Sarya, the Daughter. The opening scene of Sarya essentially throwing a temper tantrum before a tour is perfection, conveying the species differences, introducing the reader to the pervasive Network, and anchoring it in very familiar emotion.

“Her daughter glares at the floor without answering. Shenya the Widow narrowly restrains a click of approval. On the one blade, this is a Widow rage–a towering and explosive wrath–and it is beautiful. One spends so much energy attempting to install traditional values in a young and coalescing mind, and it is always rewarding to see effort yield results. But on another blade, well… insolence is insolence, is it not?”

As the book progresses, Sarya becomes obsessed with finding the last members of Humanity, and takes a number of twists in that journey. I would say philosophically, it remains the journey of a young/new adult person; a quest that is understood only in terms that are limited by learning and experience.

The book is divided into five ‘tiers,’ each following a different development in her journey. However, the idea of the tier designation paralleling her personal growth doesn’t fit well, and it feels contrived to forcing a philosophical plot. To elaborate without spoilers, tiers are supposed to be tied to intelligence, though there isn’t always great consensus on what ‘intelligence’ is. For the story purpose, “just remember that each tier multiplies the previous by twelve. For example, a two is approximately twelve times as intelligent as a one, a three is one hundred-forty-times as a one, and so on.” Tiers are divided into 1 to 6, tier one being baseline ‘pre-culture sentient beings’ that are above wildlife but not citizens, and sixth tier being a semi-theoretical possibility. So Sarya’s growth/challenges in each section sort of follow the tier rankings, but only awkwardly, and at the expense of coherence in plot.

The first three tiers were amazing: I was astounded at the world-building, at the dark culture clash between Human and Widow, and at the ragtag crew escaping the Watchtower station. However, as the story segued into Tier Four, it veered out of control and felt like a different story altogether, one I was much less interested in. Side characters were abandoned. Concrete plot became about metaphysical debates. I appreciate that Jordan was trying to raise meta issues on agency and cooperation, but it was all so forced and simplistic. Truly, at the level of a young person.

It’s an amazing debut, but might be too inconsistent a story to find a fan niche. On the other hand, the big sci-fi greats do it all the time, so why shouldn’t Jordan? It might very well appeal to fans of Stephenson and Reynolds. Five stars for the beginning, two for the last third; we’ll average it out to three stars.

My thanks to Netgalley and Random House-Ballantine for an advance reader copy.
April 22, 2020
Any and every arachnophobes' fav.

The end was too... I dunno... weirdish? Grandiose with a real, bona fide grandstanding? Nah...

Does every sub-legal intelligence harbor secret desires and motivations? (c)
And that is that: another trans-species child-rearing triumph. (c)
[My love and greatest treasure. My child, for whom I would gladly die. Open this door before I cut it out of the station wall.] (c) Sounds like some moms I know!
Back before Shenya the Widow ever dreamed of calling this one daughter, it took her some time to stomach the sight of an intelligence without an exoskeleton. Imagine, a being with only four limbs! And worse, each of these limbs splits into five more at its end—well, that is the stuff of nightmares, is it not? As if that were not horrific enough, this being is wrapped top to bottom not in clean and beautiful chitin but in an oily blood-filled organ—which is called skin, her research has told her. There is a sporadic dusting of hair over this skin, with a few concentrations in seemingly random spots. (c)
Shenya the Widow narrowly restrains a click of approval. On the one blade, this is a Widow rage—a towering and explosive wrath—and it is beautiful. One spends so much energy attempting to install traditional values in a young and coalescing mind, and it is always rewarding to see effort yield results. But on another blade, well…insolence is insolence, is it not? (c)
Her daughter takes a deep breath, lifting her shoulders with that dramatic motion that people with lungs often use. (c)
This is a thing Humans do: their emotions can often be derived from their excretions. The literature calls these drops of liquid tears; they express intense emotion, whether it be joy or distress. (c)
She herself has always found fantasies of mayhem soothing; she assumes the same is true for Humans. (c)
Its thousands of walls, floors, and ceilings were an interchangeable gray save for the painfully orange warnings marking the areas where a resident might encounter dismemberment, asphyxiation, or various other discomforts. (c)
Gray on gray on gray, silent as the void and nearly as interesting. (c)
If they don’t like it, well—they are free to borrow one of her blades, as the Widow saying goes. (c)
She steps back with a muttered “Beware”—the standard Widow apology— (c)
That’s when she learned a fundamental truth about higher tiers: they can screw with you as much as they want and you’ll never know. (c)
I am Widow. My rage is my weapon. I am Widow. My life is my own. I am Widow. Better a scar from a sister than a— (c)
Still, it is never a bad idea to keep one’s tools content, and she has told this lie enough that it has become automatic. (c)
They are simple minds, but they are thrilled with their lot and they just can’t wait to tell you about it. (c)
It winds its straps around her sturdier parts, violently, apparently attempting to make her comfortable or kill her trying. (c)
It occurs to her suddenly that there is nothing insurmountable in life, nothing she can’t fix… (c)
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,913 followers
December 31, 2019
I was immediately hooked on the concept of an enormous galaxy-wide Network of aliens living and cooperating ... but fearing one species above all else: Humans. You know... because we break things. Get all tribal and s**t. We like to exploit weaknesses in others and lord over their spoils because we're a**holes.

