Monday, July 6, 2015

The Last Wild, by Piers Torday

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

The first installment in Piers Torday's adventure trilogy is a brilliant page turner that deals with lots of big environmental issues. It's funny, suspenseful and thought provoking.

The Last Wild is the first book in Piers Torday's eco-fantasy trilogy. The novel opens with 12-year-old Kester Jaynes holed up at Spectram Hall, a school cum detention centre for misfit children. Kester's handicap is that he is unable to speak, a problem that seems to have psychological roots. To further complicate matters, his father is a scientist that many powerful interests are not pleased with. Politics is the real reason that Kester has been detained for six years at Spectram Hall.

One day Kester is visited by a flock of well organised pigeons that help him escape. He also meets a plucky cockroach named the General. These extraordinary encounters turn out to be the start of a dangerous yet exciting journey. Along the way Kester soon learns he can actually communicate with animals of many different species.

The lives of the animals is one of the novel's major moral problems. A plague has given them all a disease called red-eye. The evil corporation Factorium (Facto for short) has been tasked with solving the crisis. They have quarantined off large tracts of land. Worse still, Facto is sending out cullers to kill off all the animals, ostensibly so they don't spread the disease, especially to humans. When Kester is appointed leader of a group of animals that have survived, known as the last wild, he must try and find a cure for red-eye. To do this, he has to track down his father, the famous scientist who has been kept under house arrest by the evil Captain Skuldiss, one of Facto's henchmen.

This first installment is a brilliant page turner that deals with lots of big environmental issues without being too obviously preachy. The story is cleverly devised and has plenty of buoyant, fun characters. Captain Skuldiss may be evil, but he's a villian you love to hate. Another funny yet scary character is Ma, the farmer who wants to eat one of Kester's animal friends. If you've ever seen the film Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Ma will remind you of the wild and wooly trucking woman Large Marge. A last mention should go to Kester's best friend Polly, a feisty co-adventurer who gets a large slice of the action.

This is a book sure to please both boys and girls eight years and upwards.

The Last Wild, by Piers Torday. Published by Quercus. ISBN: 9781780878300 RRP: $14.99

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