Charlie is a good guy. He works hard, he’s a black belt in karate, and he’s never been in trouble. He has his problems as every teenage guy does, like talking to the girl he likes without making a fool of himself and the best friend who seems to be in some kind of trouble. When he goes to bed these things are important. When he wakes up they’re not. That’s because he’s strapped to a chair in a prison cell covered in blood, bruises and burns. He has no idea how or why he got there, but he knows he’s in trouble – someone outside the cell has just ordered his death. Charlie West is on the run, in danger and alone, and he doesn’t even know why. Because he can’t remember the last year of his life.
The Last Thing I Remember has a good premise (though admittedly it bears a striking resemblance to the Bourne Identity series). Charlie’s search for the truth leads him to police stations, a terrorist group, and a crazy lady with many cats. It’s an interesting plot although by no means concluded at the end of the book (have I mentioned this is the first in a series?). For the first half of the book the narrative cuts between his present problems and the last day he remembers. There are important clues in the last day he remembers to why he is in trouble now. The plotting here has been careful, but the writing is less smooth – some of the transitions are very awkward.
Charlie as a character is amusing on occasion. At times he seems a bit slow to grasp what’s going on, but that is to a reader who is reading objectively, not a person who’s just woken up in a room and has no idea why, so perhaps it’s understandable. Especially in the first few chapters, he’s interesting and smart. He does have some unforgiveable traits as the book goes on. Firstly he is just too good. He calls everybody ma’am and sir (even a crazy lady who’s warning him about the mind control people), he analyses and justifies every time he defends himself. I suppose to some extent this works to show that clearly he is a good person and he’s woken up in a world that he doesn’t belong to. Maybe it’s a personal thing, but to me he’s too self-righteous. There’s also just something about Charlie that screams to me this character isn’t a really teen! He was created by an adult!
Also, the writing seems to imply that you have to be religious and patriotic to be a good person, which irritated me. His reaction to someone suggesting that he’s a terrorist is I can’t be a terrorist. I love my country! which pretty much killed my irritation, being almost hilarious in its ridiculousness. To me it implied that if he didn’t love his country... What about I can’t be a terrorist. Blowing people up and suchlike is WRONG!
Having said this there are also some good characters, most noticeably Jane, who intersperses insanity with extreme wisdom. She’s also handled surprisingly sensitively. She does keep many cats as per crazy cat lady formula, but she’s also much younger than a stereotypical ‘crazy person’ and an interesting character. The idea is a good one, the plot partially predictable but interesting nevertheless. If you can ignore the self-righteous tone, I’d say read it. There are snatches of real humour in the writing and the action scenes are especially evocative. In my opinion the good does outweigh the bad and I will be reading the sequel despite my problems with this installment.