Turns out, our main character is the last of this dastardly breed, growing up small in a huge network of Dyson Spheres with countless old alien species categorized in a hierarchy based on Tiered Intelligence.

Most of the book is rather fun and filled with all the normal Coming of Age stuff of discovery and adventure and breaking out of the rigid hierarchy while trying to get a grip on BEING the big bad that everyone is shivering in their boots about. A little girl should never have to be such a horrible monster. ; ;

I really enjoyed this book, but I'll be perfectly honest, I didn't LOVE it until the last third came rolling around. The whole Tiered Intelligence bit made it a real joy to read. What does it really mean? Networking, of course. Many, many collections of minds within other collections of minds. The more minds, the higher the Tier. When we get to the top Tier, we're dealing with the mind that can CREATE a full network of Dyson Spheres... and much more.

So what's the real story about? What is this little last human's fate?

NOT TELLING! Muahahahahahahaha... but it's awesome. Really awesome. :)

I loved the whole thing about game theory, biological emulation, and hawks vs doves. :)
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,749 followers
March 31, 2020
I received a free advance copy from NetGalley for review.

So this is sci-fi set in the far future where humans caused a bunch of trouble for all the other known alien worlds, and after being driven to the brink of extinction they are still the most hated and feared species in the galaxy.

I can’t fault that story logic.

Sarya is the last known human living under a false identity with the protection of her adoptive mother, Shenya the Widow. (It’s kind of like having the queen from Aliens as a parent.) They live on a space station that is part of the vast Network which connects every alien and AI as well as organizing the structure of every facet of everyday life as well as providing the faster than light travel that connects them all.

When a stranger approaches Sarya with the knowledge that she is actually Human she soon finds herself on the run as she discovers just how big and terrifying the Network really is.

This is one of more unique and well thought set-ups for a future space civilization I’ve read, and it’s filled with interesting concepts. Most intriguing to me was how there are various levels of intelligence for Network users so manipulating lesser rated beings is a key point. I also admired how the story embraces the scale of it all because space is so freaking big that the Network can be enormous beyond all human comprehension and yet still be a tiny part of the galaxy.

However, that also turned out to be a stumbling block because at one point the story shifts away from trying to get us to really empathize with Sarya and instead tries to blow the reader’s mind. Which it does pretty well, but I think some of the emotions of the story got lost will all the effort to impress with the vastness of it all.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,067 reviews360 followers
March 24, 2020
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

I was so excited to be granted a wish to read this book.  The blurb is awesome.  A young human girl, Sarya, is being raised by her adopted mother who happens to be a killer giant black widow spider like thing.  Only Sarya has to keep her identity hidden because she is the last human and humans are considered to be space's most dangerous and terrifying species.  Panic would ensue and Sarya's life would be at risk.

I absolutely adored the beginning of this novel and the setup.  I loved Sarya.  I loved her scary mom. I loved the society status based on tiered intelligence levels.  I love the machines and bots.  I even loved the info dumps in the forms of instruction manuals that were dumbed down to match lower intelligence levels (like mine).

The first quarter of the book was so wonderful and action packed and interesting.  At around 25%, the location changed and tone shifted.  I thought about stopping there.  Sarya's actions do not fit with how she presented in the first quarter.  She becomes rather fickle and whiny.  New characters were haphazardly introduced and confusion started to begin.  It's not that I didn't love the ideas of the new characters (like the space suit) but the narrative starts to disintegrate into philosophical ramblings that bored me.  The plot began to feel haphazard.

Though I thought about abandoning the book again at the 50% mark, I kept reading for the small snippets of hinted potential.  I loved the mom's perspective and some things about Sarya's new shipmates.  I stopped for the last time at the 64% mark.  The story had lost the personal narratives and ceased to be character driven.  The best part of the novel was the world building, developing relationships, and watching Sarya grow.  The growth stopped, the plot died, and the plot twist happened.  I didn't like that the big idea took center stage and everything I had loved about the writing ended.

