Bantam, 1997, 469 pages, C$7.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-553-56360-2
In fiction, there are several ways to end the world, and several things to do once you’ve done it. Perhaps the most famous apocalyptic book of all is Stephen King’s exceptional The Stand, which combined gritty realism with supernatural elements to produce a book strong enough to forgive its rather significant shortcomings. With Final Impact, Yvonne Navarro sets herself up to be compared to King, and the results are almost as disastrous as the catastrophe itself.
1999. Inspired by the Shumacher-Levy comet, another celestial object finds itself hurtling at Jupiter. Problem is; it misses, fragments in a myriad of smaller rocks and heads straight for Earth. Meanwhile, efforts to destroy some of the fragments are sabotaged, and the rocks hit.
But that’s not the real story.
From the above, we might infer a relatively competent novel firmly grounded in hard sciences and rigorously extrapolating the effects of a massive asteroid strike on Earth.
You see, even during the prologue, we’re introduced to (more than) four people possessing extra-sensorial powers. (I will avoid talking about the inconsistent nature of the superpowers, as it seems to be the norm with such pseudo-SF.) Since Navarro describes herself as “a dark fantasy writer”, you can bet your fallout shelter that life isn’t an easy road for them. Indeed, in the first ten pages, a girl is abandoned by her parents and a boy looks on as his father kills his mother. And that’s only the first two protagonists.
Scientific plausibility goes downhill as soon as the rocks hit, since the Earth stop rotating (all together now; riiiight) and some humans transform themselves in the usual gallery of fantastic creatures: vampires, werewolves, etc… This isn’t gratuitous, of course, given that Earth now has a “light side” and a “dark side”. Ooooh, deeeeep, maaaan.
And then the novel ends.
That’s right. Final Impact is the first volume of an unknown series of books. Nowhere is it mentioned. Some threads are still up in the air, nothing interesting has been done with the setup, character dynamics are still unresolved… and you have the gall to ask why I disliked the book?
Even then, though, it must be said that Final Impact isn’t totally worthless. For all her dubious plotting, incompetent scientific sense and lack of marketing acumen, Yvonne Navarro has created some vivid characters in Final Impact. While they’re either too good or too evil to be classified as realistic (not to mention these pesky ESP powers), they’re well-defined. The most interesting character, Lily, is a welcome exception given that she’s morally ambiguous and as “normal” (few superpowers) as Navarro’s characters come.
Final Impact is also surprisingly readable—warts and all. Navarro keeps the flourishes down to a minimum, and prefers to follow her characters as closely as possible. The execution mitigates the weak story.
There’s a certain audience, I suppose, for the tired clichés sprouted off by Final Impact (Yet Another Rock-Smashing Earth, Yet Another Group of Superpowered Mutants, Yet Another Good-Versus-Evil setup, Yet Another Fantasy series…) but serious -read “jaded”- readers will want to read fresher material. Because at the end, what Final Impact offers is only a good setup for a Role-Playing Game scenario.