Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

End of Days

End of Days

Eric Walters
Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Random Canada, 2011   ISBN: 978-0385670067

Thirty-three years ago the Russians put a satellite into space and sent it off to explore the universe. Powered by the solar energy feeding its arrays, the space explorer traveled through the solar system sending information back to its creators about the celestial bodies that it encountered. Eventually it sailed beyond the edge of Earth’s solar system, and though it was so very far away from home, it kept sending home messages. However, by now though the satellite’s creators were no longer listening. Then the explorer encountered a “small planetary body” that had a gravitational pull and the satellite began to orbit this small body, still sending its messages back to Earth. Scientists began to notice that the satellite was moving closer to Earth instead of moving further away, which could only mean one thing. The asteroid it was orbiting was heading for Earth.
Twenty-four years before the satellite is supposed to get back, many of the world’s most prestigious scientists start dying off at a rather alarming rate. What no one knows (not for another seven years) is that an organization is kidnapping the scientists and faking their deaths. They need the scientists to work, in secret, on the asteroid problem. The hunk of rock is big enough that when it comes near, or collides with, Earth it will cause a catastrophic extinction event. The hope is that the scientists will come up with a way to solve the problem before it is too late. The organization behind the kidnappings, the International Aerospace Research Institute, wants to keep the asteroid’s arrival a secret for now, thinking that this is better for humanity.
Seventeen years before the arrival of the asteroid, Joshua Fitchett, a famous multi-millionaire who is also a genius, tells the world about what the Institute has been doing, and he reveals the secret they have been hiding from the world for so long. One group of religious zealots responds to the news by preaching messages that incite fear in as many people as possible. When Joshua Fitchett’s mansion home is burned down, perhaps with him in it, some people suggest that the religious group might be behind the burning. It would appear that panic is already setting in.
Now the asteroid is only one year away from Earth, and life on the planet has changed radically. Law and order has pretty much disappeared, and criminals rule neighborhoods. One of these criminals calls himself Billy the Kid. The teenager can be ruthless, but he has his own brand of honor and when the police, such as they are, come calling, he agrees to meet with them so that lives are not lost.
Billy is taken into custody by the police and is then handed over to some people he does not know. He is drugged, put on a plane, and taken to a distant location in the middle of the wilderness. He is then taken into an old mine that has been converted into a huge underground complex and he meets an old man called Joshua Fitchett. It would appear that Fitchett fabricated his own death years ago so that the people from the International Aerospace Research Institute could not get their hands on him.
Fitchett does not think that the Institute people or the world’s governments will be able to destroy the asteroid and his has been preparing for its collision with Earth for years. He has been grooming children from around the world to become the hope of the human race. The children will be the future scientists and doctors, engineers and writers who will repopulate the Earth once it has recovered from the asteroid collision. The one thing he did not prepare for was the need to have a young person who could lead the chosen children with a firm, yet kind, hand. Apparently he thinks that Billy, who has cared for and protected almost two hundred children for a long time, is the person to be this leader. Billy knows how to survive in a hostile environment and he knows how to earn the loyalty and support of his followers. A street orphan who has killed to survive and to protect the children who are his ‘family,’ is being asked to help save the human race.
This suspenseful and beautifully crafted story explores the ways in which people respond to a crisis. We see how some try to find a solution, while some give in and justify their behavior by saying that what is happening is supposed to happen. We see how human society falls into anarchy as law and order vanishes, leaving helpless children who have to fend for themselves. Plots and counterplots swirl through the story as different groups try to undermine each other, and all the whole there is Billy, who is just trying to survive and care for those who depend on him.

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