on 9 March 2013
Hmmm...tricky one, this. I tried to like it, honest, but the alleged intricate plot, compelling characters and superbly imagined alien civilisation were nowhere to be seen. What I saw was a plot predicated on a very esoteric bit of physics (time travel via FTL wormholes), sloppy grammar, an over abundance of shallow, disposable characters and a disappointing linear and unfulfilling plot. Think Tom Clancy does the script for a Stargate game and you won't be too far from the truth. I had hoped, all the way through, that there would be some overarching conspiracy to add some meat to the paltry plot but it never happened. You are left with loose ends flapping about all over the place and an overall impression of `why?'; what was the point of the story but mostly why have I just spent several weeks of bed-time reads struggling to enjoy this?
on 21 September 2012
This book seems throughout to be written more as a screen play for a Hollywood disaster movie rather than a key work of science fiction. The writing is designed for a quick page turner and the "science" bits are quickly skimmed over. When a key character gets into a difficult spot he always "somehow" gets out of it. The regular use of "somehow" to skip to the next point in the plot I found particularly irritating. However, if you want an action page turner and you are not too bothered with the science fiction part it is fine. However, Peter F Hamilton, Neil Asher, Hannu Rajaniemi among others are all putting out new novels and I would recommend these ahead of Final Days.
on 10 August 2011
Gary's latest, his fifth novel, is a novel of future apocalypse and wormholes. Written in a fast paced style from a number of different people's viewpoints, it is a cracking holiday read.
The story is set in 2235. The key premise of the tale is that wormholes, if one end is accelerated to relativistic speeds, can allow people to travel hundreds of light years quickly. People who travel outside the gate can eventually catch up with the people who have travelled through the gate but only by travelling at standard speeds. Thus we appear to travel in time, with those going through the wormholes able to travel into the future, so to speak.
We start the novel with an expedition. One of the things that wormhole travel has allowed humans to do is explore places far from Earth. There are relics out in the universe of other races, though seemingly long gone, which are being carefully explored. When an expedition is sent to Vault 17 in Gate Delta, a now-deserted Gateway of wormholes, Jeff Cairns sees two of their members seemingly killed, but then, moments later, one of them, Mitchell Stone, re-appears.
This is one of many mysteries the wormholes seem to have. On Earth, the loss of a wormhole connection to the Galileo colony a few years back, for reasons unknown, is another that has become a concern. The two places have yet to be re-connected (and as time goes on may or may not be due to what is happening on Earth.) Saul Dumont knows this better than anyone. He's still trying to cope with the loss of the wormhole link to the Galileo system, which has stranded him on Earth far from his wife and child for the past several years.
Only weeks away from the link with Galileo finally being re-established, he stumbles across a conspiracy to suppress the discovery of a second, alien network of wormholes.
Things are complicated further when we discover the reason for the second expedition's secrecy. They have travelled to the near future of 2245 and discovered a devastated, lifeless solar system - all except for the original Mitchell Stone, found preserved in a cryogenics chamber on Luna. Not only that but it seems that Earth has little time left. From video footage taken in the future, Copernicus City on the Moon is seen in ruins. Strange plant-like growths are seen mushrooming out of the Earth's oceans, causing the Earth to be swathed in cloud and apparently killing all life beneath them. The Earth seems doomed, with most of its population unlikely to survive.
Saul realises that to stop further destruction, he has to shut down all the gateways, before the damage reaches the colonies. Fighting to get to the Moon to do this, he finds himself in a battle against one of the Mitchell Stones who seems equally keen to stop him.
This is a big Niven-esque type disaster novel, or perhaps a Greg Bear (Forge of God springs to mind), so much so that it really needs one of those dramatis personae lists at the front. Though there are the main characters, a number of others are there to help develop the plot, which are a little more less developed and can take careful following.
It's also a book that you have to just accept at the beginning, even when things don't always make immediate sense travelling forward and backward in time. It's a tale that needs a while to set the scene and develop. Of course, as we have `seen' video from 2245, we know what is going to happen: if the title of the book doesn't give it away, it does seem that the future is set and unchangeable, though this is never as clear-cut as it sounds.
However by the mid-point of the book, this tale's up and running and it's a fast, exciting read with a dramatic twist towards the end and some very interesting developments which will no doubt be explored further in the next book.
I liked this a lot, in that it's a plot-driven old-school type of tale with some great new ideas to make it work. I think this is Gary's best to date, and look forward to the next in the series.
