The Last Science
- Traumatising content
[This story is on a temporary hiatus due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I work in healthcare and unfortunately no longer have the freetime to continue posting on a regular basis. As soon as our workload decreases, I will return. Thanks for reading! 💙]
No one ever knows the whole story.
Nestled deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, something is emerging. Kept in absolute secrecy, it seeps into a fading town, quietly shared from person to person. For Alden Bensen, a directionless high school graduate, this discovery could mean an escape from his empty existence. To Rachel DuValle, perpetually underestimated and dismissed by the world, magic represents a chance to become something much greater than herself.
In the face of an unsuspecting world, their decisions shape the growth of a budding society discovering untold power. This potent force offers anyone the power to change humanity forever—or send it cascading into swift and total annihilation.
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The Last Science is an ongoing science-fiction / low-fantasy web novel series, focused on the modern world with a twist. New societies bud and grow, but the people who make them up are imperfect and flawed. The story includes elements of mystery, action, crime, interpersonal drama, relationships, philosophy, sociology, politics, and much more, all centered on the perspective characters driving the tale. Each chapter is pretty long (average ~8000 words), so find somewhere comfy to read.
Content Warning (by request): This series delves into some topics and situations which may be upsetting for some readers. In American rating parlance, the narrative would be rated PG-13 (except for language), but some have noted the story can get pretty dark on occasion. Please use your best judgment, and don't be afraid to take breaks and come back later. I'll still be here!
This story will also be published weekly at my website (https://etzo.li). There will be no differences in content, but slight differences in formatting. Feel free to read at whichever site or app you prefer. If you're enjoying the story, consider dropping me a vote over on Top Web Fiction, or come say hi on Discord. Thanks!
Need more to read? Check out my other story, Epilogue — a post-fantasy psychodrama. Now complete!
This story is a participant in the Write til the End pledge. It will be completed, no matter the cost.
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How would our world change if real magic was introduced? If you were one of the first to gain access to magic what actions would you take to shape this new world?
The Last Science is a story about exploration and discovery driven by a cast of realistic and diverse characters who respond in natural and interesting ways to events far beyond anyone’s prior experience.
It is full of wonder and wonderfully written and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
At its core The Last Science is a character driven story.
The first book has two main point of view characters and the second switches to three new points of view. This is interspersed with multiple interludes which give temporary new points of view to add additional color.
Each of the main point of view characters is distinct and their chapters reflect that with very different tones. Some of the characters are passive and mostly just react to events, some are driven with a clear purpose and take actions to advance that purpose. There are a range of ages, world views, genders, sexualities, cultures, and motivations all represented. This is diversity done in the best way where it adds texture and detail to the story, reflecting the actual complex world we live in.
All characters (not just the main PoV ones) grow and change as events unfold. Some characters experience grave trauma and emerge weakened and damaged while others use the experience to become stronger and more resilient. Some learn from their mistakes; some keep making the same mistakes in different ways. Motivations and goals change and adapt over time.
Minor characters you might dismiss as token clichés reveal their depth overtime and challenge your initial assumptions. Characters who are young act young, sometimes being impulsive and irrational. Harm and conflict arise from ignorance and the best of intentions do not always result in good outcomes. There are betrayals that destroy relationships and pure selflessness which empower them.
This realistic character centric writing extends to both protagonists and antagonists. All sides in the various conflicts in the story are given strong detailed and realistic motivations for their actions. There are no cartoon one dimensional bad guys here for the heroes to beat with a clear conscious.
The Last Science is a rationalist work of modern fiction set on Earth. The magic in this story follows a set of rules, those rules do not change, and characters in the world can understand and apply those rules.
It is set in modern day Pacific Northwest USA and incorporates this fully into the story. There are the obvious things like cell phones and social media but also less obvious things like school boards, gangs and card-based board games. There are lawyers, journalists, politicians, law enforcement, package delivery men, preachers, talk show hosts, and many other modern-day occupations represented.
Why magic is introduced into the world is of the central mysteries of the story but the method by which it spreads is known and explained. It allows for a steady but slow dispersal of magic into the world. This spread changes over the course of time in direct reflection of some key events.
The magic has a significant amount of depth and complexity to it. None of the PoV characters fully understand it and over the course of the story what is possible continues to expand. The magic is split between instant “spells” and permanent “rituals”. There are multiple known categories of magic and most characters have one or more types they are good at types that are very difficult if not fully impossible for them to use.
Society and the way in which groups organize themselves are central themes. Some of the characters are literally attempting to build new societies from scratch. The methods of doing so are explored and there are multiple examples which have different levels of success. There are fledgling democracies, effective totalitarian total information control dictatorships, capitalist driven markets and full on magic cults.
The story is told mostly in real time with few significant time jumps. The focus slowly expands during the books from the initial tight view of a small town in Washington to the local, then state, national, and even international stage as time goes on. Each expansion is meaningful and not rushed, only occurring as the plot dictates.
