Philbrick, Rodman. The Last Book in the Universe. New York: Blue Sky Press, 2002.
Imagine a world without color, without clean air, without real food, and without real family. And you’d have imagined Spaz’s world. His whole life is taken up by trying to stay out of trouble with gangs that rule everywhere, trying to get enough to eat, and hideous seizures which make him a reject amongst rejects. One day a ‘proov’, an improved human, catches sight of him and gives him food. Little does he know that his is only the start of a dangerous adventure as he tries to save the life of his dying foster sister. He will risk everything to help her and in doing so falls in with an abandoned street child and a strange old man named Ryter who keeps going on about some strange thing called a book. Spaz figures it’s all just gummy talk about the near mythical world that was around before the Big Shake plunged everyone into a world of virtual reality mind probes and grey dreary existance.
Rodman Philbrick writes within a fairy typical post-apocalyptic world which fans of The Matrix movie will easily identify. The mind probes are also a very similar to the upload programs used in The Matrix. It’s a very well told story that is vaguely reminscent of Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World stories with insidious though well intentioned overlords lurking just out of sight but controlling, or maybe trying to eliminate, the rabble that is average human beings.
From School Library Journal
Following the Big Shake, which destroyed most of civilization, a small group of individuals (the “proovs”) retreated to Eden, learned how to improve themselves genetically, and sealed their environment off from the sprawling ruins inhabited by the remaining normals. Plagued by genetic defects, a toxic environment, and illnesses, normals like Spaz live in the Urb at the mercy of latch-bosses and their gangs. Spaz knows that his survival depends on Billy Bizmo and the Bully Bangers, so when they send him to rob an old man, he obeys. Ryter willingly surrenders his few possessions except for the pages of the book he is writing-the first time Spaz has seen anything like this. And when the boy sets out to find Bean, his dying foster sister, Ryter insists on accompanying him. Along the way, they are joined by Lanaya, a proov, and Little Face, an orphan. Finding Bean is hard enough; helping her appears to be impossible, until Lanaya takes the motley group back to Eden and confronts the rulers with the truth about the outside world. This is science fiction, not a fairy tale, and everyone does not live happily ever after… Also, the science part of this sci-fi is vague. However, readers who don’t examine it too closely will be caught up in the novel. There is definitely room for a sequel…
Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
– Source for choosing this book: Booklist
– Grades 6-9
– Related Book: Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Del Rey, 1987. Found on Amazon. Both of these books describe a post apocalyptic world where books and reading are all but forgotten or outlawed. It depicts the beauty and power of the written world and details an epic quest to preserve and protect human history.