I normally like discussions about artificial intelligence, personhood, technology, and the like.  However, the beginning of this book led me to certain expectations and I did not like when the author decided to drop Sarya's agency and mission.  I went online to read other reviews to see if I should soldier on but decided against it.  Others may have better mileage.

This looks like the book was the author's debut.  Based on the strong foundation of the beginning of this novel, I would be willing to try more of his future work.  But this one ended up being unsalvageable.  Arrrr!

So lastly . . .

Thank you Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine!
Profile Image for Trish.
1,881 reviews3,383 followers
December 31, 2019
Picture it!
We are in the future. There is a galaxies-spanning network of alien races, all working together. What links them is the Network. It translates, allows FTL travel etc. In this future, humans no longer exist. They have been deemed too dangerous and were eradicated.
Why though? Was it because we're violent and always prey on the weak instead of collaborating on a huge scale? Was it because we were too stupid compared to these other species? Or maybe we just liked to not become a member of the Network but also didn't play by its rules for non-citizens? You'll have to read the book to find out.
The Network has elevated most species, but there are still different intelligences. They are grouped into tiers. Despite what I can only call racism, the lower tiers still benefit from the higher ones. Think Dyson Spheres.
One such sphere is Watertower Station where our protagonist, Sarya, grows up. She is the adopted daughter of a Widow, an alien race with mandibles and blades known for their fighting skills. And when I say adopted, I mean secretly-human adopted.
How it can be that humanity has been wiped out and not been seen for thousands of years if not longer but now ONE single teenage human suddenly makes an appearance? Again, read the book and find out, it's actually cool.
As most coming-of-age stories go, Sarya's world is thrown into the grinder one day and her home is suddenly gone. She now has to navigate a weird galaxy as "the monster". I bet that wasn't what she had in mind when she grumbled about the low tier the fake-species of her fake ID was categorized with.
And of course she has side-kicks such as a sentient space suit, but it's not really about that.
Or it is for about two thirds of the book. Then the underlying questions get addressed: such as who we are and who we want to be, if we can play nicely with others, what it takes for a species to survive, what we're willing to sacrifice and what not, ... many say "the book gets talky" but I liked the deeper examination of these really important questions.

Just as much as I liked the worldbuilding of this book. The station at first, then ships, then the wider world so to speak. The different alien races were hilarious and I liked the nicely addressed plausible differences that have to be overcome for a successful cooperation - but also that they CAN be overcome. Hive-mind theories have been out there forever. The question is if a species such as humanity can go from being as we are now to becoming such a group-intelligence and I liked the examination of that topic a lot.

The writing style was also very good and gave the story the necessary flow. Oh, and I liked the way the publisher decided to display the different Network information. *lol* Dry humour is exactly my thing.

Yes, I have received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for this review, but that in no way influenced my opinion about this book. The author really did write something nice that keeps changing while you read, but in a totally plausible way that was fun and light but also serious, informed and deep. Scifi the way I like it. :D
Profile Image for Faith.
1,823 reviews501 followers
April 16, 2020
Sarya is the last human, or so she supposes, and her true identity has been hidden. She was adopted by Shenya the Widow, a member of a particularly scary and ferocious species. The Widow is especially dangerous if you wake her up or try to harm her daughter. I liked the world that the author created in this book. Most species are linked into the Network that ensures tranquility among species. Each species is ranked by its intelligence. Sarya is ranked at a low level, but as her journey in the book takes her from Tier One to Tier Five she learns from, and is outsmarted by, species who outrank her.

In addition to the world building, I enjoyed the relationships in the book. Through flashbacks we learn how Sarya came to be adopted and how mother and daughter bonded, including through a really charming game of hide and seek. Sarya also forms friendships with a sentient bodysuit and the AI who lives in her mind. I preferred the first two-thirds of the book, before Sarya gained skills and the author started spending too much time philosophizing. Although Sarya is a teenager, the book was mostly free of YA tropes, other than a quest element. I would read more by this author. The narration by Bahni Turpin of the audiobook was excellent.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,588 reviews1,468 followers
March 21, 2020
This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart

Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

2.5 Hearts

Last Human started off as Ron Weasley’s worst nightmare. The very last human in the universe was raised by a huge spider, a Black Widow to be more precise. You can see Ron shuddering right now can’t you. This is a tale of the lost human species, a strange hive mind creature, a mish mash space crew and a huge network mind that is so smart it is godlike.

