Saturday, June 17, 2006

DUST JACKETS: End of Days




One of my favorite local writers is Dennis Danvers. I’m not a big fan of science fiction, but I love the stuff that Dennis writes. As is the case with a lot of science fiction, Dennis often draws on some universal religious themes for his writing. Religion plays an important part in what makes his book End of Days work.

First off, let me make it clear that his book is in no way related to the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of the same name. In fact, the only thing these two stories have in common is the title.

End of Days is set in an alternate future where the majority of humanity has abandoned life in the real world for an existence without death inside “the Bin,” a massive virtual reality program. People’s souls are transferred into the Bin and their bodies destroyed. Some resist the idea of life within the Bin, some more violently than others.

End of Days was Dennis’ second novel set within this world. I had previously read and enjoyed the first book Circuit of Heaven, and I was startled to discover very few of the characters from that book return for this sequel. They didn’t need to, and it’s best they didn’t. The most important character did return: the world itself.

For this second book, we’re given a man within the Bin who’s had enough of “eternal life” and wants to find a way to die. Then there’s Walter Tillman, one of the Bin’s creators, trapped alone within a prototype of the Bin.

In the real world, what’s left of it, Washington, D.C.’s ruins have fallen under the control of a religious zealot and terrorist named Gabriel. One of his young soldiers Sam has become disillusioned and finds himself at odds with the religious army he’s part of after stumbling upon the mini-Bin containing Tillman. Sam teams up with a female construct (a clone/servant race Tillman helped design) named Laura to rescue Tillman, but there’s much more at stake.

Gabriel has learned the Bin, which he thought he’d destroyed, still exists. He’s intent on finishing the job. Having found his own method for eternal life outside the Bin, Gabriel has time on his side, as well as an army. Even as his plans draw to a close, those within the Bin are facing the ultimate challenge to “life without end”: is there purpose to a life without death?

This was a special book for me, because it was given as a gift from Dennis himself at one of the James River Writers Conferences. I had mentioned to him that I’d enjoyed Circuit of Heaven and that I hoped I’d be able to find End of Days in hardback. That was on the first day of the conference. The next day, he handed me an autographed copy of End of Days in hardback. That also made me a little nervous about reading it. Knowing the writer of a book always creates this fear as a reader that if you don’t like the book, how will you ever look that writer in the face again? I’ve felt that fear almost every time I’ve read Dennis’ books, and I don’t know why, because his books never disappoint.

One of the most interesting things about this book is how it ends. One could argue that Dennis cheated himself out of a trilogy, because the last few chapters cover a period of several years. Yet, I’m not sure this book would have been as satisfying without those chapters, nor am I so certain the subplots within those chapters could be expanded into an entire book. I can definitely say that things do not work out the way you’d expect. The story contains a lot of great twists with some of the best within this section.

What makes Dennis’ writing so great is how he can take the fantastic and make it seem so ordinary… and in doing so, make it even more fascinating. He doesn’t try to predict the future within his books. Rather, he gives us a different view of the world in which we already live. That’s what the best science fiction strives to accomplish, and his books deserve a place among them.

Other Books by Dennis Danvers:



Oh, and a small note on the "Other Books" section above. You'll notice the book entitled The Bright Spot is written by a "Robert Sydney." For the long, long, long time readers of the Lair, you might recall this is a pen name of Dennis' for his most recent book. I might add that The Bright Spot is possibly my favorite book by Dennis.

2 comments:

Faith said...

Haven't read that book, but liked the movie.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Oddly enough, I have not gotten to see that movie, and I've been curious about it. One day, I hope to make a big ol' list of the movies I've yet to see that I want to, and waste away a few weeks just watching them. Looking forward to that day, let me tell ya! And this day will come.