Promising start to a dark new sci-fi series.,
This review is from: Final Days (Hardcover)
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.