Final Days is one of those novels that has a hook in its opening pages that you will seize on to. Far in the distant future, during a time of few stars, when most galaxies have died, a team of scientists are exploring Site 17, the enigmatic remains of an alien civilisation. These enormous and dangerous ruins form the final destination of a network of wormholes through which mankind has begun to populate the universe. Two members of this secret expedition are consumed by a liquid in a pit that is so destructive a sample cannot be collected. Nevertheless, one of the men – Mitchell Stone – emerges, naked and unharmed but in shock. They return through the wormholes to 2235, the present day of the novel.
The wormholes, then, cross great swathes of space but they can also travel through time. Much of mankind, though, is being kept from the full knowledge of the networks and the alien Founders. Another secret expedition into the near future of Luna (the moon) reveals a devastated solar system, with only one human being surviving – Mitchell Stone preserved in a cryogenics lab. He is returned to earth, as is video revealing the final days of Earth, in the process of destruction by enormous growths towering from the oceans.
Saul Dumont knows all too well the power of the wormholes. His wife and daughter are stranded on the distant planet of Galileo, the wormhole having malfunctioned. While he waits for another wormhole to be connected, ten years on and in just a matter of weeks, he uncovers the truth that the government does not want him or anyone else to know – the truth of the imminent final days of Earth.
Through the novel we follow Saul and a number of other individuals who all know more than they should. Jeff Cairns, a colleague of Mitchell Stone from that calamitous trip to Site 17, has uncovered a conspiracy of his own, realising that he and Mitchell may well be the only survivors of that expedition. Others in power who know exactly what is in store have to deal with it in their own way. And then there are the two Mitchells, both of whom have undergone something incomprehensible at Site 17 – something that has made them different. Saul’s mission is to prevent the forces destroying Earth and Luna from reaching the distant colonies. This will take drastic measures and great courage.
Final Days is my first experience of Gary Gibson’s novels but it most certainly won’t be the last. The story is utterly gripping. There are multiple characters, a few red herrings, and elements that only make sense as the novel continues, and these knot together to create a fascinating, exciting and poignant depiction of Earth’s final days.
As well as seeing Earth during these weeks, we also travel offworld into the colonies with Saul – all are vividly portrayed and different from Earth. This is a universe ruled by personal enterprise and the control of government seems tenuous at best. In fact, one feels that rebellion may not be far off.
There may be lots of characters in Final Days but many of them are memorable and not only those who feature throughout the novel. Some are only in the novel for a few pages but their stories matter. While the individual stories cross at various stages of the novel, in the end they are all on their own.
Final Days contains some scenes that completely twisted my mind – most especially in Site 17. There is one idea in particular that I still can’t get out of my brain and you need to read the book to discover it!
Final Days combines science fiction, thriller and apocalyptic vision with an accessible mix of lightness and depth that made my jaw drop while bending my mind into all sorts of shapes at the idea of time travel, alien wormholes, stranded colonies, and humanity and free will on the brink of extinction. Quite apart from the mindblowing ideas and the thrilling pace but utter poignancy of the excellent plot, the characters are compelling. And there are so many of them! Final Days may have challenged my memory skills but I thoroughly enjoyed every page.
I suspect that if you know little about science fiction but want to find a way in, Final Days is just the book.