The humans were one of the only species that decided to never enter the network. They were left confined to their galaxy until they decided to not be confined and started a galactic war. Humans. They are now considered the most dangerous species to ever live and are thought to be wiped out. All but Sarya that is, who is hiding in plain sight next to her adoptive, murderous mother. She has had an interesting childhood to say the least.

I struggled a lot with some of the concepts in this book. I really loved Sarya and her human/widow history. I enjoyed a few of the side characters including a very defiant space suit with a sub level intellect that seemed to get into a lot of trouble, named Eleven. Also, the hashtag crew of the space ship she ends up on, were all very interesting. But then we get into some kinda abstract stuff that man…I just had a really hard time wrapping my head around.

You know that moment in men in black when he opens the locker and we are just a galaxy inside the universe’s bus station? Yeah there were parts of this that felt like that moment and so it was really just hard for me to put that all together in my own head. I mean at one point we end up in someone’s head and I had a hard time understanding the Inception of it all.

This was a little outside my normal fantasy wheelhouse and so maybe this is how most Space-Opera adventures go. I don’t think so though. I was more interested in the first half of the book but once we get past that part, I really had a hard time with the second half. I almost DNF’d it at some point because I had a difficult time visualizing and putting myself in the world.

Still if you are really good at spacial representation and love pondering the universe in all it’s complexities and are willing to go way out there for it, then this could be the read you are looking for.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,094 reviews1,510 followers
December 30, 2021
The Last Human by Zack Jordan is a science fiction fantasy or space opera. This one is set in the distant future and being someone who usually enjoys space scifi stories I was excited to read it but unfortunately that excitement didn’t last long.

Sarya is the last of the human race as human were long ago considered dangerous and evil beings by all of the other races and slowly eradicated. Sarya has been living with her adoptive mother hiding somewhat in plain sight from all the other alien species. However, one day as Sarya is planning her future she is found out and sent on the run to survive.

The first thing I found with The Last Human by Zack Jordan was it fell on the overly wordy and slow pace side which is a huge turn off for me. Just as I was getting to know the main character and plot I found myself already losing interest. The story was one that felt mostly original as it went on although I did see glimpses of popular tropes buried within. Overall though this one just wasn’t for me as I had to keep pushing myself to finish it when I was reading.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,498 followers
May 3, 2020
This debut space opera was lots of fun for me. Some thrilling action in the first half and thoughtful philosophical interludes on human limitations and free will in the later parts. Lots of quirky characters, both aliens and artificial intelligences, and good doses of humor for comic relief.

A sulky bored teenaged girl on a space station colony, Sarya, gets drawn into an attempt to save the galaxy from an overmind behind the vast “Network” connecting over a million intelligent species across a billion star systems. The Network offers those species who join the technology of implants to intercommunicate mentally, a pathway to harness all of a star’s output for energy and operation of wormholes for interstellar travel, and other privileges depending on tiers of intelligence and track record of non-violent compliance. This apparent utopia is obviously not so happy for many species and artificial intelligences at the lower end of the IQ scale. They get exploited for all the gruntwork to make the system run.

Sanya is supposed to be in such a low-tier species, but feels too smart for the blue collar-type of jobs she faces on the space station. She has come to learn that the irascible spider-like mother who raised her (“Shenya the Widow”) is hiding her identity as possibly the last human after the species was wiped out for violently defying the Network’s control. But now an advanced hivemind species, the Observer, tries both stick and carrot approaches to get her to join in their search for a hidden colony of humans, and the Network entity itself, wary to the Observer species’ motives, engages her as a spy. How can young Sarya begin to ascertain the truth and outwit beings so much smarter than she is?

As a sample of the author’s writing, here is a reverie of Sarya’s mother:
Back before Shenya the Widow ever dreamed of calling this one daughter, it took some time to stomach the sight of an intelligence without an exoskeleton. Imagine a being with only four limbs? …As if that were not horrific enough, the being is wrapped top to bottom not in clean and beautiful chitin but in an oily blood-filled organ—which is called skin …Those eyes! Two multicolored orbs that flash like killing strokes, that express emotion nearly as well as a pair of mandibles.

In the following example, we are party to the superior attitude of a young, ambitious member of a species rated as much smarter than humans who also is trying to manipulate Sarya for their own purposes:
Take a Human’s inflated sense of self, its lack of respect for boundaries and order. Combine that with a Widow’s hunter focus, weaponized rage, and love of violence. Blend well, and you get this thing standing in Sandy’s doorway. This Human has its own goals, and it wants to make its own decisions to get there. It wants control of its own destiny. However, it has yet to learn one very important lesson. In this galaxy, no one has control of their own destiny.

