New Zealand horror writer Lee Pletzers’ The Last Church does the job of a good horror novel (or, I suppose, any novel): it keeps you turning the pages, wanting to know what happens next, and hoping that at least some of the characters – not to mention the world – will make it out alive at the end of the story.
And the fate of the world is very much at stake. I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s just say that there’s a man with a plan for the future of the world which isn’t what most of us would wish for; that this man has, or embodies, demonic assistance; and that a diverse coalition of characters with less power but equal determination come together to stop him — or, at least, to try.
Along the way, quite a lot of the characters meet gruesome fates. And some of them are very gruesome: The Last Church doesn’t stint on sex, violence, and in some cases sexual violence. You have been warned.
It took me a while to get into the story. There is a large cast of characters to start with – before the main villain and his henchpeople start to whittle them down — and the story jumps between several time periods. I had trouble keep track of everything and everyone for about the first quarter of the novel. Also off-putting were quite a few proofreading and grammatical errors: mostly minor things, like missing apostrophes, but until I got into the flow of the story I found these distracting. I know only too well how hard it is to eliminate all such errors, but another proofreading run would benefit future printings of the novel.
As I read, I wasn’t always convinced that characters’ motivations for their actions were sufficiently well established. The principal villain is a nasty piece of work, but he has a goal, and his actions are consistent with that goal. On the other hand, to my eyes at least, the behaviour of his “dream woman” and subsequent consort seems inconsistent; or, put another way, I didn’t feel I had a clear enough understanding of her character, so that her actions sometimes seemed arbitrary rather than well-founded.
But it would be a mistake to dwell on the negatives. The Last Church is scary, gruesome at times, and increasingly gripping as it approaches its climax. If you like horror with a side order of apocalypse, The Last Church is worth a visit.