The Last Gifts of the Universe — Rory August

The Last Gifts of the Universe — Rory August

“It’s strange what hindsight does. Takes all the layers of emotions and flattens them, turns them either good or bad. It can take time to see the shadows as something beautiful.”

The Last Gifts of the Universe is a perfect example of how sci-fi and fantasy can touch upon a very real, very human experience. It is filled with little gems, like the quote above, in the prose without being overly sentimental. Often and especially with books that deal with life, death, and grief, there is an implicit moral compass guiding the story that can feel a bit heavy-handed at times: one should live life to the fullest, one should not live at all, one should strive to be better, one should not try at all, whatever. But I would argue that this book, with all its beautiful words, in all its emotional moments, simply says: life and death just are.

No challenging of beliefs, no preaching, just characters figuring out for themselves how they want to live and how they want to process their experiences, both in happiness and in grief. That is what I really liked about this book. The characters are imperfect. There is a lot to love, like, dislike, and hate about everyone, but each character is a product of their circumstances, of their very real experiences of the cards they’ve been dealt.

If I could describe this book in one word, I would say it was a seed. Hear me out. The prose was gorgeous, the characters were layered, and the story itself was touching, as it deals with love, life, and loss rippling through time and space. I finished it thinking I liked it, and that was that. But the next morning, I saw things slightly differently. I took more enjoyment in my morning coffee. I felt more delight talking to my friends. A routine lunch became just slightly more delicious. And then that grew, a little at a time, just like the ripples in this book.

Another thing that hit me was how one of the messages in the book is about simply letting go. Just letting go of what one thinks life is supposed to be, letting go of loved ones who go their separate ways. We can be angry, we can be sad, we can even be happy or indifferent, whatever. That is entirely up to us to decide. And by the time I read the last words, I felt like the author, or even Scout, the main character, was letting me go as well. It was that emotional punch, really, that stuck with me long after I finished reading.

I would definitely recommend The Last Gifts of the Universe. It’s not action-packed, like it’s not a space opera with warring factions or whatever, but I can’t think of anyone who would regret it if they took the time.

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