The overarching plot remains focused on the basic question of what would happen if real magic was slowly introduced into our world. This is augmented by smaller sub plots some of which are personal: what is Alden looking for, can Rachel succeed as a leader? Some are larger, like who is responsible for the deaths in the trailer? Some are fundamental and philosophical: what is magic capable of, what rules does it follow, who should control it, should it even be controlled?
These various levels of plot and conflict are interwoven over time to steadily build up to satisfying climaxes and resolutions. There are no filler scenes or pointless tangents. The pacing adjusts to fit the action, sometimes it is a slow build to a boil, sometimes it is frantic and action packed.
Etzoli is clearly writing this as a set of Novels rather than as an unending serial. She has already shown she can write a complete story with Epilogue (If you have not already you owe it to yourself to go read it, it is amazing!) and that trend continues here.
This is a story that will reward your faith and payoff your investment. There are very subtle hints placed early in book 1 that become clear many chapters later.
At the time of this review Etzoli has updated The Last Science on schedule for a year and a half without fail. You can trust that she is writing this as a labor of love, and she has the discipline to not stop until it is complete.
Take the content warnings seriously, there are some extremely well written but very dark scenes in this story. The subject matter is always treated seriously and with respect, but this is a story that does not shy away from some of the very horrible things that exist in our world.
The Last Science deserves to stand at the peak of the best modern web fiction.
Stop reading these mundane words and go read some real magic!
The Last Science is a bit of a genre-mixer that defies ready classification. Despite the fantasy tag and the magical elements, the story immediately shrugs off the expectations of a stereotypical "teenager gains magical powers" story. Instead, The Last Science is a rich drama/mystery story which uses magic as the foundation for a compelling plot and characters and provides far more than simply a story "about" magic.
In fact, to some extent the magical elements of the story contrast starkly with the grittiness of the plot and the normalcy and relatability of the characters. The focus of the story is not on exploring the magic itself but rather the implications of such power when injected into a quiet college town and the lives of its inhabitants. In this sense the story reflects many of the themes typically found in technology-based or science fiction stories (justifying the sci-fi tag), which is reinforced by the way the story's magic is shown to have its own consistent mechanisms and limitations which the characters are continually attempting to explore and understand.
When I say the characters are "normal" I mean that they are not superheroes or stereotypes, but real people with their own hopes, concerns, and intermixing relationships and all of the complications that ensue. It is not to mean that they are mundane or boring. Quite the opposite, each character in The Last Science seems to carry their fair share of mystery and intrigue which leaves no doubt that each one has a story of their own to be revealed in time. The Last Science manages an excellent balance of weaving rich layers of mystery and intrigue through each character and location the reader encounters, while also revealing enough information as the story progresses to let you know that it isn't just a tease. The plot incorporates and expands on each mystery it establishes and makes clear that there's real substance to everything it hints at.
I hadn't originally meant for this review to be quite so glowing and I would include criticism if I had any at the moment, but the truth is that I'm hooked and frankly I have a hard time thinking of reasons why others wouldn't be as well. I strongly encourage anyone interested to give it a try.
First, I would like to appreciate that the author has constructed a narrative that is quite lovely and is strikingly original, in a time where many things seem to not be. I hope to eventually achieve such originality in my own work, but that is probably not to be discussed in a review.
Magic is a topic of literature that I've nearly always had a passion for. I've seen its origins and use through numerous types of fiction, and have been quick to learn what I can about it through that fiction. I find it to be a good sign when a fiction begins discussing it quickly within the pages, so that more can be learned and built upon as soon as possible. The Last Science does this very well, and I was enveloped almost immediately. I'd never seen magic done with such physical based power! It was refreshing to see, to say the least. I look forward to seeing where it's origins come, beyond being located within Rallsburg. It's already developed quite a ways.
The narrative itself has been quite fast paced, perhaps a little more than I was ready for. I quite enjoy the character switching aspect, as it allows the author to tell the story from more than one perspective, thus giving a more universal view of situations. Perhaps two or three chapters from Alden's view before jumping into another person's perspective would have been better for me, but I can understand where the author would jump quickly to another person to set, well, the setting.
I'm not much of a person to look into Grammar. Everything I've read has been spelled correctly, and written correctly as far as I can tell.
The characters are, as should be, the star of the story. The beginning narrative, seeing our first experience with magic within this fiction through Alden's, and witnessing these small town perspectives as magic begins to exist within this universe have all been quite stunning. The amount of emotion and description the author has put into the characters has been wonderful to witness. The connections between all of the communities of Rallsburg has also been nice to see.
I am currently catching up, and will write another interview when everything is out (which I am definitely looking forward to!)
Thank you for your time, and I hope you appreciate this book as I have.