This book was provided by the publisher for review through the Netgalley program.
Profile Image for Karen’s Library.
1,048 reviews159 followers
March 25, 2020
I typically love space operas and have read some really good hard sci-fi books.

With that said, for most of The Last Human, I had no idea what I was reading. There were some really good parts about Sarya the Daughter and her adopted mother, and Sarya with her friend, Eleven, the spacesuit. But that’s really all that stands out. The rest was nonsensical to me.

I started wanting to DNF this at about 1/3 in. But I just didn’t want to admit that I didn’t get it so I kept trudging through. At 50% I took a break and thought that maybe it was my mood. Nope. It wasn’t. At 73%, I had put too much of my time in that I was determined to finish and hope the end would make it better.

The end did make it a little bit better which is why this got 2 stars instead of 1.

The cover pretty well shows the variety of aliens in this book. Notice that the lone human is the only species with a danger sign. That was interesting, but there were so many species that I couldn’t really keep track of who was which species of alien.

I see that many people are giving this book great reviews, so I’m guessing that it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I do prefer to not have to work to understand a book I’m reading. I love the science of my sci-fi books. But this one was just a bunch of nonsense... Not really science to me.

Honestly, I’m relieved to be done!

*I received an advance copy from NetGalley and Del Rey Books.*
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,095 reviews70 followers
March 1, 2020
It begins really well and maintains momentum for over half the book. There are points where I was genuinely and nicely surprised at some of the plot twists. It falls apart slowly, though not completely. It reaches its logical (though incorrect) philosophical conclusion. 
What kept this from being a better review was that the author sacrificed his story for his philosophical musings. What kept it from being worse was how well he began.

This was a NETGALLEY gift and all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Chris.
214 reviews57 followers
May 21, 2020
Sarya the daughter is the Last Human in the galaxy. She spends her days on Watertower Station with her adopted mother, think something akin to a Black Widow spider named Shenya the Widow. When she is recognized, Sarya's world begins to crumble, creating a chain of events that may vary well destroy the galaxy.

This is a well written book that falls short for me in the end. The writing, world building, and imagery are amazing. The author puts you in each scene he creates. However, at the midway point, things unravel some and the way the story moved became a little confusing for me. I would have to reread at times, wondering, "How did we get here?" I believe the philosophical points in the story could have benefited from a little more hashing out and that the ending was wrapped up just a bit too quickly.

My thanks to the author, Ballantine, Del Rey, and NetGalley for a gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Sue Burke.
Author 44 books614 followers
January 15, 2020
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy from the publisher to see if I’d like to write a blurb for the cover. It sounded like a fun book, and it was, so here’s my blurb: “Brimming with sly humor, intelligence, and big ideas.”

Let me say a bit more about the novel. You can read the summary here at Goodreads or elsewhere, and it’s accurate. A young human finds out why she’s the last of her kind, which leads her on a long, strange adventure to learn what she can do about it.

I especially enjoyed the way this book treats “intelligence” and the relationship between different levels of intelligence. Our young human has an AI assistant who isn’t as smart as she is, and she must also deal with beings, machines, and AIs who are infinitely smarter than she is. Every one of them wants something: perhaps to be as helpful as possible, perhaps to solve its own problems, perhaps to outsmart and control the lesser beings around it, or perhaps just to keep things working properly.

This is a new take on the technological singularity proposed by Vernor Vinge and others about what will happen when artificial super-intelligence advances beyond human understanding and control. In this book, it’s not the end of civilization, which Elon Musk has feared. Instead, it takes a turn that Zack Jordan makes logical, terrifying, and comforting at the same time. And he tells it in a way that from time to time might make you laugh.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,821 reviews225 followers
April 9, 2020
This is a difficult book for me to review because of my conflicting feelings about the experience of reading it. It is well-written, original and imaginative, a space opera about existence millions of years in the future where life is organized by The Network, where species apply for citizenship and are assigned a level in the 'tiers' by their intelligence.

Sarya the Daughter is supposedly the last human (a universally-hated species), but her adoptive mother, Shenya the Widow (think the Alien mother), hides her true identity. As the story opens, Sarya's biggest worry is which job she can qualifying for. But then she is 'recognized' by a being called The Observer and soon her life begins to unravel and billions of others will be forever changed.

Even though, as I said, the plot was original and inventive, it just didn't engage me and I was never so glad to finally finish a book. The only character with whom I found a connection was with the adoptive mother, all wicked blades and hard metal, who fell in love with a little girl and knew she'd risk her own life to protect her.

I received an arc of this new space opera from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate the opportunity.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,051 reviews100 followers
July 24, 2021
This is a space opera Mowgli story with a twist. The book is a debut novel and while it has some drawbacks, this is definitely a strong start.

