Davide Longo, The Last Man Standing. Quercus - MacLehose Press. 2013. c352p. ISBN 978-1-62365-034-6. $24.95. Ebook: 978-1-62365-035-3. Fiction.
In Italian author Longo’s apocalyptic story, Italy, shut off from the rest of Europe, has collapsed into anarchy. In the midst of the chaos, disgraced ex-professor Leonardo Chiri is trying to survive by himself on a family farm when his ex-wife visits to drop off Alberto, her troubled ten-year-old stepson, and Lucia, their 17-year-old daughter, claiming she will send for them once she’s out of the country. Though charged with protecting the two adolescents, Leonardo seems strangely passive as teenage hoodlums begin to rob, rape, and murder innocent villagers. Overly cautious, at worst a coward, Leonardo is finally forced to hit the road with the kids. Their grim struggle for survival leads them into yet darker depredation, a world of such savagery that no one will survive untouched. VERDICT Longo’s dystopian world—difficult to take at times—is evoked through language as beautiful as the winter landscape of northern Italy is barren. A wealth of rich imagery carries the reader through scenes of torture and youthful atrocities along a landscape as stark as that of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But those who stick with Leonardo will be rewarded.