Halfway Point: EFC Volume 1 Review by Tom Pahlow
Well, what a ride. Halfway through volume one of Earth's Final Chapter and there are already so many moving parts. With 15 main branch stories, 12 Short Tales and 4 Fan written stories included it’s an impressive line-up. Don’t be intimidated though, as each story in the series can be enjoyed independent of the others. To appreciate the world that Julian Fernandes has created fully though, I would recommend doing the full dive. It's always fun to see how the different stories connect and weave together.
For new or potential readers, though, I’ll start at the beginning.
So what is Earth's Final Chapter?
In the long years since the Last War, many of Earth's populations have regressed. Drastic mutations are commonplace due to radiation and technology from the old world is hoarded. Outside the few surviving Mega Cities, most of humanity lives in tribes or villages as they struggle to survive in the harsh environments of the earth. But the world is getting ready to change yet again. Watch leaders rise, Legends form and new life begins as Earth enters its Final Chapter.
In short, EFC is a post-apocalypse series that incorporates many Sci-Fi elements to tell the story, I presume, of Earth’s Final Chapter. As foreboding as that makes it sound, the series has a hopeful feel to it that seems to imply that while it might be Earth’s final chapter, Humanity has many more still to come. Told in a series of Novellas, each around 40-60 pages long, EFC has an interesting mix of styles, genres and authors. All spinning a complex web that we get to enjoy.
What to expect when you read EFC.
For those thinking of diving into Earth's Final Chapter, expect…kind of everything. Complex worldbuilding that puts us in a future rich with history and cultural differences. Varied stories, ranging from the classic coming of age tales to gory horror and then back to political intrigue. Even a host of guest authors bring their unique flair and voice to the stories of Earth's Final Chapter. Also, if my own experience is anything to go off, expect to have Fernandes dangle mysteries and cliff-hangers in front of you until you are practically mad with curiosity.
The first thing that I noticed while reading Earth's Final Chapter was the worldbuilding. I am a fiend for complex worlds, diving into the depths of the lore and history of made-up places until I squint blearily at the sun rising the next morning. Worlds as complex and fleshed out as the one in Earth's Final Chapter get me hooked every single time. As I’m sure anyone who has imagined up a world of fantasy or sci-fi can attest, the work Fernandes has done is intricate and expansive. A true feat of creation.
Stories like Book 9: Kyo, show the level of detail that Fernandes has built into the world and the incredible sci-fi concepts that he’s been tinkering with. The idea of an underwater nation in the not-so-distant future had my mind afire with possibilities. The complex relationships within and without Kyo’s nation also gave a great insight into some of the many moving parts of EFC. Buy it here ** https://www.endlessinkbooks.com/products/earths-final-chapter-vol-1-book-9-kyo-digital-download-english?_pos=4&_sid=e5d8ca798&_ss=r ** or if you want to read a little about it first then feel free to read my review here ** https://www.endlessinkbooks.com/blogs/news/down-the-rabbit-hole-a-review-of-efc-book-9-kyo-by-tom-pahlow **.
Nowhere within the EFC series has the extent of the expansive world been more apparent than when reading the Short Tales. 12 short stories split over three books so far. They cover topics, settings and characters new and old. Some give us more context on different parts of the world while others make mention of some of the aspects that we have already come across. Still more give us something completely different, letting the authors flex their creative muscles and tell tales of horror, incredible discoveries and the people of EFC.
Stories like Family Ties by Bradley Heywood, show us the peculiar nature of Earth in the series. While Top Hat by Julian Fernandes gives us a glimpse of the new horrors that face the world. Others, like Homestead Refugee by Christina DZA Marie, let us see the people and cultures that still call earth home.
Independent Pieces of a Larger Story
EFC is a complex web of independent but connected stories. Individuals fight for survival and there are factions within the factions of the world vying for power and protection. If I tried to explain to anyone what was happening in the larger story, even if I knew how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, I’d probably sound like a conspiracy theorist.
Luckily, each of the stories are mostly independent of each other and can be enjoyed separately without any knowledge, pre-reading or bachelor’s degrees. If you’re a bit of a commitaphobe and don’t want to dedicate your time to the full series you can still enjoy EFC. Meanwhile, for those like myself, who love to do the deep dive, there are lots of moments that make you feel even more immersed. Stories crossing over, mentions of other characters or cities and mysteries answered await the dedicated readers.
These rewards help to remind readers that there is a lot more to EFC than the individual books. Their weaving, meandering ways all serve to tell a much larger story that we are only just at the beginning of. Each piece fitting into a larger puzzle that already feels like it’s going to take place on a truly epic scale. So buckle up fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
One of the benefits of structuring the story through a series of novellas is that Fernandes can bring in the voices and styles of other authors into EFC. Bringing them into the fold to add even more variety to the EFC universe. It’s made the series feel much larger, a community of writers building something beyond the stories.
