Aug 182011

Apocalyptic Action

Time travel and time paradoxes are not among my favorite science fiction subjects but I am very fond of Gary Gibson’s Shoal Sequence (You can read my reviews of Stealing Light, Nova War, and Empire of Light) so it was after some contemplation I decided to give this new series a chance.

The ominous title Final Days is fairly descriptive. Earth is going under. This is known since humanity has learned how to create wormholes that allows travel through space and time. When scouts visit Earth 10 years in the future they found it empty of life except one man left in stasis on the moon, Mitchell Stone. They bring him back.

The question whether or not it is possible to change history once it has been observed is central to the story but so is the mystery of what really happened.

There are a few point of view characters and in the beginning it threatened to overload me a bit, I had to go back and check who was who because of the constant switching but once I got that down I started to enjoy the story more and more. The buildup is about a third of the book before the action takes over. The reader is kept in the dark almost as much as the characters.

The world-building provides a nice support to the storyline. Earth has established a few colonies. All worm hole contact with the Galileo colony was lost ten years ago and now the new gate ship is only weeks out from re-establishing the connection. There is a secret government organization that somewhat covertly explores an alien network of worm holes discovered at Tau Ceti. The other nations dislike being kept out especially China. There is a lesson or two to learn from that.

The characters struggle with themselves and each other. People face doom in different ways and that comes across. I enjoyed learning to know the characters but I am hungry for more. Luckily there will be sequels. The next one Thousand Emperors will be out next year probably around the same time this one came out.

I enjoyed Final Days quite a lot, it is a well written apocalyptic story that really engage once you get past the buildup.

Book Information

Final Days (Final Days 1) by Gary Gibson (Tor 2011) – Amazon US | UK

It’s 2235 and through the advent of wormhole technology more than a dozen interstellar colonies have been linked to Earth.

But this new mode of transportation comes at a price and there are risks. 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 which lead billions of years in the future. A covert expedition is sent to what is named Site 17 to investigate, but when an accident occurs and one of the expedition, Mitchell Stone, disappears – they realise that they are dealing with something far beyond their understanding.

When a second expedition travels via the wormholes to Earth in the near future of 2245 they discover a devastated, lifeless solar system – all except for one man, Mitchell Stone, recovered from an experimental cryogenics facility in the ruins of a lunar city.

Stone may be the only surviving witness to the coming destruction of the Earth. But why is he the only survivor — and once he’s brought back to the present, is there any way he and Saul can prevent the destruction that’s coming?

Aug 262010

Here are four books I think will be great for 2011.

You can read my teaser for next year on Almanac of forthcoming SF Books

War in Heaven (Veteran book 2) by Gavin G. Smith (Gollancz) July 2011

My review of Veteran.

The high-powered sequel to VETERAN sees an unlikely hero make an even more unlikely return to take the reader back into a vividly rendered bleak future. But a bleak future where there are still wonders: man travelling out into the universe, Bladerunneresque cities hanging from the ceilings of vast caverns, aliens that we can barely comprehend. Gavin Smith writes fast-moving, incredibly violent SF thrillers but behind the violence and the thrills lies a carefully thought out story and characters who have far more to them than first meets the eye. Never one to avoid controversy Gavin Smith nevertheless invites you to think beyond the initial shock of what you have just read. But in the meantime? Another fire-fight, another chase another flight of imagination.

Final Days (Final Days book 1) by Gary Gibson (Tor UK) April 2011

My reviews of the Shaol Sequence: Stealing Light,  Nova WarEmpire of Light

From Tor UK: Final Days by Gary Gibson follows the lives of a few key characters as a cataclysmic event is unleashed in Earth’s near future. This is a twenty-third-century thriller revolving around the slow uncovering of a conspiracy that irrevocably dooms the Earth, set against a backdrop of interstellar colonies. The story takes advantage of current cutting-edge ideas about the creation of artificial wormholes for interstellar travel, and their implications for practicable time travel. Action-packed and fast-paced, this is a thrilling SF adventure and a wonderful start to Gary’s new series.

Bringer of Light (The Hidden Empire book 4) by Jaine Fenn (Gollancz) July 2011

My Review of Consorts of Heaven, Principles of Angels

Book three Guardians of Paradise will be out in September

Jarek Reen is trying to save a lost world. He discovered the primitive theocracy of Serenein by accident, and now he wants it to take its place in human-space. To do this he needs a shiftspace beacon – without it, there is no way to find the planet again. The beacons were made by the Sidhe, the race that originally gave humanity access to the stars – and dominated human-space for millennia, before a coalition of human rebels and Sidhe males brought the evil Sidhe females down. Most people think the Sidhe are long dead, but Jarek knows better: a renegade female Sidhe is one of his companions, and a male Sidhe gave her and her lover the special powers that made them Angels, very unusual trained assassins. Jarek’s only hope is to find Aleph, the hidden system where the last Sidhe males are rumoured to live. But even if he can persuade these eccentric, introspective beings to put aside their interminable internal squabbles, he still has to persuade Serenein that joining the rest of humankind.

