cover image The Last Day

The Last Day

Andrew Hunter Murray. Dutton, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4581-3

Murray’s impressive eye for detail compensates for the scientifically preposterous premise of his debut. When a “rogue” white dwarf star passed dangerously close to Earth, it left the planet half scorched in sunlight and half frozen in darkness, with humanity barely hanging on in the dim zone between the extremes. Forty years after the disaster, dubbed “the Stop,” Britain, in the middle zone, has descended into fascism. Depressed scientist Dr. Ellen Hopper conducts oceanic research on a rig in the North Sea, despite feeling her work is pointless. When Hopper is summoned to the deathbed of her Oxford mentor, Edward Thorne, a government scientist responsible for the deaths of countless refugees after the Stop, she catches wind of a secret that could spell further disaster for humankind. To save what’s left of the world, Hopper launches an investigation into the government secret, rediscovering her hope for humanity along the way. Murray’s despairing characters are convincing and his descriptions of the broken Earth are vivid, but his apocalypse is too conceptually contrived to be believable. Readers will easily invest in Hopper’s mission, but will struggle to buy into Murray’s vision of the future. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell. (Feb.)