This is a story of Sarya the Daughter. She is a human teen, brought up but a spider-like alien, Shenya the Widow, at the Watertower Station, which sells ice in moon-sized chunks. Her human identity is a secret, but humans made something horrific in the past.

All creatures sentient enough to pass under a pre-set intelligence level can (and most do) join a hundred million years old galaxy wide organization called the Network. It is the largest accumulation of intelligence in the history of the galaxy that enables and controls faster than light communication, provides and regulates technology.

Intelligence is divided in tiers: below 1.8 are not considered sentient enough and thus most AI is 1.79 and therefore have no citizen rights. These intelligences are called helpers and they are everywhere – from personal waste disposal to bots to grafts in the brains of citizens. They are chatty and at least sound as naïve and well meaning. Each civilization that left own Solar system gets a provisional 2.08 tier. The difference between tiers is 12-fold, so tier-3 creature can actually lead a group of tier-2 creatures in their Byzantine plots and the later never ever guess it.

Sarya is under cover as so low tier that she cannot be given a brain graft, and everyone around communicates with her as with a brain-damaged being. However, at the start she meets elf-like representatives of a collective mind, who recognizes her and tells, where she can get more info about humans. She follows the lead, but gets kidnapped by bounty hunters…

One thing that is overdone is constant mentions that humans leak (usually this means she cries, from pain, sadness or happiness), which other species find eeky. The reveals and plot twists are well-made, characters, even minor are detailed, the ending is unexpected.

Profile Image for Umairah (Sereadipity).
201 reviews109 followers
April 18, 2020
2.5 stars

The Last Human was a space opera set in a galaxy where the most feared species were Humans due to their destructive natures. In all honesty, I found it quite disappointing: the first half of the book was rather intriguing but that interest was promptly demolished by the second half.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 2.5/5
Writing: 3.5/5

The story followed a young Human called Sarya who was raised by Shenya the Widow (Widows being one of the many alien species in the book). She was trying to hide her species as she was the last Human in the Network-connected galaxy she lived in. Until her secret came out and as she ran for her life she discovered that everything was controlled by greater powers than she could ever comprehend.

The alien species belonging to the Network were ranked in tiers of intelligence going from one to five (and maybe beyond...). Their notion of 'intelligence' was never properly explained but the idea was the higher your intelligence tier the faster and more advanced your thought processes and capabilities would be. Humans would probably fall somewhere in tier two. There were also group intelligences with hive minds which were disconcerting but in an interesting way.

The only aspect of the book that I appreciated (and that pushed the rating up) was the world building. The way the different aliens, lower intelligences and the Network all interacted with each other quite seamlessly was impressive and original. Furthermore, the various alien species created were all unique, I especially liked how Sarya's Widow upbringing affected her character and their mother-daughter relationship was one of the things that drew me in during the first half of the book. I also liked how the intelligence tier system created a hierarchy and affected the dynamic between characters.

The plot is what really ruined this book for me. Lots of different things happened and many characters were introduced and I had no idea why but I was sure it was leading up to something meaningful... but then it didn't. As I said earlier, the first half was quite good, it built up Sarya's character and the world and had a fairly fast paced plot that felt like it was building up to something. But then in the second half of the book it felt like the plot was forgotten in favour of vague philosophical rambling that threw away all the development previously established. I could tell it was trying to explore ideas surrounding free will, the vastness of the universe (and our insignificance in comparison) and the price of maintaining order in such a sprawling Network but it didn't come through very well for me. It all just seemed quite confusing and meaningless and it wasn't properly integrated into the story just haphazardly dumped in.

Sarya had no character development. Despite her massive journey across the universe, despite all the shocking truths she had learnt, she stayed the same. And that goes for the side characters too. On top of that, her motivations were very hard to understand and I had no idea why her actions kept contradicting themselves.

I felt let down by The Last Human, it had so much potential but it was all thrown away by the end. But despite how I felt about it, the book is still worth giving a chance as the world created is very intriguing and maybe the philosophical ideas will resonate with others more than they did with me.

Thank you to Hodderscape for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Geoff.
963 reviews89 followers
March 10, 2020
Holy crap - what a ride. One of the things you can get from SF is a real sense of wonder from ideas and the realization that there are things way, way, way bigger than yourself. Despite a somewhat slow (but still entertaining) start, this book is that sense of wonder distilled, purified, and then slammed directly into your prefrontal cortex. So, wonder-crack? Yes - this book is wonder-crack. Entertaining and perspective-giving with a side of empathy and garnishes of game theory, horror, and humor. Great stuff - this will be on my award ballots.