Sea of Ghosts (Sea of Ghosts book 1) by Alan Campbell (Tor UK) April 2011

I also found a very rough cover on Speculative Horizonts.

Sea of Ghosts is the terrific new novel from Deepgate Codex author Alan Campbell. Set in a world of entropic sorcerers, poisoned seas, the Drowned, drug-addicted dragons, Deadships and a powerful sisterhood of telepaths, and featuring ex-soldier Colonel Thomas Granger, this is an incredible novel of imaginative fantasy with strong characters, non-stop action and tremendous descriptive world-building. I’ve just finished editing it and have had to go back and read it again just for the sheer pleasure of it! We’ve got a terrific jacket design from artist Larry Rostant and this will be a lead fantasy hardback for Tor in 2011.

Product description

When the last of the Gravediggers, an elite imperial infiltration unit, are disbanded and hunted down by the emperor they once served, munitions expert Colonel Thomas Granger takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places. He becomes a jailer in Ethugra – a prison city of poison-flooded streets and gaols in which a million enemies of the empire are held captive. But when Granger takes possession of two new prisoners, he realises that he can’t escape his past so readily.

Ianthe is a young girl with an extraordinary psychic talent. A gift that makes her unique in a world held to ransom by the powerful Haurstaf – the sisterhood of telepaths who are all that stand between the Empire and the threat of the Unmer, the powerful civilization of entropic sorcerers and dragon-mounted warriors. In this war-torn land, she promises to make Granger an extremely wealthy man, if he can only keep her safe from harm.

This is what Granger is best at. But when other factions learn about Ianthe’s unique ability, even Granger’s skills of warfare are tested to their limits. While, Ianthe struggles to control the powers that are growing in ways no-one thought were possible. Another threat is surfacing: out there, beyond the bitter seas, an old and familiar enemy is rising – one who, if not stopped, will drown the world and all of humanity with it . .

Jul 262010

Title: Empire of Light
Series: Shoal Sequence book 3
Author: Gary Gibson
Genre: Space Opera
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Tor UK July 2010

Order from: Tor UK | Amazon US | UK | sfbok

The nova war has begun to spread as the Emissaries wage a fierce and reckless campaign, encroaching on the area of space occupied by humanity and forcing the Shoal into a desperate retreat. While Dakota goes in search of the entity responsible for creating the Maker caches, Corso, left in charge of a fleet of human-piloted Magi ships, finds his authority crumbling in the face of assassination attempts and politically-motivated sabotage.

If any hope exists at all, it lies in an abandoned asteroid a thousand light-years beyond the Consortium’s borders, and with Ty Whitecloud, the only man alive with the skill to decipher the messages left behind by an ancient race of star travellers. Unfortunately Whitecloud is locked in a prison cell aboard a dying coreship adrift in space, awaiting execution for war crimes against Corso’s own people. But if humanity has any hope of survival, Corso is going to have to find some way to keep him alive – and that’s only if Dakota doesn’t kill him first …


This book is dedicated to Emma and continues the story from Nova War.

World building

This is where we learn about the entity behind the Maker caches spread through the galaxy and maybe the known universe as traps for emerging interstellar civilizations. It reminds me a bit of Neal Asher’s Jain technology but different. We also learn about their counterpart the slower than light traveling race the Atn. But much remind hidden in mystery.

On the other hand human politics continue to disgust as the Peacekeeper fleet becomes more powerful.

The Author

Gary Gibson is a new acquaintance I have only read Stealing Light and Nova War before. According to Tor UK he is a graphic designer, previously magazine editor, in his home city of Glasgow. He has been writing since the age of fourteen. Gary has become one of my favorite authors with this series.


With both sides in the war having access to the Nova weapon it threatens life in the galaxy. Something has to be done and Dakota tracks down one of the entities behind the Maker caches and discovers a lead to a possible solution.

The quest bring former enemies together but the mistrust is strong as they put the pieces together for a reckless rush into enemy territory worthy of Star Wars to deal a decisive blow before it is too late.


I like the way Gary explores the feelings after a war crime like the massacre the main characters where involved in here. Dakota seems a bit less accessible in this book and I find myself rooting more for Corso.

I also enjoyed reading about Ty Whitecloud’s struggles aboard that dying coreship.

My View

Empire of Light would be a good concluding book minus the epilogue that opens up for a sequel. I like the whole series, it feels fresh and original; it reads easy, I finished all three books in just a few days; it has a good escalation of the scope with each novel and the characters are accessible even if the human interest factor becomes less and less as the characters evolve. It should not be the last book in the Sheol Sequence according to the ‘cliffhanger’ epilogue. It is wide open for sequels.

