Summary and book reviews of The Last Man Standing by Davide Longo

The Last Man Standing

By Davide Longo

The Last Man Standing
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2013,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: 7 Oct 2014,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

GQ (Italy) called Davide Longo, "the most talented and intense Italian novelist of his generation." In this dystopian, post-apocalyptic literary novel, Italy is on the brink of collapse: borders are closed, banks are refusing to distribute money to their clients, the postal service is shuttered, and food supplies are running short. Armed gangs of drug-fueled youth rampage through the countryside as the nation descends into chaos.

Leonardo was once a famous writer and professor before a sex scandal ended his marriage and his career. With society collapsing around them, his ex-wife leaves their daughter and son in his care as she sets off in search of her new husband, who is missing. Ultimately, Leonardo is forced to evacuate and take his children to safety, but to do so he will have to summon a quality he has never exhibited before: courage.

Excerpt
The Last Man Standing

Leonardo pushed back the curtain and took a long look at the courtyard where three cars were parked, one of which was his own. The open space was surrounded by a metal net three meters high with barbed wire at the top. The previous evening, though blinded by the light the guard had shone in his face, he had noticed the outline of the little tower, but he now realized it had been skillfully constructed from old advertising panels, sheets of metal, sections of railing, a shower cubicle, and a fire escape. One of the two searchlights above it was pointed at the courtyard and the other directed at the desolate emptiness beyond the fence.

He looked out at the fl at fields covered with low bushes where the road stretched into the distance, with occasional bends despite the fact that nothing seemed to be in the way to make them necessary. The sky was a monotonous unmarked gray for as far as he could see it, reminiscent in every way of the last few days. A man ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The reason for society's downfall is never explicitly told. What clues does the story hold, however, that explains it? Discuss whether it's a worldwide calamity or confined to Italy.

  2. Protagonist Leonardo, described as "timid," doesn't seem well-suited to a post-apocalyptic world. Discuss how his traits become strengths as the world falls further into decay.

  3. Leonardo's motivation throughout the book's second half is saving Lucia. Do you think he did?

  4. What is it about Leonardo's character that would impel him to risk his life to rescue Bauschan? Compare it to how he later rescues David and Circe.

  5. Sergio told Leonardo he had a choice between killing him and his crew or offering them brief sanctuary...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Despite its doomful and depressing tone, this novel is thought provoking and leavened with bright moments of grace...I closed the book feeling that the power of greatness in humanity is stronger and more lasting than the ineptitude and evil mankind can contrive.   (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).

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Media Reviews
Financial Times (UK)

A bleak, lyrical tale that evokes Cormac McCarthy's The Road...Gruesome, intense, and strange...a eruozone nightmare brought to life on the page.

The Independent (UK)

A novel in which precision of language is as crucial an element as the steadily accelerating tension.

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

A complex and compelling investigation of the behavior of survival.

Bridlington Free Press (UK)

With mesmerizing control of language, Longo weaves a tale that will leave readers with much to think about long after they have put it down.

SFX (UK)

A powerful insight into the most primal corners of the human psyche. Longo is a superb writer and every sentence drips intelligence and humanity ... The Last Man Standing is set to be one of the best novels of the year.

Library Journal

Longo's dystopian world—difficult to take at times—is evoked through language as beautiful as the winter landscape of northern Italy is barren. A wealth of rich imagery carries the reader through scenes of torture and youthful atrocities along a landscape as stark as that of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. But those who stick with Leonardo will be rewarded.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A searing, dystopian parable ... [A] remarkable book ... Longo's characters get in touch with the basest parts of themselves in order to preserve what is denigrated as 'the most arid.' ... Visceral and gripping.

Vanity Fair

The story in The Last Man Standing might sound familiar, if it weren't for the fact that Davide Longo has written it better than anyone else

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An Examination of Two Post-Apocolyptic Novels Outside of the US

After I finished reading The Last Man Standing, I became curious about post-apocalyptic novels written by authors from countries outside of the United States. A rather lengthy and frustrating Internet search led me to science fiction conventions around the world, prizes awarded, and books that have been translated into English. It also brought up the question of the difference between the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genres.

Earlier this year, BookBrowse reviewer Cindy Anderson wrote about Dystopian Fiction in the Beyond The Book feature for Kat Zhang's What's Left of Me. Briefly the difference is that dystopian literature deals with worlds that are the very opposite of utopias, while post-apocalyptic books imagine the world...

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