Extinction Game, by Gary Gibson
This book surprised me. I’d read Gibson’s Shoal trilogy, and vaguely enjoyed them, but hadn’t been hugely struck on them.
Extinction Game, however, was a book that instantly got under my skin.
The premise is that the main character, Jerry, is the last survivor of an apocalyptic event in his version of Earth – but there are other parallel Earths, and a shadowy organisation called the Authority is gathering extinction survivors, using them as explorers for other ruined timelines. The assumption apparently is that people who’ve survived the literal end of the world are clearly exceptional individuals, and thus assets that are worth having.
However, it’s not clear who exactly the Authority are, or why they’re so interested in dead worlds. In addition, it gradually becomes apparent to Jerry that he may not be the first version of himself to be drawn into this web.
What was interesting
Tthe descriptions of the many parallel worlds were fascinating, albeit in a morbid way. The mystery concerning the Authority was well-played – I thought I’d figured it out in the first third of the book, but no, the reality was different. And the character dynamics were intriguing. All of these people have been damaged to some extent by their experiences – none of these catastrophes were cozy.
What was problematic
There were a few difficult aspects to this book. Obviously given that one of its key plot-elements is the extnction of multiple human civilisations across multiple timelines, it could get quite dark at times. In addition, there was a very uncomfortable and possibly-triggery section dealing with Nu!Jerry and Chloe’s relationship. (In fairness it doesn’t go where it initially appears, and the reality is different to the depiction, but Old!Jerry and Chloe initially appear to have been in an abusive relationship.)
If you liked (for instance) Charlie Stross’s Merchant princes series, you’ll probably like this one. This book is engrossing and a page-turner. The sense of mystery will keep you reading, and the descriptions are vivid.
However, the tone of the book is pretty dark – it deals with the extinction of multiple iterations of humanity! Deaths and gruesome events happen in the plot, and the people in it have very definitely been marked by their experiences. If those sort of things make you uneasy, then you might get less from this one.