It took reading other people’s reviews to put my finger on just why Final Days didn’t quite ‘do it’ for me. After all it had all the elements that make a good science fiction novel such as a good concept, a future world, elements of dystopia and in the end an apocalypse for humanity on Earth, all thrown together with a bit of a mystery.
Having been strongly recommended Gary Gibson by Kate at For Winter Nights I was a bit underwhelmed without being able to know why, until I read what others thought and their views sparked resonance in my head. The plot is a little chaotic and a lot of the time doesn’t make sense, we don’t know why things are happening or what the motives of characters are, we know little to nothing about major organs of the Final Days ‘world’, the ASI , the Sphere worlds/countries, and such like.
The wormholes being used allow a form of time travel that isn’t in my mind well explained and this forms a major part of the plot. Due to this time travelling, from early on in the book and given that it is stated throughout that the future is set and unalterable, we kind of know what is going to happen and this diminishes significantly the urge to see what happens because for the most part we know, we just don’t know what will happen to the characters.
Do I care what happens to them though? The characters, with the exception of Saul Dumont, are barely developed with almost no discernible personality between them and with goals that aren’t really understandable. Characters are introduced merely as a name, take part in some sort of sub-plot or short arc and then disappear, the novel to me reads like something that needs expanding of the world-building, more plot development and explanation, and better fleshed out characters.
When it came to the end, many things were unresolved and I didn’t feel any attachment to the characters who seem merely there for the big set pieces. It reads like an attempt at Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga that failed to match it for breadth and depth.
One thing I noted from reading other people’s reviews was that one of the people who helped Gary write the book and are credited by him, Ian Sales, gave the book 3 stars in his review of the book on Goodreads, something I found amusing.
Title: The Cleansing
Author: Sam Kates
Buy: Book Depository
Source: First Reads
Rating: 4 Stars
*I received this book for free as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review*
I really liked The Cleansing by Sam Kates. I don’t read much post-apocalyptic fiction and entered the giveaway because this book sounded interesting. A warning though, reviewing this book without giving anything away is difficult, so be warned.
I don’t think I’m spoiling anything in a book called the Cleansing by revealing that humanity is (virtually) wiped out (it is in the blurb!). Although I’ve read little apocalyptic literature, the method of wiping out humanity is even something I’ve heard of before as a common method in this type of book. That being said, the way it is done, and why it is done is different and mysterious. You really want to know why this is happening and for what purpose.
This is a novel that is interesting, mysterious, and well written. There is a clear sense of the feelings of the survivors being brought to the fore, and the horror of the actual plague and the effects it has on society are explored well and in detail. During this phase of the book you are introduced to many families and individuals, including children albeit briefly.
The motivations, thoughts, and characters of the perpetrators are revealed slowly and the premise is something I found original. At times, despite the post apocalyptic setting, I felt I wasn’t reading a science fiction novel but a story about surviving in the face of adversity combined with a mystery.
I enjoyed it immensely, even if I do have to wonder about the empathy of an author who can write so easily about wiping out children. (The author explores that very thought and subject here.
In the book, not only is the horror that the survivors are living through skilfully and artfully explored and described but what happens to the world and society at large is littered throughout the story, cars everywhere, power failing, hospitals unable to cope without it being overbearing, it is just something that each character encounters on their arcs.
One of my favourite bits in the book (SPOILER AHEAD) is the President’s speech to the world.
The real shame for me was that the book was over so soon, at 300 pages I easily could have read more, two or three times the length which may have turned it into a brick book, but I like brick books (a la Peter F. Hamilton.)
So, Mr Kates, please write number two and I’d be happy to read it and find out what happens.
Some questions I’d like answers to in the next book(s):
– How would the ‘People’ have wiped out humanity pre-20th century?
– Did they have any involvement in the Black Death or Spanish Flu?
– How did they hide their advanced technology for thousands of years?
– If they live underground on their home planet but rejuvenate through the Sun, how does that work?
– I recall Peter stating humanity was more intelligent, yet the ‘People’ could cure cancer and develop the Millennium Bug…
Also, if like me the first page didn’t make sense when you first read it, read it again once you’ve finished this book and it is actually a great big clue slammed in your face that you just missed first time around!
Overall a great book, looking forward to the second in the series.