For years Gary Gibson has been one of my favorite science fiction writers and I've always felt that he's been unfairly dismissed by the SF community and award ceremonies but then again when was the last time Peter F, Hamilton, Neal Asher or Alastair Reynolds won anything? I've always found his stories to be magnificent in scope and his imagination intriguing so each new book was a reason for a small personal celebration. However, with "Extinction Game" Gibson decided to shake things up a bit. You can't really say anything against Gibson's wish to do so as he's been steadily banging out space operas for some 10 odd years now.
From the opening page "Extinction Game" feels a bit local when compared to his other stuff. Most of the plot takes place on a post-apocalyptic desolate Earth but it here's where the main twist and that glorious imagination come to their full force. Earth we are introduced at the beginning is just one of the many parallel, alternate and most importantly, devastated Earths. From each of these comes a single person, a last human alive rescued in the final moment by the Authority, a shadowy organization. Together they for a crack team of pathfinders tasked with recovering weapons and data from other Earths struck by apocalyptic events. Jerry Beche, a main protagonist and the only survivor of deadly viral attack on his Earth, is struggling to cope with this new situation and mistrusts both his new secretive masters and his team. But when things suddenly escalate beyond control, he'll have to make a choice and decide whom to eventually trust.
There's no discussion about the fact that "Extinction Game" is very different to other Gibson's output but constant readers will still find plenty to enjoy here. The way the story is present is reassuringly familiar and I was hooked up from early on because of its interesting premise. Alternate worlds always leave plenty of place for the authors to go completely bonkers. There physics and climate to play with but in this case Gibson stays mostly on the line. I suspect there was simply too much to tell to go full board. Between all the action, setting up a stage, and plenty of twist there wasn't must space to play with. Therefore, I certainly hope that there's a sequel in the works as the whole setting is simply too good to be wasted on a single book. And not to forget, there's plenty of unanswered questions. But even if it turns out that "Extinction Game" is just one off, the main fact about it is that it is simply a damn good read. It's perhaps not Gibson's best book but I've simply stormed through it with that same sense of wonder and excitement that accompanied reading any of his other work. What more can you wish for?
Review copy provided by Tor UK.
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- Published in Book News