Final Days is one of those novels that has a hook in its opening pages that you will seize on to. Far in the distant future, during a time of few stars, when most galaxies have died, a team of scientists are exploring Site 17, the enigmatic remains of an alien civilisation. These enormous and dangerous ruins form the final destination of a network of wormholes through which mankind has begun to populate the universe. Two members of this secret expedition are consumed by a liquid in a pit that is so destructive a sample cannot be collected. Nevertheless, one of the men - Mitchell Stone - emerges, naked and unharmed but in shock. They return through the wormholes to 2235, the present day of the novel.
The wormholes, then, cross great swathes of space but they can also travel through time. Much of mankind, though, is being kept from the full knowledge of the networks and the alien Founders. Another secret expedition into the near future of Luna (the moon) reveals a devastated solar system, with only one human being surviving - Mitchell Stone preserved in a cryogenics lab. He is returned to earth, as is video revealing the final days of Earth, in the process of destruction by enormous growths towering from the oceans.
Saul Dumont knows all too well the power of the wormholes. His wife and daughter are stranded on the distant planet of Galileo, the wormhole having malfunctioned. While he waits for another wormhole to be connected, ten years on and in just a matter of weeks, he uncovers the truth that the government does not want him or anyone else to know - the truth of the imminent final days of Earth.
Through the novel we follow Saul and a number of other individuals who all know more than they should. Jeff Cairns, a colleague of Mitchell Stone from that calamitous trip to Site 17, has uncovered a conspiracy of his own, realising that he and Mitchell may well be the only survivors of that expedition. Others in power who know exactly what is in store have to deal with it in their own way. And then there are the two Mitchells, both of whom have undergone something incomprehensible at Site 17 - something that has made them different. Saul's mission is to prevent the forces destroying Earth and Luna from reaching the distant colonies. This will take drastic measures and great courage.
Final Days is my first experience of Gary Gibson's novels but it most certainly won't be the last. The story is utterly gripping. There are multiple characters, a few red herrings, and elements that only make sense as the novel continues, and these knot together to create a fascinating, exciting and poignant depiction of Earth's final days.
As well as seeing Earth during these weeks, we also travel offworld into the colonies with Saul - all are vividly portrayed and different from Earth. This is a universe ruled by personal enterprise and the control of government seems tenuous at best. In fact, one feels that rebellion may not be far off.
There may be lots of characters in Final Days but many of them are memorable and not only those who feature throughout the novel. Some are only in the novel for a few pages but their stories matter. While the individual stories cross at various stages of the novel, in the end they are all on their own.
Final Days contains some scenes that completely twisted my mind - most especially in Site 17. There is one idea in particular that I still can't get out of my brain and you need to read the book to discover it!
Final Days combines science fiction, thriller and apocalyptic vision with an accessible mix of lightness and depth that made my jaw drop while bending my mind into all sorts of shapes at the idea of time travel, alien wormholes, stranded colonies, and humanity and free will on the brink of extinction. Quite apart from the mindblowing ideas and the thrilling pace but utter poignancy of the excellent plot, the characters are compelling. And there are so many of them! Final Days may have challenged my memory skills but I thoroughly enjoyed every page.
I suspect that if you know little about science fiction but want to find a way in, Final Days is just the book.
on 22 August 2011
After I read Angel Stations way back in 2008 I knew Gary Gibson was an author I would be reading more of. I followed that up by reading Stealing Light and that didn't change my opinion at all, rather it reinforced it. Nova War, the sequel to Stealing Light, was also a great read, but for reasons that still escape me I never got around to the final book in that series, Empire of Light. Final Days is his new book in a brand new setting and, as expected, reaffirms Gary's position as one of the top SF writers active today.
In the distant future a team from Earth has, through a network of alien wormholes, discovered the ruins left behind by another civilisation, codenamed Site 17. This is a future where the stars have died and the galaxies spread out so far that nothing is visible in the night sky. But there is much here that is of interest to those in power, and they want to find out the secrets of this place. During one of the excursions Mitchell Stone is trapped in a pit and swallowed by liquid that fills it from nowhere with great speed. But when the rest of the team find him minutes later out of his suit and in apparent disorientation the question is raised: what has happened to him? This is not the end of Mitchell Stone, for a human made wormhole has been into Earth's future and found a devastated and lifeless planet, all except for Mitchell Stone who is found in stasis on the lunar facilities that hold all wormholes to humanity's interstellar colonies.
