Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book Tours tour for The Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August! I am so happy to be able to host a stop and be the official kick off the tour!
Below, you’ll find my full review of The Last Gifts of the Universe, details about the book and author, links to get a copy of the book for yourself, and even an opportunity to win a copy! As I said, I am just kicking things off, so be sure to take a look at the tour schedule down below and follow along as we lift this book all week long!
The Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August
Genre: Science Fiction
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: April 7, 2022
Publisher: Self Published
A dying universe.
When the Home worlds finally achieved the technology to venture out into the stars, they found a graveyard of dead civilizations, a sea of lifeless gray planets and their ruins. What befell them is unknown. All Home knows is that they are the last civilization left in the universe, and whatever came for the others will come for them next.
A search for answers.
Scout is an Archivist tasked with scouring the dead worlds of the cosmos for their last gifts: interesting technology, cultural rituals—anything left behind that might be useful to the Home worlds and their survival. During an excavation on a lifeless planet, Scout unearths something unbelievable: a surviving message from an alien who witnessed the world-ending entity thousands of years ago.
A past unraveled.
Blyreena was once a friend, a soul mate, and a respected leader of her people, the Stelhari. At the end of her world, she was the last one left. She survived to give one last message, one final hope to the future: instructions on how to save the universe.
An adventure at the end of a trillion lifetimes.
With the fate of everything at stake, Scout must overcome the dangers of the Stelhari’s ruined civilization while following Blyreena’s leads to collect its artifacts. If Scout can’t deliver these groundbreaking discoveries back to the Archivists, Home might not only be the last civilization to exist, but the last to finally fall.
Cat Content • Is There Anybody Out There? • The Answer is 42
There are stories that are pure escapism, popcorn fueled jaunts through a fantasy world designed to entertain above all else. I love those kind of stories. Hell, I named my company after those types of stories. But, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel good to be completely and utterly destroyed by a book every once in a while. I’m talking reaching inside and scooping out all my feelings, scraping me until I’m hollow, leaving me sobbing in the dark with an empty can of Pringles in my lap. :smiley face:
That’s why we’re here: To find out what happened to not only this civilization but every dead civilization we’ve ever found in the universe. Because as far as we know, ours is the last one left.
Scout, along with their brother Kieran and space cat Pumpkin, are Archivists, a type of explorer intent on journeying into unknown space to try to find things, lost alien technology or clues to the death of virtually all life in the universe except their own. See, humans journeyed out into the stars to find they were the only things left alive. Millenia dead planets and their alien inhabitants are all that greeted them and Scout is determined to find some clue as to what happened so humanity can avoid the same fate. It’s a wonderful premise and it’s what initially sold me on the book. However, what I found in between the covers was something much more.
The beginning of the novel sees Scout and crew well into their mission into the stars, several light-years from their home, and already veteran Archivists. While the majority of their findings can be boiled down to the two words used to designate the files, “Hello World”, recordings and other things sent out into space or left behind on long-dead planets meant to serve as an introduction to their civilization, the crew of the Waning Crescent find their first cache containing something more. In fact, it promises knowledge of whatever it is that has caused untold civilizations to perish. The cache contains a holographic projection of Blyreena, the leader of an ancient alien civilization now extinct.
The story is told through the dueling narratives of Scout and Blyreena, or rather the ghost of Blyreena. Her recording slowly unfolds over the course of the novel, racing to a final message of hope for the universe, just as Scout races to unravel the location of additional messages from the Stelhari and keep them from the greedy hands of the corporation determined to reach it first and keep the knowledge to themselves. We get to learn of Blyreena and her life, her hopes and dreams, her failures and successes, her losses and it’s striking to me just how intimately close I was able to get to this character that wasn’t even a truly active participant in the story.
What kind of universe is that, where islands are brought back to life, but people aren’t?
There’s so much I could say about this book and what I loved about it, but I know my words will never do it justice. There’s a few more things I would kick myself for not mentioning, so I had better do that here. The queer rep is fantastic in this book. Our main character is non-binary, another character has two fathers, etc. and none of this is given a second look in the story, as it should be. It’s entirely queer-normative and exactly what I love to see. Also, it would be hard to dislike any book that has a catstronaut in it and Pumpkin is the perfect animal friend to Scout and Kieran, loyal, fierce, and absolutely adorable.
The Last Gifts of the Universe is a stunningly beautiful meditation on loss, the grief that comes with it, and what it means to live with the knowledge that life is finite. It’s a story that I think will stick with me for a long time and imparts wisdom that, while painful to hear, was exactly what I needed. If you read one book I recommend, let it be this one.
I know it’s cliche, my dear, but all dark nights break to dawn.
About the Author
Rory August is a speculative fiction writer, animal lover, nature walker, and all around nerd. When they aren’t writing stories about lonely voyages through space, you can find them playing video games, the guitar, or a myriad of TTRPGs. They live in woodsy New England with their cat and husband. The Last Gifts of the Universe is their debut novel.
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