The Last Albatross by Ian Irvine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Last Albatross is set in a near future Australia where the technology, environment and economy is failing. It is a story of extreme environmentalists versus, in the beginning at least, an apathetic materialistic woman and her partner.
The heroine of the story is Jemma. She is an overweight, unconfident school-teacher who wants to have a child. Her older partner, Ryn, is a computer scientist who forecasts the damage from major weather events. At the start of the book he is working on a program that forecasts the effects of the collapse of one of the Antarctic ice shelves.
In his youth, Ryn and a mentally unstable friend Hercus found a bar of plutonium at Maralinga and buried it in a relative’s back yard. There it remains for years until Hercus returns into Jemmas and Ryn’s life. He is distressed about materialists destroying the environment is going to get rid of them all. And so the adventure begins.
I did not really like the characters. Not my type of people. Jemma had sold her soul to un-fulfilling nothingness long before the novel started. Ryn was too rapped up in his work to care about anything. Hercus wanted to blame the world for everything bad in his life. In the end, only really Jemma came close to redeeming herself.
I did have a problem with technology constantly refusing to function throughout the story. Although the Australia in the novel is a virtual corporate dictatorship, I still kept on thinking, only fools will buy the corporation’s goods if they don’t work. Others will buy, make, illegally import, invent some other product that actually works or just go without. Basically I thought Jemma and Ryn fell into the fools category, the type of people who keep on going back to the Reject Shop to buy a replacement for something that just broke.
I think the novel was too long. It should have ended with Jemma and Ryn’s attempts to stop Hercus using the plutonium. Instead, it continued with Jemma improbably taking over a speech in front of world leaders from her ailing husband. I thought Jemma’s and Ryn’s reputation was so soiled at the time that it would be a bit like Lindy Chamberlain addressing a child care conference. We know a dingo did it, but still there is baby’s blood thrown by the media all over Lindy.
The novel ends up portraying all environmentalists as extremist nutters. This aspect of the novel really rubbed against me. I was surprised to see the author himself has/does work in the environmental field.
Overall, I thought the novel okay, it did keep me reading. I was just frustrated by its character’s motivations and some of its ideas.
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