By Jon Blake
Published by Hodder
ISBN 978 0 340 94474 5
Authors of youth fiction like to set their novels in the future, which gives them the freedom to create a world exactly as they want it. Jon Blake's setting for The Last Free Cat is futuristic , but not so bizarre that readers will dismiss it as impossible.
Blake's frightening vision of the future gives this novel a very scary edge. The Last Free Cat takes us not so far forward into a world where gigantic profit-making companies are in control of how countries are run. Against this background, ordinary citizens live in fear for their own futures.
People have to fit in with what is decided for them and ask no questions. There are new rules in this new world and severe punishments if these rules are broken.
A deadly virus has wiped out most of the cat population. The cats that are still alive are under the strict control of the mighty Viafara Corporation whose scientists oversee cat breeding, selling specimens for vast amounts of money.
Any cat not bred by Viafara is a potential disease carrier and is destroyed when caught. Only the very rich can afford to own cats, which are now seen as status symbols and not household pets.
Teenager Jade lives with her sick mother in a not very pleasant part of town. She's not very happy. Then, one day, a beautiful sleek cat walks into Jade's garden and the sensitive teenager is entranced. She has never seen a cat before. The cat doesn't have a collar so Jade knows immediately that this is an illegal animal that will be destroyed if handed over to the authorities.
Jade realises she has to save this creature somehow. Her mother agrees and the two of them take the cat into their home. Despite being very careful not to let on about the feline addition to their home , a rumour leaks out that Jade might have an illegal cat .
The authorities raid the house, but Jade and her friend Kris are one step ahead. With the cat carefully hidden, the two friends go on the run to save the precious animal.
The main narrative drive of The Last Free Cat is the exciting chase as Jade and Kris flee with the authorities snapping at their heels. Blake comes into his own with this part of the story, providing edge-of-the-seat suspense that grips the reader until the very end.
Jade has to face insurmountable odds as she tries to save her cat, and during her flight from authority, she learns about herself, the meaning of friendship and the lengths to which people have to go to survive.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com