Final Days Review

Cover

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

Explore Destiny’s Solar System

Destiny is a brand new IP from Bungie, the software developers that created the iconic SciFi game series Halo. It follows a Guardian, a member of a warrior caste, protecting the last bastion of humanity far in the future. The game will take you through the ruins of Earth’s empire, from the home planet, to the Moon, out to Mars, and back to Venus. Destiny-Logo It’s a game I’m really hyped up about. The gameplay isn’t very innovative, it plays like many first person shooters out there, but the real selling point for me is the universe Bungie has built. It’s solid SciFi fare.

To help promote the upcoming release of Destiny, on September 9th, they have created a full featured planet view to explore a taste of some of the locales you will be visiting. Partnered with Google, this website works much like Google street view.

It’s gotten me all kinds of excited for the release!

A little background in case you are confused by the world you are looking at. In the near future humanity discovers and enigmatic entity they call “The Traveler” on Mars, and with its help humanity goes into a golden age. Humanity spreads to the worlds of the solar system, and looks beyond.

However, The Traveler had an ancient enemy that had been hounding it for millennia, which humanity calls “The Darkness,” who catches up to the Traveler and humanity’s golden age comes to an abrupt end.

In a last minute stand, The Traveler makes a stand, sacrificing itself to save the last city of humanity. It leaves behind little bits of technology to help the surviving humans, but it’s beneficence has come to an end. Humanity is on its own. The_traveller Your character is awakened by one of these pieces of technology, with the express task of helping humanity reclaim its lost golden age. Standing in your way, The Darkness is starting to return, and is bringing its allies with it.

I think it’s a cool backstory, and I really want to explore this world. I’ve spent a while looking through the planet view tool to get a sense of everything. There are videos, audio narration, and cool panoramic views to help give you a sense of everything you will be doing in Destiny.

Check it out now and see you out in the solar system! www.destinyplanetview.com

No Man’s Sky

I’ve slowly been falling out of love with video gaming. There hasn’t been much that has captured my imagination in a long time. As with most forms of entertainment, we have been stuck with endless sequels and a lack of imagination.

But every now and then a bolt of lightning strikes.

During a recent taping of our gaming chat show, Keep it Casual, one of our panelists brought up a new game called No Man’s Sky. It’s a procedurally generated Science Fiction exploration game. Check out the video here:

The really awesome thing about procedural generation, is that it creates an almost infinite world to explore, with infinite creatures and locales. Now, this game is a ways off, so the ambition may be higher than the actual execution, but the dream is fantastic.

As my colleague mentioned, growing up Star Trek fans has given us a real sense of exploring the unknown when it comes to SciFi. I can see myself getting completely consumed with this game.

I can’t wait to get in my ship and go. Find new places and things, be the restless galactic explorer I was always meant to be but never truly will be.

So excited for this game!!!

P.S. On a side note, purely a matter of taste, but I love the design choices and look of their website.

 

Vin Diesel Plants a Tree For Groot

Here’s a picture of the actor Vin Diesel planting a tree.

vin-diesel-plants-a-tree-for-groot

You may be asking yourself why I posted this, and that is a fair question.

During his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Vin Diesel also challenged people to go out and plant a tree for Groot, his character in the recent Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy. The ALS challenge has gone viral and provided immeasurable exposure to a challenging disease, in addition to the contributions.

It would be nice for environmental issues to gain such viral exposure, and the trees would really help. Imagine if “Plant a Tree for Groot” gained the same popularity?

I’ve read that there were 2.4 million youtube uploads for the ALS challenge. 2 million new trees in the world would not be a bad thing. Too bad it won’t ever happen.

The brilliance of the ALS challenge is its simplicity and the fun factor. No one really is interested in planting a tree, or watching someone plant a tree. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not rushing out to plant any trees, but I like the concept.

I’m all about awareness, and that’s what I love about the ALS challenge and the Plant a Tree for Groot idea. It spreads the conversation. There have been significantly more buckets of water dumped on people’s heads than actual donations, but it has left an indelible mark on fundraising and awareness for the disease.

So I applaud Vin Diesel for going out and using his SciFi character to bring awareness to something that affects us all as well.

Groot.

$26,000 Buys You SciFi History

I’ve never shied away from the promoting this blog as a platform to help legitimize Science Fiction as a form of art and literature. In my search I’ve come across an interesting story I wanted to share, wherein someone bought the original cover art to Frank Herbert’s Dune for $26,000.

I swear it’s pertinent.

Dune cover

Now, beyond being a part of SciFi history that I really enjoy (Dune being my all-time favorite book), I think it shows a level of commitment and passion from a fan to spend such a high sum on this piece of artwork. I respect that.

Does spending large amounts of money and being very passionate legitimize a genre? Does it make it literature? Certainly not.

That being said, it does give me some hope. There are people out there that recognize and want to preserve the things that make this genre special and unique. That is infinitely more important.

I want to point one other thing out. The cynics out there will say I’m wasting my time arguing for an established genre’s place in literature, when they would say it is already there. I say, go talk to English professors, those that decide what constitutes “literature,” and see what their views are. Not the guy who teaches the SciFi comparative literature course at your local college, because you’ll get the answer you want, but rather the dean of the comparative literature or english department of that school.  Continue reading

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