Jerry Breche is plucked from his Earth where he is the only survivor. He’s a little mad, especially as he believes his wife is still alive but a little rehabilitation eventually brings him back to some level of normality.
In Gary Gibson’s latest novel, ‘Extinction Game’, Breche becomes part of the Pathfinders, people who work for a secret, at least to them, organisation called the Authority who send them to look around other parallel Earths and report what they find. During his induction, he also finds out that there are various other factions who quite happily step on each other’s toes and things aren’t as nice as they seem.
Breche also discovers that he isn’t the first by that name. Another version of himself had originally been plucked from a similar reality and was ‘accidentally’ killed. The Authority must either like having the same kind of people or don’t stray too far from apocalyptic worlds for their recruits, probably because they know they’ll say yes. After another of the Pathfinders is killed, Breche discovers from his predecessor’s diaries things are a lot more dicey than he thought and has to break the conspiracy and find out just what is going on. Anything beyond this point gets too much of a spoiler.
Gibson wrote this book in first person which limits the perspective to only what Breche sees. This is tricky to write in any length story but there’s a definite feel for a lack of emotional content after Breche’s rescue. As its set in the character’s tone throughout, there is no sense of elation when there’s a rescue or even when there is death. Breche just keeps telling you what happens when you really want to give some expression of it through his emotional make-up. As such, ‘Extinction Game’ does tend to become somewhat workmanlike.
I don’t think this is helped by the fact that his sentences are of regular pace. If you want to rush things along, you shorten them. Think of it as running hard and trying to speak. Your sentences sound out of breath. If you’re scared and running, then this affects the sentences even more. With regular length sentences all the time, you can have a disaster and you’re in such a lull by the pace that you read on and the events don’t sink in. When this is combined with lack of emotional content, any author is in real trouble.
This doesn’t mean Gibson isn’t competent. Most of his novels so far have been space opera and this is the first time he’s written a novel close to modern day, in an apocalyptic sense of the word, albeit with alternative realities, even if you don’t really see much of them. But he really does need to work on his pace and emotional content if he’s to raise his game.
(pub: TOR-UK/PanMacmillan. 341 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-230-77270-0)