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Thomas Mullen – The Last Town on Earth

February 2, 2008

14. The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen (2006)

Read by Henry Strozier
Length: 15h 38m (416 pages)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Started: 14 January 2008
Finished: 02 February 2008

Summary: Commonwealth is a small lumber town in Washington state, built along Charles Worthy’s quasi-socialist ideas about running a mill. It’s the middle of World War I, but an even deadlier opponent has surfaced – the Spanish Flu. Scared by reports from neighboring towns, Commonwealth decides to reverse-quarantine itself, blocking all access to the town and posting armed guards to keep away anyone who might be carrying the flu. However, when a cold and hungry soldier stumbles into town one evening, events are set into motion that will change the fate of the town and affect the lives of everyone in Commonwealth.

Review: This book was never bad enough to make me want to stop listening and start something else, but it was never really good enough that I wanted to go back and listen to more, either. Basically, I just found it kind of dull – the concept and story were interesting, and the historical details were nicely worked in, but it was never really enough to make me care. I found the personal history digressions particularly distracting – it seemed as though Mullen didn’t trust us enough to be able to understand anyone’s motivation unless he provide a thorough account of their backstory. Similarly, the writing had a way of draining all of the dramatic tension from a scene; several of what should have been exciting moments just kind of collapsed under the dry, dispassionate tone. I think that that lack of passion was the novel’s largest sin; the author seemed to be more concerned with exploring the historical context and social setting than with giving us characters that moved us or a story that really grabbed our attention. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: A change of scene from most historical fiction, but that doesn’t make up for the plodding pace of the book. Might be worthwhile if you’re interested in the time period and have the patience for glacially-paced books, but otherwise, I’d pass.

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