**I was given a free ARC of this book via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Marion Samuel-Stevens.
10 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2021
Started off well! Was interesting and captivating-but it took a turn and became convoluted and philosophical. It was almost like reading two separate books.
Profile Image for Beth.
444 reviews3 followers
November 19, 2019
One of the most fun writing prompts I've seen online is that "Humans are the most feared species in the galaxy due to our particular weirdness," and you can find a ton of hilarious snippets that run with it. Zack Jordan takes this thought in a more serious direction, imagining a galaxy where humans are deemed so dangerous that they have been completely wiped out (except for our plucky hero). We're not privy at first to how Sarya came to be the Last Human, adopted by a Widow, or what it was about humanity that was so threatening (our survival instincts? adaptability? ferocity? selfishness?). What follows, though, is a great story about all those things that also makes you think about intelligence, free will, and what makes a person a "person."

The first two thirds of this book were perfection. The final third was a little talky and light on the action, but kept me interested by consistently twisting and making me reevaluate what I thought was happening. I truly wanted to spend more time with these characters and exploring the universe they lived in. I would absolutely recommend this book to fans of Martha Wells' Murderbot series, John Scalzi, N.K. Jemisin, etc. 4.5 stars overall.

Thanks to the publisher via NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for a review.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,023 followers
September 26, 2020
I'm not surprised to find this is the first book by this author. It had that feel. A lot of really interesting, often innovative, ideas & some great action, but it sagged fairly frequently with too much explanation. Still, it kept my interest & I liked where it wound up. I can't say that it all made sense to me, but that was OK since it was supposed to push the boundaries of mere human intelligence. Definitely worth reading, very well narrated, & this is an author to watch in the future. It's not truly a 4 star read, but not really a 3 star, either. I'll round up since it's a first novel.
76 reviews3 followers
November 23, 2019
This book follows Sarya, the last human, as she learns that perhaps she is not the last human, and goes on a whirlwind adventure to find the rest of her species. She lives in The Network which connects billions of species together across space, and throughout the book wrestles with the idea of order and chaos in the universe, and if The Network itself is good.

I liked maybe the first half. I thought the idea was really interesting, and Sarya's relationship to her adopted mother, was sweet and informed a lot of her decisions.

Then this book decided to go galaxy brain and lean into philosophy. I think that might have worked had there been more of a plot, or even more of engaging characters. The rest of the book was filled with useless will she/won't she who-can-you-trust. None of the characters were particularly likable, nor did they have any development. Sarya would give her life for characters that didn't seem to really interact with her at all? And had threatened her multiple times?

Also, one feature that I guess was supposed to make a cool meta plot is that people have tiers of intelligence, and it keeps being implied that the high tiers can just manipulate things to happen and none of your choices are your own. It really kept it from being enjoyable because the book kept telling me that everything had already been decided, so what even was the point?

Sarya also doesn't really do anything for the second half of the book. She freaks out and makes bad decisions, and that's kind of it. The end is interesting in that it creates this cycle of the unknowable, but it's probably the only interesting piece of philosophy. Descriptions were hard to follow, and I ended up either skimming or re-reading them five times until I understood.

I almost DNFed so many times, this is just an absolute no from me.
Profile Image for Jane.
908 reviews59 followers
April 20, 2020
2.5 stars

You can read all of my reviews at https://www.NerdGirlLovesBooks.com.

This is a promising science fiction book that took a weird turn in the middle and went down hill from there. I was enjoying the book even though the premise was a bit weird, because, you know, I like weird - but only to a point. The author lost me about 60 percent into the book and I couldn't wait to finish it and be done with it.

Sarya is a human being raised by a fierce spider-like creature on a space station with a lot of other aliens. Sarya must hide the fact that she's a human because they are considered dangerous and were supposed to be eradicated and not exist. One day a bounty hunter arrives on the station and begins hunting her down. She is saved by her adoptive mother, with the help of a rebellious spacesuit, and is launched into space on a ship with other captives.

The ship lands and then things start getting really weird and the author loses me. I am not a big fan of characters talking to themselves, or having big internal existential conversations with themselves. The stream of consciousness nature of portions of the book drove me nuts. Others mind find this intriguing, I find it annoying.

Overall, the book was good until it wasn't. I think that die hard science fiction fans will really like this book. People that only dabble in it, like me, will probably like half this book and not like the other half.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews583 followers
February 18, 2020
THE LAST HUMAN by Zack Jordan is certainly an original, kind of unusual play on the space opera genre. Imagine being the last human in existence in the galaxy, the masses in dreaded fear of the unknown. That is where Sarya finds herself, hiding in plain sight, lost in a sea of aliens, the unknown and questions that bombard her thoughts. Is it true? Is she a monster? Is she really the last of a race thought to have died out long ago? With only her adoptive mother on her side, how will she traverse a universe so set against her?

