The Last Days -- Scott Westerfeld
[The picture featured here is a mock-up of a possible cover -- the cover art on the ARC I have is very different. Of course, I have no idea if the cover art I have will end up on the actual book. I like the picture here more -- it's creepier.]
I think that The Last Days will get a better reception if it is introduced as a companion to Peeps, rather than as a sequel. It has a totally different format and Cal only appears after almost two hundred pages. That said, I also think it should be read after Peeps, because of the background -- without having read Peeps, the reader would only know that there's something weird and creepy and dangerous and possibly vampiric going on in New York City. Which I guess could be fun, too. So really, things could go either way.
It was a strange follow-up. (But that isn't to say that strange follow-ups can't work -- look at Castle in the Air, for instance.)
As I said, it has a different format and different characters: Moz, Zahler, Pearl, Minerva and Alana Ray all take turns narrating the story, which revolves around the creation of their band in the midst of a supernatural war that hardly anyone (including the narrators) knows the details of -- the general public and "traditional" leaders (mayors, the president, etc.) know that there's something dark and dangerous happening, but they don't know what it is or how to deal with it.
So mostly, people don't go out at night or into alleys and they just pretend that the problem isn't there. Of course, it's kind of hard to ignore, since the sanitation workers have started avoiding some parts of town and the trashpiles are starting to pile up higher and higher.
Just describing it makes me want to go back and read both books again.
Moz and his (somewhat annoying) best friend Zahler meet Pearl on the street when they all witness a screaming woman throw most of her possessions, including a beautiful 70's Fender Stratocaster out of her third-floor apartment. Minerva, eventually the lead singer, is a peep (See my review of Peeps for an explanation.) but doesn't quite realize exactly what she is -- her parents keep her locked in her room and have hired a woman who is treating her with home remedies like garlic and herbal tea. Alana Ray has a condition similar to Asperger's, and she has a heightened sense of awareness -- she sees and hears things that 'normal' people don't always notice.
I thought it was great -- Westerfeld really captured the heat and smell of the city in the summer, and his characters were (as always) engaging. Even the minor characters were interesting -- I found Astor Michaels, the sketchy record-exec carrier/peep especially so -- I'd read a whole book about him.
There have been so many series and trilogies and whatnot around lately that it's a rare occurrence for me to actually want a story to be expanded into multiple volumes. But in this case, I do. The world that Scott Westerfeld has created is too fascinating to let go of just yet.