CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 21. . . .February 3, 2012
End of Days.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2011.
316 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Grades 6-11 / Ages 11-16.
Review by Nicole Dalmer.
"Your next question?" Fitchett asked.
"Are you the government?"
He burst into laughter. "Government scarcely exist anymore, with the possible exception of the International Aerospace Research Institute – and as I have made clear, I am certainly not them. I don't think my aims could be any further away from theirs," he said. "They actually believe they can stop the asteroid."
"And you don't?"
"Would I be doing all of this if I felt they could?" Fitchett asked. "We are operating here on the assumption that they will fail, and that the only hope for mankind's salvation is to prepare for that eventuality." He paused. "You still have your biggest question to ask. You want to know why you are here … correct?"
Billy nodded his head ever so slightly.
"You have been chosen."
"Chosen for what?" Billy asked.
"Chosen to live. For you, there is not just a before … there will be an after."
End of Days weaves the story of two characters as the world braces itself for an asteroid set to collide with Earth. Twenty-eight years ago, a satellite began transmitting data, alerting scientists, astrophysicists and mathematics to the reality that an asteroid was slowly, yet surely, approaching Earth. With nearly three decades until the Earth's demise, social norms progressively fall by the wayside as individuals begin battling one another to stock up on supplies and food in order to stay alive as long as possible. Readers are first introduced to Professor Daniel Sheppard, a scientist and mathematician who, due to his recent experiments tracking the return of the satellite to Earth, is assigned to the International Aerospace Research Institute where he and other scientists continue their research in hopes of destroying the asteroid before it reaches Earth. As the story unfolds and with one year left until impact, Billy Phillips, a 16-year-old from New York, emerges as a determined leader of a pack of teens and children. As the months and days count down, Billy and Dr. Sheppard meet, and both must make a series of life-altering decisions concerning the fate of not only themselves, but of all civilization.
Despite being set in an environment which none of the readers have yet to encounter, Walters impressively creates an atmosphere that engulfs readers, allowing them to better identify with the characters and their situations. Part of this success lies in the author's ability to advance the story and allow for character evolution through a fine balance of narrative with dialogue. In dialogue, all of the characters have their own unique and identifiable voices, whereas words in narrative portions are carefully selected in order to give just enough detail and passages of description so as to allow readers to use their imaginations to fill in remaining portions of imagery. The other reason for such a successful novel is Eric Walters's seemingly effortless ability in creating an authentically chaotic environment, while keeping his words or overall plot directions precise and uncluttered. The book's pacing was well set; the read felt neither rushed nor lingering too long on one section. This seems to be due, in part, to the incorporation of a variety of sentence lengths and word difficulty. What I most enjoyed was the feeling of compounded suspense as I was alerted with each passing chapter to how many years, days or hours were left until impact.
My only small qualm with the book was the lag between the plot concerning Sheppard and the plot concerning Billy. As the book neared the halfway point, the focus had been on the development of Billy as a character for so many chapters that the reintroduction of Dr. Sheppard felt rather jarring. Consequently, it took a chapter or two to become reacquainted with this character and to remember the issues surrounding his plotline.
End of Days is a highly enjoyable and well-crafted read to which readers of all ages will respond. In 316 pages, Walters creates an ominously realistic world in which the planet's citizens know when Earth will cease to exist. With Walters's use of just the right amount of description and dialogue, readers are able to use their imagination to postulate what would happen on a global level, examining potential relationships between countries, organizations, governments, and, at a micro level, between individuals, when the exact moment of the end of the world is known.
Nicole Dalmer is in her last semester of the Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB.
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