Review: “The Last Girl,” Joe Hart

Pros: Some interesting characters
Cons: Things that didn’t make sense
Rating: 2 out of 5

Joe Hart’s The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy) is about a world in which almost no female children are being born, and no one knows why. A handful of young women live in the ARC, protected by high walls, rigid schedules, and armed guards. It’s pretty obvious that only a few people in the place care about them at all beyond whether they’ll be able to have female children. Zoey is close to her 21st birthday, the point at which she’s told she’ll be able to go home with her parents. Of course, nothing’s ever that simple, and Zoey ends up trying to escape from the ARC.

 

SPOILER NOTE: I can’t review this book without including some details from later in the book, although I’m not going to give away everything that happens, or how things end up.

Evil people in this book are stereotypes. There might have been one handsome devil if I remember correctly, but by and large all the bad guys follow the truism of evil = ugly. It made them seem a cartoon evil. Also, given the ratio of violent assholes to actual people who care about what happens to the girls, I find it hard to believe that the girls housed in the ARC weren’t having a much rougher time of things.

The ARC puts on an elaborate fiction for these girls. They’re constantly surrounded by guards, but their personal guards (‘clerics’) were with them long enough that most of them had some feelings for the girls they’re protecting. They seem to be the only ones. The girls go to ‘class’ where they learn from one sole book that they’ve been studying from for years. It’s everything you expect when you hear the phrase, ‘the winners write the histories.’ The girls are told that when they’re 21 they get to go home. There’s a ceremony and a white dress and everything. There are two major problems with these charades. One, they’re unnecessary. Why are these evil people bothering to pretend the girls will be able to leave, that they’re really there for their own protection? Frankly, if they’d just built it as an actual prison, with all the safeguards that entails, it would keep the girls safer without all the money the bad guys must spend on faking everything. Two, why all the happy mysticism built up around going home at 21? It should be obvious to all the girls, given how many eeeevil people they deal with who constantly leer at them, that no one’s going home. There’s no gain to be had by housing girls until they’re 21 ‘for their protection’ and then turning them out into the world, so it should have been obvious to them that something was amiss.

Instead, of course, that’s the age at which the bad guys start trying to breed them to see if they can birth girls. Given that they’re basically doing test-tube babies, they could just keep all the girls together throughout their lives and simply extract eggs from them on a routine basis. The entire compound is constructed in a manner that makes little practical or economic sense to me whatsoever.

It’s good that Zoey has her sympathetic ‘cleric,’ Simon (and his attractive son Lee), and that she eventually meets a handful of good guys later. Otherwise I’d think all anyone had their mind on any more is rape, rape, and more rape. Good god, I realize there are some fairly evil people in this world, and that women are in awfully short supply, but I was starting to feel like there was a male = rapist thing going on for a while. There are other ways to frighten and threaten female characters.

Speaking of the threat of rape: two guards conspire to rape Zoey and one of her friends. Now, apparently they can get away with it because the guard watching the videos likes to sleep through his shift, and they’re going to take the girls down to a camera blind spot way off in the machine room. For some reason it never seems to occur to them that the girls’ rooms also don’t have cameras and are much easier to break into (not to mention the girls would have no way to run out on them because the girls can’t open their own doors).

So many of the things that happen in this book are needlessly complex. It feels like the author had a case of “ooh, what if things were like *this*,” without thinking through the practical and economic assumptions underlying those choices.

Hell, all the ARC had to do if they really just want eggs from these women is to set up a safe housing area where families that include living women (who these days have to stay hidden so they don’t get kidnapped) will be protected as long as the women allow eggs to be extracted. Then not only would they not have to use all these shenanigans to keep them under control, but they’d have a much wider pool of genetic material to pull from.

As it is, I have no interest in reading book two.

 

NOTE: Book provided free by publisher for review

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