While it’s clear that the main branch stories are outlined by Fernandes to work into his magnum opus, each author brings their own flair to the series. Take my personal favourite of the Series, Book 8: Homestead Hunts. Written by Christina DZA Marie and illustrated by John Hawkins. Marie’s stories are often ones that show how seemingly ordinary people can become crucial to change. Working in excellent counterpoint to Fernandes’s stories that show legendary figures, seemingly larger than life. If you to read Homestead Hunts, jump in and buy it here ** https://www.endlessinkbooks.com/collections/frontpage/products/earths-final-chapter-vol-1-book-8-homestead-hunts-digital-download-english ** Or if you want some more info before making your purchase check out the review here ** https://www.endlessinkbooks.com/blogs/news/the-maxist-manifesto-review-of-homestead-hunts-book-8-of-earths-final-chapter-review-by-tom **.
As if inviting a host of incredible authors into the mix wasn’t enough, Fernandes has even stretched the writing to the fans with a writing competition in 2020. The four winners were showcased in the EFC Winning collection and were marvels to read. The Community that is being built around EFC is something I am fully coming to appreciate in the series, and I can’t wait for the next competition to try my own hand.
I won’t give away too much here but if you want to give them a read you can buy the Collection here ** https://www.endlessinkbooks.com/collections/new-releases-november-14th/products/earths-final-chapter-winning-collection-2020-digital-download-english ** or if you want some more information you can find my review here ** https://www.endlessinkbooks.com/blogs/news/chicken-dinner-review-of-short-tales-from-earth-s-final-chapter-2020-winning-collection-review-by-tom-pahlow **. Watch out for my personal favourite, Jackary Salem’s emotional Lungs Full of Water. Well done, Jackary, you had me blubbering like a child by the end of it.
I hesitate to even comment on it as the whole point is how little attention is drawn to it, but I was struck by the diversity of characters in EFC. Every story has a whole host of characters that exist far beyond their physical attributes or sexual preferences. Each one was treated as a full and multifaceted person, something which can often be found lacking in Fantasy and Sci-Fi writing. In lieu of commenting on what should ideally remain understated, I will instead talk about some of the characters that have already been introduced.
People in EFC rise to power through merit. Their accolades, intellect or battle prowess are the things that allow them to attain their positions. Warriors like Katheryn Hanover and Emperor Massimo Firenze can become powerful by way of the sword. Meanwhile, others like Willa Wilder and Councilor Obo Ore engage in shrewd political machinations to maintain their power. Some, like Zoya and Kyo, fight against the status quo to bring much-needed change into the world.
These characters come from all over the world of EFC, facing the challenges of this dangerous new world with a fierce determination. They act as fully formed people and balance their goals precariously against those of others, giving the series credibility as a whole.
Legends, new and old.
It was only in the last few books that I came to appreciate a theme of legends being born and destroyed throughout the series. Names whispered in back alleys or bars, stories of incredible people told to scare or inspire. It has a certain grandiose feel that I often associate with fantasy. Many of the Characters in EFC almost feel like they should have some grand title and a book written by Stephen Fry about their achievements. Some of them have the first half down already, Capital City Champion Kay, The Hunter, The Guides.
I often find myself drawn to stories like these. Each hero or villain’s impact seems more earth-shattering, and it gives the whole series the feeling that just one of these legendary figures can change the entire world. To make the stakes even higher, these demi-gods have different goals and their clashes may rent the skies themselves apart.
What’s to Come
EFC is already a massive project with so many threads being woven into the story. And we are only halfway through the first volume. Fernandes has already left so many tantalising tidbits of information that have drawn me further and further into the story. Leaving with more and more questions after each book.
The biggest mystery surrounding EFC is the Watchers. Who are they and what are their plans for earth? They seem to be pulling some of the strings of change within the series and while it’s implied that they are guiding humanity, we aren’t given their motivations for doing so. In my spare time I find myself wondering what they have in store, are they leading humanity to salvation? Or ruin?
Halfway through volume one, we have seen the first steps of many changes within the EFC world. Alliances are born while others are, sometimes violently, cast aside. Conflict is everywhere as everyone struggles for their survival. All the while, the Planetary Council seems to be approaching some form of reckoning. Are these simply petty squabbles in light of a larger threat? I can’t wait to see the outcomes of the greater conflict that is sure to come.
A personal curiosity of mine is the fate and future of the Robots of Nova Viva. So far we have only had one story that explicitly follows the robots and how the world reacts to their reveal could be a portent of its reaction to the Watchers. Aside from their importance as a testing ground for first contact, I am curious about any story that describes as new civilisation being built from the ground up.
For those that want the TL:DR version of the above. EFC is a massive and fully fleshed out world full of history, diversity and legends. With guest authors and incredible art, all contributing to a truly epic story that already spans 15 books, 12 short stories, and 4 fan-written pieces. Each can be enjoyed separately but all work to tell the tale of Earth's Final Chapter.