A Hard SciFi Laypeople Can Follow: Reading THE LAST WATCH

Hey, y’all! Welcome back to the Raccoon Awards, a place where I eat 5 scoops of ice cream and weaponize the sugar-fueled mania to throw books at you, a gentle, innocent, and unsuspecting reader. Let’s talk about why you need to read THE LAST WATCH.

The Synopsis: Out on the edge of the universe, humanity’s most irredeemable criminals are guarding the Divide from a long defunct threat: the Viators, aka a mysterious alien species that tried to wipe them out, but which is almost entirely extinct now. On the Divide, past, present, and future intermingle in ripples, comms are unreliable at best, supplies are in short supply, and jury rigging to get by is a way of life.

Then, the universe – and the divide – starts collapsing inward at an alarming rate, and it’s up to this motley crew of rejects to find a way to stop it. Oh, and the major players? Two war heroes, a disowned prince (from an unbelievably sketchy royal family), a “mutant” Savant, and a 19 year old with a bubble gum fixation. They’ll stop at nothing to protect the universe, but the paths they take to get there make for one hell of a read.

The Hot Takes: Ok, so first and foremost I want to talk about the science in this book. If you don’t know, hi, I am mostly a fantasy reader, and while I think science is a very cool thing, I sometimes get overwhelmed watching NOVA, ok? If I, someone who actually took “Chemistry for Non-Science Majors” in college where the professor was literally quoted as saying “we won’t calculate moles, that’s too hard for you guys,” could follow every bit of science in this book, it’s practically a feat of nature. This is what’s called a hard scifi, or a scifi that relies on actual science to drive the plot (vs a soft scifi like Star Wars, which has some science but is mostly just space and pew pew lasers and Drama. I love SW, but this is not that).

So, yeah, there’s a lot of science going on with like, the space-time continuum, how to make dark energy and stars, how the universe could expand, collapse, or stabilize, how to power warp drives and take apart nuclear bombs for funsies (there’s A LOT of bomb stuff going on, it’s great), how to create torque to exit overpowering gravity fields, how to mess up someone’s aging process, and how things can simply cease to exist when science goes weird. There’s so much awesome conceptual science in this book BUT IT’S ACTUALLY EASY TO FOLLOW WHEN YOU’RE READING, OK? This would make an incredible introductory scifi for people who want to try out the genre.

Another thing you need to know about THE LAST WATCH is that the characters are goddamn incredible. From Cavalon, a disowned prince and former addict who’s always been living a spoiled life but is now trying to become a soldier, to Adequin, the ship’s captain who’s just trying to keep everyone safe in impossible circumstances, you can’t help rooting for almost every character. Even when they’re making mistakes or being stubborn, as a reader, you’re completely invested. Plus, they’re funny! And I don’t mean like in a typical space opera way with a Monty Python-esque eccentricism that makes things funny, but in their actual mannerisms. They have a natural, behavioral humor that’s incredibly rare to find in books. I loved it.

The stress management of this book is also an absolute godsend, as well. There’s a lot of politics at play here between the Legion (who the sentinels at the Divide are under), the royal families, and the sentinels themselves, and it would not be hard to take those political plays up to 11 and overwhelm the reader. I know for me (and probably for many of my fellow Americans) the threshold for how much political maneuvering I can tolerate right now is very low. In fact, full disclosure, after reading the synopsis I wasn’t sure if I would get through this book without DNF’ing because it sounded like it was going to overwhelm me on the politics/understaffed/underfunded front. It did not.

Don’t get me wrong, there are political things at stake, but they’re clearly something that is more for book two than book one. Book one is more “I don’t want the universe to die, how do I fix it” more than “who’s trying to kill the universe and how do I stop them,” and even when they’re combatting the universe itself, it’s never that level 11 stress that it could be.

Again, even with the understaffing and underfunded aspects of this book, they’re real, but they’re not in that incredibly stress-inducing, “I can’t read this” sort of way, which is SO NICE, OK? The characters keep their heads, and the stressful scenes are crafted in such a way that it’s never overwhelming, even when the fate of the universe is at stake. So yeah, if you are a semi-exhausted reader who’s been looking for an escape but also gets easily overwhelmed with stressful content, THE LAST WATCH might be a good one to try.

And even beyond all of that: this is book is just fucking amazing, ok? Everything about it is so good. From the opening chapter to the final line, there’s so much to unpack, to explore, to lay awake at night thinking about. I honestly stayed up past my bedtime to finish this yesterday, and dreamed about it once I fell asleep because my mind clearly wasn’t ready to let it go. This is a fantastic scifi that may be one of the best books coming out this year. Hot damn.

The Misc: One of the fun parts of THE LAST WATCH is a certain slang acronym, SGL. It stands for “shit’s gone lateral” and is a code for “we have a dire emergency situation and need to regroup.” I will be unapologetically start using it in my lexicon of slang, and when anyone asks me about it I am going to hurl this book at them.

Does it get a star? THE LAST WATCH absofreakinglutely gets the FIRST Raccoon Awards starred review of 2021. Seriously, I love this book SO MUCH.

Can I buy this? THE LAST WATCH hits shelves near you on April 20th. Friendly reminder that I am a bookseller at Copperfish Books, and I will scream and be incredibly excited if you purchase your book from us.

Oh, and PS! Book two, The Exiled Fleet (which I have not read yet BUT SERIOUSLY NEED TO OMG) hits shelves in August! Preorder link not yet available, but mark your calendar!! I’m so excited that more is coming up shortly!

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