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Last Star Standing


Blurb

Aiden has always felt like an outsider. After the rebel assassin is captured and imprisoned by the world’s galactic overlords, he awaits execution. Then a mole w for the occupying regime alerts him to a plot that could destroy the entire resistance...


Engineering a daring escape, Aiden’s growing feud with the new rebel leader leaves him out in the cold and smouldering with resentment. Faced with deceit and betrayals on every side, he recruits a group of overlooked outcasts and stakes everything on one last mission.


Can the restless, reckless Aiden take a stand long enough to save humanity from enslavement?

My Review

Last Star Standing by Spaulding Taylor is a dystopian thriller with sci-fi elements.

Earth's invaded by aliens, the Xirfell, in 2084. Naturally, a rebel alliance formed, and a decade on, one of its rebels, the protagonist Aiden Tenten is a prisoner.


The story begins with Aiden's captivity in a high-tech Xirfell cell. Past events blur with the grisly present, jumbling Aiden's perceptions. His distorted memories intertwine with the action in the first half of this novel, providing many details about Aiden's back story. The lengthy introduction had a ‘tell not show’ style, unnecessarily slowing the pace, before Aiden's call to action.


The second half builds suspense and intrigue with Aiden's escape. Taylor introduces a myriad of characters, human and alien, shining a light on their divergent cultures. Aiden enlists a group of outcasts, Bully and Gromeline, who I found the most interesting characters in the story. Told in the First Person's POV, the reader gets a clear picture of Aiden’s mindset as he grapples with his dire situation, often with irony and humour.


It took me a while to settle into Taylor's storytelling style, perhaps because the cover gave me the impression the story would be a space opera. However, despite the presence of many aliens, the action takes place on Earth. Hence the setting and world-building didn't soar as high as the unique and imaginative characters.


Overall, Last Star Standing is a well-written and enjoyable read. If you're looking for a story that mixes Ian M Banks's Culture Series and Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you will enjoy this novel.


Excerpt

Lips parted, the woman pressed eagerly forward. The target smiled at her but instead selected a pudgy lad of about six. He passed a skinny guy – who looked, the poor sap, practically broken-hearted. He was almost upon us. My heart sped until it seemed ready to jerk straight out of my chest. Choose me. Choose me. CHOOSE ME.


The Enlightened One seemed – or was it only my imagination? – to be gazing directly at me. Pushing swiftly past Petra I extended my hand. He turned, made a strange gesture, almost of benediction, then wired the back of my hand with that thick blackened stump. An instant surge of heat pulsed up my arm and throughout my torso. Then a wild swirl of fuchsia-slashed-with-orange flashed beneath my eyelids, as if the same stars, fiery and spot-lit against the black, had been injected into my brain. My every corpuscle felt fired, an almost intoxicating sensation, especially after the chill of the poison. I half-stumbled, almost squashing a smallish alien, and only saved myself from falling at the last second.


Through a haze – my eyeballs felt as if they were swimming in flaming waterfalls – I saw Petra and moved towards her. Of course. She couldn’t risk being stamped, in case the creature died too fast. As we walked the ornate brand began to swell on my hand – a warming, tightening feeling. The sense of strangeness accelerated, though this might have been from my borrowed DNA, the chilled poison in my blood, or the fiery stamp. But nothing could dent my happiness, because – I’d done it. I’d assassinated The Enlightened One.


Author Bio

Alice (Spaulding Taylor) McVeigh has been published by Orion/Hachette in contemporary fiction, by Unbound Publishing in action/adventure and by Warleigh Hall Press in Austenesque fiction. Her novels have won Gold Medal/First Place is the Global, eLit and Pencraft Book Awards, been runner-up in the Independent Press Awards, finalists in the Eric Hoffer, Rone and Wishing Shelf Book Awards and selected by Shelf Unbound as one of the "top indies" of 2021. Two of her novels are currently finalists in the CIBA Book Awards (the mCygnus and Goethe Awards). Her most recent novel (Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation) was just selected as Editors’ Pick “outstanding” on Publishers Weekly.


A professional London cellist, Alice lives in London and Crete with her professor husband: their only child is completing her Masters in Chinese Literature. They also share two miniature long-haired dachshunds and an incurable addiction to tennis.


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