The 1950s vintage ocean liner Queen Isabella is making her final voyage before heading to the scrapyard, but when a time of crisis begins, the ship's passengers and workers find themselves facing the unknown together in an unexpected and startling test of their characters.
Ms. Christensen gamely traverses both worlds in this excellent waterborne upstairs-downstairs drama ... As Chekhov decreed, if a cruise ship is introduced in act one, half of its passengers must be sick from a gruesome intestinal virus by act five. Along with illness and walkouts, an engine fire strands the ship in the Pacific ... Ms. Christensen revels in the state of contained anarchy. The disasters shatter class lines and rearrange alliances. By the end the passengers are lucky to be eating Spam and power bars. Oh, the humanity!
The Last Cruise plays out a lot like a '50s disaster movie, and that's a good thing. It's a tremendously entertaining novel that never asks readers to turn their brains off—there's plenty of slow-burn suspense, but it doesn't come at the expense of unrealistic characters, which is a trade-off many authors are too willing to take ... If there's one fault in The Last Cruise, it's the novel's ending, which is perhaps a bit too dramatic—it requires a little bit of suspension of disbelief ... But on the other hand, the drama is consistent with the '50s-movie feel of the novel, and it seems churlish to nitpick when the overall effect is so startling and so much fun. The Last Cruise is a captivating voyage—it's a great summer read, sure, but it's well worth taking the ride no matter the time of year.
Christensen is a discerning and witty writer ... Having gathered these disparate people together, Christensen gently rolls and pitches the stage, dislodging stones of sadness that had been safely stuck in the crevices of their everyday lives. That discombobulation is the key to the story’s appeal, its unstable mix of romantic comedy, class oppression and spiritual angst ... Christensen is a master at drawing us into the interior lives of her characters, toeing the line between satire and sympathy ... Although that geopolitical metaphor is convincing, it would ultimately make for a rather schematic and dull story. Fortunately, Christensen has something more mysterious and existential in mind. She’s interested in the most intimate and profound changes we’re willing to make only when tossed by the tempest of life.