Yeah, the end of the second millenium is drawing near. And yes, the coming of the year 2000 has got people thinking apocalyptically. Even Hollywood's doing it (did it) with "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," feature film odes on planetary disaster for humanity. But endtime and post-endtime fiction has been around for a long time, and some titles in that subgenre are classics in a broader sense: Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz and Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon are a few. Some are more modern favorites, like Stephen King's The Stand (in all its revised glory). Whether it comes by plague, nuclear disaster or collision with another planetary object, the Apocalypse and its aftermath demand our morbid attention. How might it happen?
Yvonne Navarro, author of deadrush, Species and Aliens: Music of the Spears, chooses to consider in Final Impact what the end (and the after-end) might be like if a rogue planet, aptly named "Millennium," spinning out of control through our solar system glanced off the gas giant Jupiter and went on fractured trajectory toward Earth. Following a set of near-parallel storylines from the beginning to introduce us to a very unique cast of characters, Navarro eventually brings her story people together to experience the end of civilization as they know it and to participate in the post-Apocalyptic rebuilding.
Ordinary folks these ain't; ethnically and occupationally diverse they are. Gena's a Native American/Hispanic blind woman whose physical infirmity caused her parents to abandon her as a small child and whose parapsychological ability to see the future forces her into self-imposed emotional seclusion. Simon, his facial features ruined by an abusive father's rage, fights as an adult social worker to help abused and neglected children; he also fights to keep his mind closed to the constant intrusion of other people's thoughts. Mercy, born a Chinese/Jewish farm girl, is always on the lookout for an outlet for the healing energy that burns inside her. Once a doctor, she lost her position thanks to a hospital administrator's political motives and extremely effective blackmail, and is now forced to hunt the dangerous Chicago underground in search of physical damage upon which to release the burning need to heal building to dangerous levels in her own body. Lamont is a black lawyer capable of great feats of strength but frightened into denial of his telekinetic abilities far back in his childhood by his well-meaning parents.
Set against the familiar background of the Chicago skyline, the first half of the novel concerns itself with introducing the reader to the characters and developing the budding relationships between those characters. Navarro also introduces the secondary characters whose actions will in great part determine the fate of Gena, Simon, Mercy and Lamont. Erica Richmond, the administrator who ruined Mercy's life, develops After Help, a crisis organization designed to soothe the fears of people panicking in the face of the rogue planet Millennium; it's also designed to relieve them or their hard-earned dollars. Searle, Simon's father, has served his time for the death of Simon's mother, and he finds work in the After Help organization while finding companionship in Erica Richmond's bed. There's Lily, the hard punk bitch who devotes herself to Mercy's well-being after Mercy rescues Lily from her life of madness; she's arguably the most interesting and likable person in the whole shooting match, a scrawny, knife-wielding, leather-jacketed and military-booted bundle of good intentions with an extremely hard-knocks past. Ryan is Erica Richmond's nephew, another abused child whose healing led to Mercy's dismissal from the hospital, a frightened little boy stuck now with a man far more evil than his own father. Eddie's an el-ed college dropout, following an ex-girlfriend whose lifestyle has begun taking on sinister undertones after a very close brush with death. Joey, Lamont's little brother, is a self-serving drug dealer unnerved by his passion for Alva, a corrupt and murderous police officer.
In the process of coming to know these characters, readers discover also more than the expected pre-disaster weirdness. People start disappearing -- really disappearing, with an innate but unknown chameleon-like camoflauge ability. Animals -- including humans -- begin experiencing off-the-charts fertility rates; women told they could never have children find themselves pregnant. With a Millennium strike a certainty, the President imposes martial law. When the unthinkable happens, and happens, and keeps on happening, civilization as we know it ends, along with all its trappings. When the ground stops shaking, the survivors find themselves in a place they no longer recognize, a place peopled by rogue soldiers, paranoid militia types, and by frightened and wary ordinary people too afraid to help or share with others. Yet there are more sinister things being revealed in the dim light of a sun that no longer rises in the east, and it is against all these things that Gena, Simon, Lamont, Mercy, and the rest of their circle must align themselves to survive the end of the world.
More like The Stand in its focus on spiritual paranormality than any other apocalyptic or post-such novel that comes to mind, Final Impact's strength lies not in its hard-science fact-based imagining of how the world ends. Rather, it is the people, good and bad, who live through it to carry on. Final Impact is also an interesting speculation on the nature of people to become more like their essential selves in times of great conflict -- in this case, the good get better and the bad get really bad. In all, it's an entertaining novel for a generation caught up in the heady fear surrounding the advent of a new millennium.