Saul Dumont is a government operative, working in the upper echelons on undercover and secretive missions, his one goal to find out who was responsible for the termination of the Galileo wormhole that left him stranded light years from his family. But his investigations lead him to some interesting facts, facts that those in power would rather he not know. And then the alien growths start across the planet, growths that will signal the end of the Earth and all who live there...
Final Days is one of those novels that has a major hook in the first chapter, raising all sorts of questions and possibilities, but then seemingly goes off on a tangent. I must admit that this pulled me up a little to start with, but as the book progressed the pieces started falling into place. The puzzle that is thrown up at the start involves Mitchell Stone and the incident at Site 17, and then the discovery of a dead Earth mere years into the future - but with Mitchell Stone found in stasis in the lunar city. As the only person that knows what happened he's a tool the government use to glean these details. His colleague from Site 17, Jeff Cairns, has his suspicions too and he starts to make his own enquiries into the situation. Saul Dumont is the other part of the puzzle, seemingly unrelated at the start but becoming an increasingly bigger factor in the story as more and more information comes to light.
Admittedly, it took me a while to get my head around the time-travel aspect of Final Days, but to be honest I simply took what I was being told as fact and let the story carry me along. And that it did! Final Days is a little hard to pigeonhole - it's part time travel, part apocalyptic, part mystery, part action - but one thing that I found was how easy it was to get into and read. Gibson has managed to mix all of these aspects without relying too heavily on any one of them, but equally bringing them all into play to great effect.
One of the big things when writing a novel that involves time travel into the future is the fact that the ending is revealed pretty much straight away. What made Final Days stand out from the crowd was the way in which Gibson was able to give this information freely, but then keep the details hidden, dropping them here and there throughout the novel to allow the bigger picture time to fully reveal itself. It's quite an achievement and, by the end, very successful.
Final Days is a great novel, full of ideas and events that shows once again why science fiction is such a great genre. In the right hands SF can be wonderful, inventive, and hugely enjoyable - and Gary Gibson is just that sort of author. Highly recommended.
on 29 January 2013
Gary Gibson is starting to get into the habit of creating awe inspiring futuristic settings and vast star-spanning societies... Only to restrict you to the least interesting corner of them!
In Final Days earth is at the centre of a vast wormhole network that stretches across time and space.... And where is a good chunk of the book set? The rural, semi-deserted mid-west of the USA. Like in Empire of Light, the backdrop is so tantalising... But Gary Gibson seems unsure of how to integrate this amazing future vista into his actual story - which has been mundane and border-line boring on both recent novels.
Early novels were very good - and Mr Gibson can certainly write. But please, drop the stodge and let us out into these worlds you've created!
on 1 March 2013
This novel has a straightforward style and the story moves along quite briskly. There's a lot of action, and although not brilliantly described, this novel was better than many I've read lately. Also, the big mystery had me interested, wanting to see what would happen.
However there is very little insight given into the characters and it took me quite a while to be able to distinguish one from another. They all have the same basic template: mostly divorced, had an affair, nothing inspiring or particularly likeable about them - and that was about it. The result was that as the story moved along from one person to the next, I really didn't care much what any of them were doing or what happened to them.
(SPOILERS AHEAD!) The wormhole idea as a form of time travel was an interesting one, although I'm a bit dubious about the physics of it all. The paradoxical loop involving Mitchell was just a bit stupid. I know these often feature in Sci-fi, but Gibson didn't need to include it here.
The plot wasn't very original: alien civilisation left wormholes behind; people see a future catastrophe and try to stop it. It reminded me a lot of Flashforward: people see themselves at a point in the future, and either try to stop it from happening or accept their place in it; and their actions all lead unavoidably to that event happening. But it's a fascinating idea so I don't mind it getting reimagined.
However, there were many parts of the story that weren't very credible: Saul manages to escape from improbable situations too often - often depending on the bad guys' ineptitude. When they are transporting the alien artifacts, the most precious things humanity has ever discovered, there's basically a truck, a jeep and a couple of security personnel. Of course in reality there would be a small army and every kind of surveillance, especially since they know something will happen which will end the world. Likewise, when they break Mitchell from the lab it's ridiculously easy. He's an alien, and something alien is about to destroy the world, so there would be an army ensuring he didn't escape. And I also found it a bit unbelievable that Saul didn't ask more questions of Mitchell, but instead just sat in a rocket with him and flew to the moon - when he knew the guy was possibly alien. There were too many plot points that depended on stupidity in order to take place.
