Review: The Last Circus on Earth, by B.P. Marshall

I found the premise of this book intriguing. The action tripped along with good flow and a quick pace, which drew me into the story. The post-apocalyptic cultures and landscapes were vivid and woven well into the action. I got a good sense of both the environmental and social catastrophes that had befallen the world, without ever having to sit through a recount of the history of the collapse.

The characters were quirky and memorable. I liked the diverse mix of their cultural backgrounds. The fact that most of them were ‘freaks’ was appropriate for the post-apocalyptic setting. I also liked how Marshall conveyed the passage of time with the evolution of the English language in both spelling and word use.

Two things occasionally bothered me. First, the placement of the story in the year 2070 was hard for me to reconcile with the dramatic climatic shifts depicted, and with the complete loss of certain cultural memories (for example: the main character’s unfamiliarity with the concept of car parks, despite the fact cars still exist). The story felt much further in the future than a mere 50 years.

The second thing that occasionally threw me was inconsistency in the main character’s voice. Blanco usually talked in a colloquial way, befitting his history and status in society. There were times, however, when his thoughts and speech suddenly became erudite and polished.

In general, it was easy to overlook these inconsistencies, because the story overall was well-written and engaging. I admit, I’m generally not a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, but this book was far from the depressing, desperate stories I usually associate with the genre. It was upbeat and funny, with likeable characters who didn’t take themselves or their situation too seriously. An enjoyable read! Definitely recommended.

I received a copy of this book for review through the SpecFicNZ review programme.

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