Last Light by Terri Blackstock

Cell phones, computers, cars, and electricity all use technology that we daily rely on, and even take for granted. We would be hard-pressed to imagine a world without most, let alone all areas of technology. That’s exactly the kind of world Terri Blackstock creates in the first book of the Restoration Series, Last Light (Restoration, Book 1).

The book opens with a father and daughter disembarking from a plane in the world as we know it. Then something happens, and it’s all gone — everything electronic, everything that has any sort of computer or silicon chip in it, no longer functions. Cars are dead, cell phones are dead, radios are dead, and the electricity is out. Water even becomes a problem since the purification system pumps don’t work. Theories abound about an EMP or Electromagnetic Pulse, terrorism, or some other unknown factor, but no one knows what really caused it, and, initially, how widespread the effects are.

The story follows the Brannings, a family of six with kids ranging from age nine to twenty-two, in Birmingham, Alabama, as they struggle to come to terms with the changes and cope with the new challenges. When they join the crowd at the local Wal-mart with everyone else, trying to stock up, there is the expected run on food and camping supplies, but the violence that breaks out is a shock to everyone. Strangers are attacking strangers to steal food, supplies, bicycles for transportation, and anything else deemed important enough in the moment to fight for.

It sounds farfetched, but thinking back to how people act at holiday sales when all is well and good gives a measure of credence to the possibility of such outrageous behavior. Banks are closed, and suddenly a world that normally relies on credit cards can’t use plastic for everything, and there are hungry families to feed with desperate parents trying to satisfy those needs. Then, considering the fact that with no cars, the police are hampered in their efforts to keep law and order, and must also rely on bicycles and no radios for contact, the scenario becomes very likely.

As if trying to keep up with these changes and challenges aren’t enough, there’s a double murder in the Branning’s neighborhood, dealing a nasty blow to the ability of folks to trust one another. How do you trust your neighbor when any one of them might be a killer? Accusations fly and the flimsy evidence points to more than one possible suspect. The final revelation becomes a very personal one for the Branning family.

The plot of Last Light can be considered somewhat farfetched in that this is not a problem we face (at least not yet!), but it delivers as a suspense story, leaving you to wonder how the murders will be solved and who will be next at the same time as you watch the family try and figure out how to survive. The story also asks powerful questions about God’s ability to provide in such extreme circumstances and how Christians are to act when the dominant theme is clearly everyone for themselves.

I wondered at the outset how successful Terri Blackstock would be in achieving a sense of realism for such a scenario. Not only did she pull it off, but she managed to tell a thought-provoking story at the same time. The story is a fairly quick read and leaves the door wide open for its sequel, Night Light (out in July), since only some questions are answered by book’s end.

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