The last girl by Michael Adams
Allen & Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743316468.
Recommended for readers 15+. This novel takes a very interesting concept for its 'end of the world as we know it'. Adams explores our world of 24/7 connectivity, and extrapolates that to create a vision of what would happen if we all (and I mean the whole world) suddenly had this connectivity without any mediating devices, and we were all privy to everyone else's thoughts all at once. He allows the darker, baser sides of human nature to rise to the top:
'The internet placed the world's knowledge at our fingertips, right? What did most people use it for? Porn and online dating, playing shoot-'em-up games, spending real money to buy virtual farms, pop-culture trivia, pirating movies and music, showing strangers what they ate for lunch and pouring hatred on people they didn't even know'. (p.288)
The result is a chaotic and amazingly rapid disintegration of society. Many people die, and then there is such a sensory overload that almost everyone becomes catatonic and goes into a state of semi-hibernation. These people can only be rescued by the sentient few.
The protagonist is a 16 year old girl from Sydney who is immune in that while she can hear everyone else's thoughts, no-one can penetrate hers. We follow her journey into the Blue Mountains in search of her mother, with the dangers along the way. She meets a couple of others like herself, and Adams poses a number of moral dilemmas, with different ways of handling the idea of saving humanity. It reminded me of The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.
The novel is pacey, well written and thought provoking, and would be a worthy addition to the school library. There is a sequel on the cards - the novel has a taster at the end of the next book - The Last Shot.