The Last Zoo is Sam Gayton’s most ambitious and visionary novel to date. In his previous books, Gayton has often celebrated miniature heroes (Hercufleas, Lilliput) but this new venture has enormous scope, breathing life into a giant menagerie of imaginary creatures.
The Last Zoo is a series of arks, which host new creatures that have been brought out of ‘the seam’ by people’s imaginations – a phenomenon made possible ever since the detonation of the reality bomb. Hummingdragons, genies, smellephants, and unicorns are all created and cared for on their own arks. Pia’s task is to look after angels, whose majesty and mystery (and miracles) may hold the key to saving the world. And the world needs saving. War is prevalent, resources are dwindling and The Megalolz virus has put pay to the internet.
Unfortunately, Pia is rather accident prone and misplaces the angels. Thus begins a hasty hunt all over the zoo, punctuated by catastrophes and moments of great peril, as Pia and her young friends search dragons’ lairs, spiders’ webs and genies’ beards. Though her celestial charges prove illusive, Pia uncovers many secrets on her quest, some of which have enormous implications for the fate of the zoo, and of the world.
Pia is a thoroughly likeable protagonist. She is brave and open-minded and clearly pure of heart. Though her journey begins with a desire to save her own skin, she quickly puts all selfishness to one side when offered the chance to try and make the world a better place. She is also a teenager and, therefore, makes lots of mistakes. She often insults others when short-tempered and even punches a male admirer in the face. She is a fast learner, though, and readers will love her vulnerability just as much as they will enjoy her tenacity and sense of adventure.
The Last Zoo has a tender heart and will gently encourage its readers to confront some of life’s big questions: What is the fate of the universe? What happens if we don’t look after the planet? What food would you ask a genie to pluck out of thin air for you? Gayton has written another fun and frenetic adventure and many children will lose themselves in its imaginary universe.