Book Review: John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars by Roland Hughes

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Disclosure: My copy was offered by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Once you read the description of this novel it’s impossible not to pick it up immediately. The Mayans knew about the end of the world because they survived it before? And that puzzle made of pieces we can find in classic science-fiction writing and TV shows sounds way too intriguing. Oh, and the Microsoft Wars… let’s not forget about the Microsoft Wars. What can they possibly be? This being my initial reaction, you can imagine that when I started reading “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars” my expectations were pretty high. I finished the book half an hour ago, and I can say that, overall, my expectations were met.

At first, it might seem just another dystopian novel about a bunch of survivors who are trying to rebuild their society. In truth, it is much more than that. We meet Susan Krowley, a reporter for The Times, who was sent to interview John Smith, thought to be the last survivor of the Microsoft Wars. Smith lives in a house he built all by himself above the bunker where he and his grandfather took refuge right before the world as we know it ended on November 13, 2013. The action takes place 70 years after the tragic event, which didn’t only almost destroy the planet, but also destroyed its history. Being part of the newest generation, Susan has no idea what the Earth was like before the Microsoft Wars. This is why Smith takes it upon himself to provide her with a frame of reference before he tells her what she wants to know.

Roland Hughes managed to create an impressive history of the world by combining real, well-known facts with science-fiction details. Sometimes, you might find yourself so engrossed in the story, that you must stop and think which aspects are real and possible, and which are pure fiction. The fact that everything began with Atlantis was no surprise, but the way things evolved was really unexpected. The author developed an original theory about how the Atlanteans discovered a method of surviving thousands of years, thus getting to influence the new people that repopulated Earth after each end of a cycle. And this is just one of the many ideas that turn this book into such an exciting and thought-provoking read.

However, there were some things that made it impossible for me to read it faster. No matter how surprising everything John Smith described was, I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages at a time. From beginning to end, the novel is structured as an interview. Susan asks the questions, and Smith gives her an entire course in history, geography, technology, and so on, trying to make her understand how it all started and why it ended with the Microsoft Wars. At first, this interview-like structure was ok, but it soon got very tiring. I found it a bit limiting, especially because there’s no room for “show” when the structure itself requires “tell”. And reading pages after pages of “telling” can take away the joy and excitement. I understand that the main focus was to invite the readers to consider the ideas presented and the reasons why humans evolve only to destroy everything they have built, but a bit of action wouldn’t have hurt.

Aside from that, I truly enjoyed “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars”, and I can easily say it’s one of the most original novels I’ve read lately. I would recommend it to those who love science-fiction and speculative stories about Atlantis, the beginning of the world and, of course, the end of it.