The Last Science focuses on its wide cast, their interactions, and their relationship with the fairly hard-magic system that has been slowly but progressively explored throughout the series. It shows planning and direction, and subverts expectations to explore hard-hitting topics at every turn. Every character is defined by their fears and their motivations, and no actions are without consequences. The Last Science does the best job of any webnovel I've seen in balancing its broad scope with clear and thoughtful writing.
The Last Science is largely character-driven, with an ensemble cast of very diverse characters, in terms of identity and thought. Even the most reprehensible characters are sympathetic, and not even the most beloved protagonists are beyond reproach. This presentation of characters and their complex motivations never ceases to impress, and the cast manages to be both wide and deep, which stands testament to the focus that the series places on its characters.
Characters run the gamut in terms of age, gender, race, social status, and sexual identity, these traits ranging from important to their character to purely incidental, which is neat. The Last Science offers some exploration of mental health, particularly trauma.
The narrative structure of the series make it clear that The Last Science is a collection of books published in a serial format, not a serial webnovel segmented into books. Developments are foreshadowed, suspense builds up and is paid off, and the series constantly progresses towards some more complete image of the world. This in itself sets the series apart from most of its peers on the website--reading The Last Science feels like watching events unfold towards some ultimate destination. This style of writing is a signature of Etzoli, and her other novel Epilogue is worth a read for much the same reason.
The series is well written, and I've seen no more than a couple of typos over the series' roughly 3,000 pages. Pacing is done well in general: it is thoughtful during periods where the writing focuses on situations and characters, and it becomes faster during moments of action or suspense. Etzoli juggles the many perspectives in a way that continuously progresses the story. Likewise, The Last Science is littered with occasional intermissions that give meaningful information and narrative depth to the story, contextualizing side characters that have no other PoV chapters.
The Last Science focuses on its characters, and a big aspect of that is juggling moral dilemmas. Moral ambiguity, freedom versus safety, trust and distrust, coming of age, etc.: the writing presents ideas in a way that sets it apart from many other web novels, and the clear planning speaks to the fact that it's worth more than an idle read.
The Last Science ranges from neutral to dark in tone and explores panic, trauma, death, loss, and identity. They are presented in a way that offers some real nuance, but they can hit uncomfortably close to home for some readers. Know what you're getting yourself into, and don't feel bad about taking breaks. Etzoli put a content warning in the description, which I appreciate!
Well, this is the end for me. I read up to the end of book one and really enjoyed it. All of the characters were well thought out and apart from one or two out-of-character decisions, I really can't complain about how things went down.
The grammar is top notch and the world and characters are all well-written and thought out. The sentence structures are all solid and events transpired in a very convincing and realistic manner.
The magic system (since magic is a large part of the story) is quite interesting and well thought-out. It was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant magical-system-imagination that authors on this site seem to enjoy for some reason.
There were no heroes in the story and even the best decisions had terrible consequences. Really top tier writing and after a bit tweeks here and there, I wouldn't be surprised to see this novel for sale.
Unfortunately, I'm not really a fan of multiple lead characters and two was about all I could handle. Book 2 has three lead characters, none of them being someone I could relate to or empathize with, and that's just not my cup of tea.
I'm sure it's written really well, since the author can only get better, but i'm just not really into that writing style, so the end of book 1 is where I'm calling quits.
Thanks for an awesome adventure Etzoli and all the best for future stories.
What a debut. I came here from the author's site because I need everyone to be reading this. And this is only book 1? More, right now! The writing is pitch-perfect and the plot is only getting more ambitious. I haven't ever seen this idea tackled like this. I need more. Keep going, Etzoli, and we will follow!
I've been reading this story during my breaks at work. The chapters are nearly perfect length for me to get through while eating my lunch.
I can't say much about the story without risking spoilers, but its quite interesting.
I can't wait to read what happens next!
This story has taken magic and put it in a new context. It is hard to do this and do it well. On that note the magic in this story seems like it has a more personal touch that doesn't happen to often in fantasy. The author does a great job of using the small college town environment to their advantage, making it so everyone knows mostly what's going around. I look forward to new chapters and see wherever this story goes.
So I came straight from the author’s other work, epilogue, and all I can say is wow are they consistent.
The characters all have their own motives and flaws, making for interesting interactions. Each seems to be well thought out, making them believable and real.
The story itself is awesome. With the novel being based on magic, it is executed with an originality that seems to be the authors expertise. The idea of how humanity would react to the appearance of magic is perfectly executed with different factions working with their own ideals and motives.
I don’t really know what to say but read this serial, it’s fantastic!! Then only flaw that I can point at is that I have to wait for the first chapter of book 2 at the moment!
I am mostly on RR for the LitRPG and isekai stories, but this one grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in. I love it. A lot of the background of the characters is told in flashbacks, or historical sequences, I guess, and it works so smoothly and naturally, it just adds wonderful layers of depth to the entire setting.
This one is really worth your while. I hope the author enjoys writing this, because I'm hoping to keep reading it for years to come.