A future in which cats will need all their nine lives

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 February, 2010, 12:00am

The Last Free Cat
Jon Blake
Published by Hodder
ISBN 978 0 340 94474 5

Authors of youth fiction often like to set their novels in the future because it gives them the freedom to create a world exactly as they want it.

In The Last Free Cat, Jon Blake's vision of what's to come may be frightening, but it's not so bizarre readers will dismiss it as impossible.

The novel is set in a near future where gigantic profit-making companies run countries, and ordinary citizens live in fear.

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 surviving cats 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, not household pets.

Teenager Jade lives with her sick mother in an unpleasant 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, and is clearly 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. But, despite being very careful not to let on about the feline addition to the family, a rumour leaks out.

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.

Blake's writing really comes into its own during the exciting chase, as Jade and Kris flee with the authorities snapping at their heels. This part of the story provides edge-of-the-seat suspense that grips the reader until the very end.

Jade has to face seemingly impossible odds as she tries to save her cat. Along the way, she learns about herself, the meaning of friendship and the lengths to which people have to go to survive.