November 09, 2011

End of Days

by Eric Walters
Doubleday Canada
316 pp.
Ages 10-15

Science fiction is a genre that most readers either love completely or dislike vehemently.  I am generally in the latter group, reading the odd sci-fi novel or short story as required, never by choice.  So when presented with a tome in which the end of the world is forecast due to an asteroid speeding towards Earth, I was reluctant to even begin my read.  Fortunately, the author is Eric Walters who is well-known for spinning a great tale, whether its theme is Perry's journey to the pole (The Pole, Penguin, 2008); school uniforms (Branded, Orca, 2010); post-traumatic stress experienced by soldiers during various conflicts (Shattered, Penguin, 2006; Wounded, Penguin, 2009); the 9/11 terrorist attacks (We All Fall Down, Doubleday, 2006; United We Stand, Doubleday, 2009); or the healing power of art for street youth (Sketches, Penguin, 2007).  His versatility in crafting a complex, action-packed plot from any germ of an idea is epic.  Science fiction writing for Walters would undoubtedly be riveting.  It is.

Daniel Sheppard and other scientists have their deaths faked by the International Aerospace Research Institute in Switzerland so that they may work discretely on finding a solution to an impending global disaster: a massive asteroid (over 200 km in diameter) expected to impact Earth in 24 years.

Seven years later, their mission is revealed by brilliant and extremely wealthy innovator, Joshua Fitchett, whose alleged death the next day is attributed to the Judgement Day group who believe that scientists are working against God's will to purify the world. Apparently ridding the world of scientists and their research facilities is also God's will.  Meanwhile, panic ensues and society crumbles with shortages (food, water, fuel), violence and desperation.

Fitchett, who staged his own death, is finding his own solution to the looming disaster, recruiting hundreds of bright children, with 16-year-old Billy the Kid (gang leader known for his kindness and compassion) as their leader.  In the last year before the asteroid is expected to hit, while Sheppard and his staff at the Institute undertake their plans to destroy the asteroid, Fitchett, in their underground facility in Idaho, reveals full details of his work to Billy, and ultimately to Sheppard.

Walters' plot and subplots are so well constructed that the reader is emotionally engaged throughout, anticipating a disaster, despairing over a world headed for anarchy, and finally gratified with an ending sure to satisfy.

No comments:

Post a Comment