Time travel, imminent disaster, action, mystery, love, and loss all percolate through Gary Gibson’s book Final Days. You might say to yourself, wow, that must make for one heck of a thrill ride, and in truth the book makes a valiant effort, but in the end it just barely falls short. Ambiguity, wooden characters, and a slightly unimpressive world hinder what could have been a really great foundation.
The book starts off at a mysterious archaeology dig, wherein an accident to one of the researchers, Mitchell Stone, blows wide open the mystery of the book. We are then introduced to a washed up agent named Saul Dumont, who is about to have one of his operations collapse in his face.
The crux of the story revolves around the fact that wormholes have opened up the wider galaxy, and one of the side effects is that opening a wormhole to a ship in transit to another world propels a person forward in subjective time (think relativity as you approach the speed of light, yeah it made my head hurt too). Because of this, people from these times in the near future are aware of Earth’s imminent demise.
A coming together of events bring Saul and Mitchell, once former colleagues, back together to help solve the mystery and save Humanity. With your standard twists and turns along the way.
Now, I must say that the premise drew me in and kept me going through this book. The way it opens and the way it ends were exciting, mysterious, and ultimately compelling. It’s too bad that middle section is so…blah.
Starting with the characters, Saul is a tortured drug addict who lost his family, Mitchell is aloof and disappears for most of the book, and the “love” interest is shoehorned in so forcibly and removed so quickly I can’t even recall her name.
It should make for compelling reading that Saul has to overcome his disadvantages to make things work, but really he becomes almost annoying. He complains in his inner voice about temptation and not wanting to give into demons, but then just dives right in. Defeating the purpose of the inner dialogue.
The introduction and removal of characters distracts from the fact that this story is about Saul, and it is easy to lose sight of the fact that he is the main character. The only time this is enjoyable is right at the end, when the best characters of the book enter for a brief, but important, part of the story.
These characters enter, move, and exit a narrative tapestry that is full of motion and at times tension, but without real purpose. I felt that Saul and Mitchell flail about for a couple hundred pages until the climax.
The setting has technology and gadgets that make navigating the world effortless and quick, so the reader is certainly transported all over the place. However, there really isn’t much to this travel, almost like Gibson just kind of chooses a place and shrugs, saying that’s as good as any place for these characters to go.
The story picks up and is very exciting right at the end, and redeems a lot of the pointless running around that happens in the middle portion of the book. There is a little bit of redemption in the end and a satisfying conclusion to some parts of the narrative. That being said, you get done and you are a little dissatisfied that there wasn’t even really a hint of what was going on in the larger picture.
This is supposed to be the first novel in a broader saga, but I’m still on the fence on whether I want to continue. In one sense I want to learn more about this world and the mystery contained in it. On the other hand, I wasn’t impressed enough to immediately crave the next book.
All in all, I give it fairly mediocre marks. I can see glimpses of something larger and cooler, but frankly I felt pretty meh about the whole thing.
Final Verdict: C-
Glimpses of something larger, but frankly pretty bland