In Tim Lebbon’s novella The Last Day and the First, we miss the apocalypse. It’s already happened. We miss the confusion, the destruction, the panic, the bloodshed. We miss the desperate struggle for survival. We miss the loss of life and the downfall of society.
What we get instead is the last few, quiet breaths of humanity as we give way to the next inhabitants of this world.
Lebbon’s greatest gift as a writer is his ability to find the beauty and strength in otherwise horrific circumstances. Here we have a village with a handful of inhabitants, living out their lives deep in the safe green spaces between the crumbled remains of cities. As long as they stay off the roads they’re relatively safe; cross one of those ribbons of asphalt and they’re apt to be killed by something they call a scorer.
Soon they stumble across a strange new sight, something they come to call the bloom. Before long, it becomes apparent that this, and other blooms that crop up in the wild, are not a new danger; rather, they are a next step for a healing planet.
There’s a melancholy tone to this story, a peaceful sort of acceptance the main character, Rose (who may in fact be the last woman alive) adopts as she realizes she is witnessing humanity’s final days. There’s no anger, no last-ditch effort to turn the tide, no race for a cure or a weapon or an answer. There’s just understanding, and a strange kind of hope for a future none of us will be around to witness.
Tim Lebbon is an author we don’t talk about enough. The Last Day and the First is a reminder of how powerful his work is, and how lucky we are to have him out there, creating stories for our enjoyment.
Also, I’d be remiss not to give a quick shout-out to artist Tamislav Tikulin for the gorgeous cover art gracing this book.
The Last Day and the First is highly recommended.