Final Days by Gary Gibson
Published by Tor UK, August 2011
ISBN: 978 0 230 74877 4
Review by Mark Yon
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.
Mark Yon, August 2011