Pretty intriguing stuff, huh? Add to this plot, the quirky writing style of Zack Jordan and for space opera lovers, this could be reading nirvana. The details and structure are something to marvel at, so pay close attention to the first half, forget settling in too quickly, because this one has twists on twists that fly by at the speed of light only to slow down waiting for the next rush.

Choices must be made, free will must be exercised and in the end, are things just a matter of perspective? I did enjoy this one once I got the rhythm, but for me, it took some time to feel I was part of this world.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Del Ray! This is my honest and voluntary review.

Publisher: Del Rey (March 24, 2020)
Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Genre: Space Opera
Print Length: 432 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com

Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,475 reviews259 followers
March 14, 2020
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Human by Zack Jordan is a unique debut space opera sci-fi novel. I really enjoyed how this started off, getting to know our titular character and the world of the story. The first fifty percent is a fun romp, but unfortunately the second half just wasn't for me. I almost quit reading at that point, but I figured I was much to far along to just give up then. If you're a fan of the genre, you may want to give it a try.
Profile Image for Elentarri.
1,457 reviews6 followers
August 21, 2020
This novel started of great but then went a bit sideways for the last half or so. The world building is original (to me anyway), the concept fascinating, the characters interesting and the writing is lovely. However, somewhere in the last half things got messy, the plot got lost, character interactions weren't particularly believable, no character development, and the addition of a lot of philosophical babbling. In short, it didn't really work for me.
Profile Image for Nancy.
176 reviews80 followers
March 21, 2020
This was fun, fast-paced space opera set in some unknown time and unknown galaxy where the universe and various alien species all live harmoniously together except for the humans or lack of. Interesting premise and a story that kept my full attention. Around the last third of the book I felt like some of the concepts were above my tier but overall I enjoyed the book. I received an advance copy from NetGalley.
Profile Image for Robin Bonne.
620 reviews141 followers
January 20, 2020
Sarya the Daughter becomes Sarya the Destroyer. I loved how the author slowly built up this scifi universe. The alien species were well developed and the tiered intelligence of them was an interesting concept and the agendas of the more intelligent tiers played out in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Colleen.
662 reviews112 followers
February 1, 2021
2 Stars

*A SciFi debut that is a bit too quirky and self-aware*

SciFi has been a neglected genre on my reading list. So in an effort to read more of it as well as knock down my TBR backlog, I read The Last Human. While the story had a decent skeleton, I did not find anything dynamic about it.

Unfortunately, the story is written in present tense – which I hate. I truly have been making an effort to check the tense of books before adding them to my TBR list, buuuut that does nothing for the four-hundred-plus books already sitting on that list. And I have no doubt that there are many more present tense bombs waiting in the wings.

As much as I dislike novels in present tense, that along is not usually enough to sink my rating. But the bottom line is that I didn’t particularly enough reading The Last Human. I try to go easy on debuts, but as I’ve sat here thinking what to include in this review, I could not recall anything I truly enjoyed about this book.

There were too many annoying, quirky side characters. And they all started to feel the same pretty quickly. Even more unfortunate was the fact that it felt like the core personality for most of the side characters was the Microsoft Paperclip – chipper, eager to help, and spawning the constant urge to throw something. I never engaged with the main character, Sarya, either. The plot was interesting enough to keep me from abandoning the book but also not memorable. And it yo-yoed around a lot towards the end in a manner that was disorienting rather than twisty. Things felt over the top. And too self-aware about humans being such a horrible species destined to destroy everything.

“Order is unnatural," it says. "It costs energy to maintain. Disorder, on the other hand, happens all by itself.”

Something about the delivery felt like this was supposed to be a humorous novel. But this is no The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that’s for sure. If there was humor, then the jokes didn’t land for me. Or maybe I was too annoyed with the characters to be amused by them.

There wasn’t anything terrible about this book. But on the other hand, there was not a single element that sparked my interest. Because of that, all those little, minor annoyances had nothing to counterbalance them, and it tipped the scale onto the wrong side of three stars. Sadly, this was a big swing-and-a-miss for me.

Ease of Reading: 4 Stars
Writing Style: 2 Stars
Characters and Character Development: 2 Stars
Plot Structure and Development: 2 Stars
Level of Captivation: 2 Stars
Originality: 2 Stars


If you like humorous SciFi, try Year Zero
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