What would happen if it were the last day on Earth? In The Gertrude Threshold by Christopher Brooks, a scientific formula named after its creator calculates to the day the last moments of global warming: when Earth crosses that threshold, Earth will burn up taking those last human beings left, who are living in brown tubes underground, with Her.
In the novella we follow one family as they struggle through the last day. Ky, a young, good-natured boy who was born into an apocalyptic world. His grandfather Brandon: grumpy, old and waiting to die to join his wife Lilly. Brandon’s son John, a respected shrink in the tubes who faces the last day with a definitive bucket list item or two. John’s religious wife Ellen, starved by strict rationing and crazed by God’s lack of response to the people on His planet. She searches for answers in the darkest corners of tube life as she spends her last hours encountering a frenzied female priest, a very peculiar end of days peepshow and cannibalism in the depths of the catacomb-like structure people are now forced to share.
This is a very well-written story with echoes of Hugh Howey’s Wool – exchange silos for tubes – and something in the writing is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s style in that emotion is key instead of the actual science fiction element, and that carries the story. Characters are well-rounded and believeable, with maybe the exception of the two children near the end of the book whose voices seem much older and aware of rhetoric than a five and six years old would be.
There are some malapropisms: the author uses the word “pupil” instead of “iris” when describing the color of eyes, and at one point food passes through a character like “the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge” instead of Jacob Marley, and “breech” instead of “breach”. This is a shame but luckily can be easily fixed to bring the book up to the standard it deserves and does not interfere much with the enjoyment of the read.
This novella is an interesting and almost poetic window into a possible future on Earth if Humankind does nothing to deal with global warming, and lays both backstory and science as a foundation for the book’s landscape, and serves as a warning to present-day Earthlings.
Furthermore, this book has an absolutely excellent cover that is completely original and stands out well: a great example of a cover that will attract attention for sales as a jewel in a sea of badly-designed self-published books on the market today.
The book is haunting and well-visualized, and will stay with you for a while. It’s a testament to the essence of Brooks’ writing that he conveys the feeling of emptiness and hopelessness in a spectrum of ways, using his characters to show how “last days” behavior might manifest itself so poignantly. With a slight edit, and a good push with marketing, this book could do incredibly well for Brooks.