The Last Book In The Universe - Rodman Philbrick

It's the story of an epileptic teenager nicknamed Spaz, who begins the heroic fight to bring human intelligence back to the planet. In a world where most people are plugged into brain-drain entertainment systems, Spaz is the rare human being who can see life as it really is. When he meets an old man called Ryter, he begins to learn about Earth and its past. With Ryter as his companion, Spaz sets off an unlikely quest to save his dying sister -- and in the process, perhaps the world.

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This is a dystopian novel for beginners to the genre, with hints of Fahrenheit 451 for good measure. It's set perhaps hundreds of years into the future -- the exact date is unclear -- the "backtimes", the days of clean water, blue sky and lush green grass are all but myth now. As it says in the story, "a nice story people tell themselves to feel better." In this reality, no one reads anymore. Instead, everyone indulges in virtual reality probes that hook up into the back of their heads, Matrix-style.

 

You can't always be looking backwards,

or something will hit you from the front.

 

 

Spaz is the center of the story, a epileptic teen who cannot use the probes because it brings on seizures. He also cannot risk getting in trouble, since the method of discipline is tazer-like sticks, which also bring on his seizures. Spaz was thrown out of his home by his foster family, left to be taken in by the gang The Bangers and their crime boss, Billy Bizmo. He's forced to steal for them for a living, or face a death sentence. While trying to survive in this environment, Spaz gets word that his foster sister is very ill, near death in fact, and is requesting to see him. He asks Billy to let him out of the "latch" (what the communities are called) but Billy denies him so Spaz has to sneak out on his own, again risking death. 

 

He is assisted on his adventure by the "gummy" (elderly person) Ryter, (someone Spaz meets by stealing from him, Ryter is in possession of "the last book" of the title) who wants "one last adventure before the end". Ryter helps Spaz figure out how to get past the latch security and onto the latch where the foster family lives. They get into some trouble, but soon find help again in the form of "proov" (genetically perfect being" Lanaya. Lanaya, being a proov, has access to places and supplies no "normal" could, so she proves vital in trying to save Spaz's sister. 

 

I liked this story in that the star of the show is a child with a disability who doesn't let his disability slow him down. He learns to work around it and does what he needs to do to help his friends and family. He makes no excuses and asks for no pity. Love it! Also, because of the grim, dystopian environment Spaz lives in, it makes the reader appreciate the world we live in and conscious of the need to take care of it before it gets to be like the world described in this book. The characters are fun and interesting with good banter that kept me entertained throughout the entire book.

 

One laugh I had was the part describing the Latch Queen, or "White Widow", as she liked to call herself:

 

Boss Lady. The Latch Queen. Nails. The White Widow.

Lotti has a lot of names, none of them good. Nails because she has special razors glued onto her long fingernails, razors that will spill your red so quick and deep you won't even feel it. White Widow because  most of her luvmates don't seem to live very long.She has other names too, names that are only whispers, names that will get you canceled {killed} if she hears. 

 

"Most of her luvmates don't seem to live very long." Well, I guess that's the risk you take when your ladyfriend chooses to incorporate razor blades into her nail art! LOL I'm not sure which spoon it would be safer to be in that instance. 

 

One heads up for parents: there's one conversation in the story -- just a line or two really -- that hints at the topics of child abuse and alleged incest... just some FYI if you want to keep your younger readers away from such discussions a bit longer.