Set during the twin catastrophes of WWI and the 1918 flu epidemic, Thomas Mullen's Last Town on Earth explores the risks of trading freedom for safety. The utopian mill town of Commonwealth, Wash., votes to quarantine itself to prevent infection. When sensitive Philip Worthy is on guard duty, an exhausted soldier who may or may not be sick emerges from the nearby forest and begs for shelter. Graham Stone, Philip's fellow guard, shoots the soldier, sending the town into a tailspin. While the characters never really breathe on the page, the grim specter of their possible demise makes this ambitious debut tough to put down.