Science Fiction

SPSFC Semifinalist Review: The Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August

As we read through the semifinalist round of the 2023 SPSFC, here is another full review from me. If you haven’t been following along, I’m a member of team At Boundary’s Edge and have been posting my individual reviews and scores. These opinions are mine alone and don’t reflect those of the team nor anyone else in the competition. Anyway, let’s look at the book and then you can see my 4th review out of six to come before the end of April!

Bookish Quick facts:
  • Title: The Last Gifts of the Universe
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Rory August
  • Release: Self Published, 2022
  • Length: 203 pages
  • SPSFC Score: 10. I’m blasting this one with ALL the stars
Here’s the synopsis:

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.

My thoughts:

Oh gosh I finished this book over a week ago and I’m still having trouble writing about it. My disclaimer is that I lost a parent (who unfortunately passed alone) recently enough that the ideas of “I hope they weren’t scared” and “did it hurt” and lots of other self reflection related feelings still eat at me when I start thinking too hard.  I have a good enough handle on my grieving to read objectively but man, this book hit directly in the feels for me.

There’s a beautiful story about two siblings and their cat in space, trying to discover the key to saving Earth from whatever is turning the rest of the Universe into a graveyard.  They find dead world after dead world and finally there is  a potential lead.  The thing is the crew has to race against two employees from a selfish corporation for those answers and … well, it’s an ongoing morality play.

While they wait, Scout learns the story of Blyreena and Ovram, two aliens who meant the world to each other.  It’s a sweet interlude to the rest of the action and while I admit that at first I didn’t care about their story so much, I was hooked by the final Last Stand.

Sigh… There’s plenty of action in the book, lots of danger and high tension moments. I was never bored. There is a fluffy orange cat with plenty of opinions and LITTLE BOOTIE FEET.  Was I bawling at 4am because Pumpkin’s life means everything or because I was in a useless knot for the past 100 pages anyway? I don’t know.

I really don’t know. Last Gifts is about the journey, not the destination, so don’t go in expecting a showdown against the planetary life eating aliens. The point is that life is worth fighting for.  It’s so much more than I expected going in.

I waited a bit to make sure I was being objective but I loved the book. I can’t find a darn thing to dock a point for. It’s flawlessly edited and a wonderful reading experience. I’m throwing all ten stars here 🤷‍♀️

Thanks for checking out my SPSFC2 book review for The Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August. I found my copy on KU and once again emphasize that all opinions are mine alone, and do not reflect that of my team.