Related Posts

Other reviews

Jul 242010

Title: Nova War
Series: Shoal Sequence book 2
Author: Gary Gibson
Genre: Space Opera
Paperback: 568 pages
Publisher: Tor UK

Order from: Amazon Tor UKUS | UK | B&N | sfbok

In Stealing Light, Dakota discovered the Shoal’s dark and dangerous secret, now she works towards stopping not only the spread of this knowledge, but also the onset of the Nova war. Found adrift near a Bandati colony world far away from Consortium space, Dakota and Corso find themselves prisoners of the Bandati. It becomes rapidly clear to them, that the humanity’s limited knowledge of the rest of the galaxy – filtered through the Shoal – is direly inaccurate. The Shoal have been fighting a frontier war with a rival species, the Emissaries, with their own FTL technology for over fifteen thousand years. Realising that the Shoal may be the Galaxy’s one chance at sustained peace, Dakota is forced to work with Trader to prevent the spread of deadly knowledge carried on board the Magi ships. But it seems that the Nova War is inevitable.


This is a story about a war that seems inevitable and the bigger picture that starts to become visible.

The Author

Gary Gibson is a new acquaintance I have only read Stealing Light before. According to Tor UK he is a graphic designer, previously magazine editor, in his home city of Glasgow. He has been writing since the age of fourteen.

World building

I love getting to know new alien races like the Bandati that keeps them prisoner, the Magi we get to know through their ships but they are still mighty mysterious and then we have the Emissaries we mostly learn about through their actions.

We also learn more about the Shoal and the Long War they have with the Emissaries. They have really twisted punishments.


Dakota and Corso have to escape their prison and help the human worlds that are cut off from FTL now. While Trader schemes for a final solution of the Long War.

The plot is much more complex in the details but it holds together well with just a few implausible twists as is common in space opera.

I like the flashbacks to keep us in suspense and portion out the background when we need it.


The more I learn of Dakota the better I like her. Reading about her being tortured and imprisoned felt very realistic. Both Corso and Dakota show weaknesses and behave like real humans.

My View

This is the middle book of a trilogy but it doesn’t suffer from that. It is really suspenseful and I read it in one go. I still miss a good love story but otherwise it is great. I continue to recommend the whole series it is one of the most enjoyable I read so far this year.

Related Post

Jul 232010

I prefer female protagonists and this series of posts is homage to some of the most formidable female main characters in science fiction novels or series.

This week’s FFPinSF:

  1. Dakota Merrick – Machine Head (Gary Gibson)
  2. Kivrin Engle – Temporal Historian (Connie Willis)
  3. Rydra Wong – Poet Captain (Samuel R. Delany)
  4. Miriam/Helge – Queen World Walker (Charles Stross)
  5. Ruby Kubick – Agoraphobic Salvage Artist (Laura J. Mixon)

Dakota Merrick – Machine Head

Books: Stealing Light (2007), Nova War (2009), Empire of Light (2010)
Series: Shaol sequence
Author: Gary Gibson
Genre: Space Opera
Publisher: Tor

Dakota Merrick is a machine head, a human with implants that were made illegal after a terrible attack that killed many innocent humans. Humans have achieved a limited interstellar civilization but FTL travel is controlled by the Shaol. Dakota becomes involved in an attempt to circumvent the Shaol monopoly. An alien non Shaol derelict is discovered with a working FTL engine and Dakota is hired to fly it. But they discover much more than they bargained for.


Kivrin Engle – Temporal Historian

Book: Doomsday Book (1992)
Author: Connie Willis
Genre: Time travel
Publisher: Bantam | NEL | New English Library

Kivrin is a young historian that travels to early 14 century England and by mistake land in 1348 in the middle of the Black Death epidemic.


Rydra Wong – Poet Captain

Book: Babel-17 (1966)
Author: Samuel R. Delany
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Ace | Gollancz (SF Masterworks)| Sphere | Gregg Press | Orion

Babel-17 is one of that books that makes you think afterwards.

In the far future, after human civilization has spread through the galaxy, communications begin to arrive in an apparently alien language. They appear to threaten invasion, but in order to counter the threat, the messages must first be understood. Rydra Wong is a beautiful starship captain, linguist, poet, and telepath. She is recruited by her government to discover how the enemy are infiltrating and sabotaging strategic sites. The novel has a Whorfian view of language


Miriam/Helge – Queen World Walker

Books: The Family Business (2004), The Hidden Family (2005), The Clan Corporate (2006), Merchants War (2007), The Revolution Business (2009), The Trade of Queens (2010)
Series: Merchant Princes
Author: Charles Stross
Genre: Multiverse
Publisher: Tor

Miriam got a modern upbringing in the US and one day she learns she has the ability to walk to another world. It starts with: Ten and a half hours before a mounted knight with a machine gun tried to kill her, tech journalist Miriam Beckstein lost her job.  The first books in the series are great but the final book was a downer for me.


Ruby Kubick – Agoraphobic Salvage Artist

Books: Glass Houses
Author: Laura J. Mixon
Genre: Cyberpunk
Publisher: Tor 1992

Both are new to me, I like gritty cyberpunk.

A dystopian Manhattan of the next century is the setting for this tough, gritty sf debut featuring an agoraphobic salvage artist who uses virtual reality to connect her with the machines that face the world in her stead. Part cyberpunk, part mystery, Mixon’s first novel introduces a lesbian heroine whose life is made up of second-hand encounters until reality comes calling with a vengeance. The author’s razor-sharp prose catapults this story beyond the bounds of genre. Recommended for most sf collections.


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