So, overall, I found this novel to lack originality, have problems with its story, and have poor characterisation. But, the mystery did keep me interested, and I read it to the end, which is more than I can say for many novels I've bought recently.
on 4 October 2012
I enjoyed the shoal series so eagerly looked forward to this new series. Unfortunately I was very disappointed, the books premise was a great idea, but the plot was extremely clumsy and poorly executed and the characters were stereotypical without any depth and the whole story just faded out at the end with no real conclusion.
on 13 December 2011
Having read some of the good reviews of this book, I decided that the cost of the hardcover would be justified. It wasn't. I am relatively new to the sci-fi genre, but have enjoyed authors like Dan Simmons, Alistair Reynolds, Frank Herbert and arthur C Clarke immensely in recent years. While it might have been too much to expect Gary Gibson to compete with these luminaries, unfortunately 'Final Days' does not even come close. The central themes of the book - wormholes and the end of the world - should comprise more than enough subject matter for a truly gripping read. Yet the 'sci fi' elements of the book are very limited in scope, are under-developed and lacking in prominence and almost seem tacked on to a story that seems far more concerned with governmental espionage. While the author attempts to provide some depth to his central characters, this seems somewhat contrived, and they end up rather lifeless and difficult to empathise with. This book is sufficient to pass the time with, but is essentially a little flat and dull. For a far more engaging 'near future' detective style sci-fi thriller, I would recomment 'Altered Carbon' by Richard Morgan.
on 12 September 2011
I'm not a massive fan of books or other media that involve time travel. As a science fiction concept, it has never particularly interested me. I am not, for example, that big a fan of Doctor Who - it's OK, but I can take it or leave it. A lot of the time, the various alternate realities and multiple time-line plots start to get on my nerves. So when I started reading Final Days, which revolves around an alien technology that allows humans to pass through wormholes to different points in time and space, I wasn't sure what I'd make of it. I needn't of worried, there is nothing so convoluted in this book, the first of a new series by Gary Gibson - and the first of his I've read. This tale of time travel is really very good indeed.
The first thing I noticed about this book is that Gibson has a very clear and uncluttered style of writing. I really appreciated this, especially as some of the physics concepts could otherwise easily become a little confusing. In the beginning this book also jumps around a bit, introducing a number of different characters and plot strands, something which, again, could easily lead to confusion in less skilled hands. Later, the book settles into a more steady and linear narrative for the most part. The various strands begin to coalesce and something of the bigger picture begins to reveal itself. I found myself becoming more and more drawn as the book progressed. Put simply, the more of it I read, the more I liked.
Final Days is a grim sci-fi novel. Its mix of politics, terrorism, organised crime and human apocalypse is captivating, but far from light. It's very clearly a graduate of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica school of science fiction. This is no bad thing - I loved that show. In Final Days, Gibson has taken another leaf out of that programme's proverbial book: character. One of the biggest flaws of so much science fiction for me - including many of the classics of the genre - is that concept often reigns supreme over character. Here, while being essentially a high concept novel, the characters are not forgotten. I was also very pleased to see an African-American chief protagonist. Saul Dumont, is fairly straight forward as a lead character, a mix of repressed anger, grief, loyalty and heroism. Not outstanding, but very human. This humanity adds to the impact of the larger events happening in the novel, and there are a few key moments were Saul needs to make some very tough decisions.
This book is the first of a series and many of the plot threads remain unresolved at the end. That's not to say there's no sense of completion, there is on a minor level for at least one character, but the larger picture is very far from concluded. What is revealed of that picture is deeply captivating, and I cannot wait for the sequel. As this novel progressed, it felt like all that I'd been set-up to expect was really very far from the truth of what was actually happening. I also really wanted to know more about the origins of the wormhole technology, and the alien Founder civilisation responsible for it. Incidentally, there is some very cool tech in this novel. I especially like the description of the integrated UP (Ubiquitous Profile) system. Basically, the internet and all your personal identity records in a pair of contact lenses.
Dark, epic and character driven, Final Days is confident science fiction. In-part it reads like a hybrid of Battlestar Galactica and the computer game Mass Effect, both of which represent in their respective media, a high point in recent science fiction. Likewise, Final Days shows Gary Gibson staking a claim to the throne of British Sci-Fi. I am certainly converted, and I keenly await the next novel in this very promising series.