Pre-Order Now! THE LAST STORM by Tim Lebbon @timlebbon from @TitanBooks #BookReview #eco-thriller

The front cover for The Last Storm. The cover is yellow with an oversized sun shining down on blackened trees and the book's title is in red over the sun.

THE LAST STORM by Tim Lebbon

Titan Books, paperback: £8.99, eBook: £6.64

Reviewed by Dave Jeffery

The front cover for The Last Storm. The cover is yellow with an oversized sun shining down on blackened trees and the book's title is in red over the sun.

THE LAST STORM is the latest release from Tim Lebbon, multi-award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Silence, Eden, and movie-tie-in projects, including the Star Wars, Alien and Firefly franchises.

This epic tale is set against a backdrop of a future Earth that has failed in its ecological duty. Swathes of North America have now become desert wastelands, where people scratch a meagre existence as the climate rebels, and conflagration, famine and drought are the norm. Within this sphere of gritty realism, we also have the surrealist Rainmakers, a mystical group who, at some point in the past, were able to garner quasi-cosmic powers to cloudburst, but their memory in the world-weary general populous has become a source of either derision or myth. Enter Jesse, an ex-Rainmaker, who has isolated himself from his past and with good reason. His experiences making rain have left people dead, including a drug dealer and Jesse’s own daughter, Ash. His days of living out his life in splendid isolation are shattered when Karina – Jesse’s estranged wife – crashes into his enforced exile to tell him their Rainmaker daughter is still very much alive and on a mission to embrace her powers, despite the unequivocal consequences for all involved. Against the clock, Jesse and Karina hit the road in order to save Ash from her own misjudgements. Yet there are others seeking Ash out for very different reasons, including those of antagonist Jimi, who is seeking murderous revenge for Jesse’s past failings.

Lebbon is no stranger to the Eco-thriller. His 2020 novel EDEN explored the constructs of systematic and enforced conservation, creating a powerful reality where humanity learns how quickly nature reclaims the world when left to its own devices. In THE LAST STORM, we can see what happens when the warnings of climate change go unheeded and humanity takes the planet on a path toward irreparable self-destruction. It is hard not to consider these books as distant relations, the warnings prevalent, the message clear. However, there is a firm sense of reality attached to them, made possible by the detail Lebbon places in the background noise of the Earth’s demise. Be it small news items watched on a TV screen in one seedy bar or another or conversations of missions to Mars between patrons in a stifling roadside diner, the reader is shown what it is like in the world beyond the heat, drawing them in, making it all the more believable. Lebbon is so good at weaving these aspects into the tale the more fantastic elements – the cosmic abilities of Rainmakers and their part in staving off drought for a while – become as plausible as any other element. The ancestral mythos behind the rainmakers is subtle. The way each must adapt to their gift and build their own apparatus to viscerally connect with the elements is a fascinating aspect of the story, adding credibility to the overall narrative.

Coupled with this is the strength and development of the characters and their role in this supercharged road trip upon which they ultimately find themselves. Ash, the daughter who has developed her own calling to be a Rainmaker, is perhaps the most interesting, and her first-person present participial narrative gives the reader a powerful and current insight into her drives and motivations, feelings of betrayal and loss and, to some extent, the incredibly endearing sense innocence she associates with her powers. Striking up an alliance with the feisty drifter Cee, Ash wants to use her gift to do good, but there is a pervading nuance that she is ultimately doomed without parental guidance that has been sorely lacking from her father.

Of course, all road trips have a final destination, and the climactic coming together of parents, daughter and a vengeful assassin is a particular highlight of this enthralling yarn. The action set-pieces, where Ash brings forth the titular storm, and rain, blood and all forms of grotesque manifestations begin hitting the street as Jimi tries to exact his revenge, is a pulse-pounding, gory finale that still has some twists up its sleeve right to the very end.

Part eco-thriller, part cosmic horror, THE LAST STORM is a tense and inventive piece of storytelling with Lebbon at his absolute best and making the forecast for this latest offering very, very good indeed.

Highly recommended.