Final Days by Gary Gibson

Mark: 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.

final-daysIn 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.

Steve: Final Days was the first novel I’ve read by Gary Gibson so I went in with no preconceived ideas or notions of his style or type of story. What I found was a novel that once again shows that the SF is merely a placeholder and that any number of other genres can exist and be used in an SF labelled book. Final Days is a combination of several genres; primarily it’s a crime thriller not too dissimilar to something like a Dean Koontz in terms of pace, or even a military thrillers with the invincible ex-SAS type hero. However, what differentiates Final Days from both of those types is the SF framework and the threat that gets the ball rolling is connected to space and time travel.

The danger is also one that cannot be ignored and must be tackled because everyone is at risk. It is also a sort of threat that if you posed the question to a total stranger in the street they would have an opinion and an answer of what they would do in their final days. This made characters reactions more understandable, relatable and at times I forgot I was reading and SF novel as it felt like a disaster story.
I was also very glad that even though there was a lot of invention in terms of technology, weapons, gadgets, etc all of it was relatively straightforward and there was no need to spend pages explaining when it was invented, what it was made from and how it worked. I could divine its purpose through the action and how the characters used it to help them or hinder others. The result was a very tight story that gave you more time devoted to the characters and the plot and less on stopping to describe the world. If that sounds like a criticism in any way it isn’t. Although I like some SF authors whose style is naturally longer, I also enjoy something that is a little quicker and streamlined like this.
With some novels you pretty much know where the story is going but that doesn’t stop your enjoyment of them. You like the characters, the world and you enjoy being in their company and it’s the experience and journey that counts. With Final Days I didn’t know how it was going to end, and even with scenes that would not be uncommon in a disaster movie, the plot twists kept me guessing.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel, it was inventive, clever, very entertaining and it kept me on my toes. The characters, good and bad, were realistically portrayed and as mentioned this was my first Gary Gibson novel and I’m positive it won’t be my last.

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