The Ends is the final book in the Anomaly Quartet and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books. They do work as standalones but if you don’t want to know what the Anomaly is before reading The Explorer, stop now.

As the Anomaly reaches Earth, Theo’s next door neighbour is dying, pleading for his suffering to be ended. When his wish is granted, he is reset, he will cry out every day, unaware that this has already happened. Death is no longer permanent.

We are in a post-post-apocalypse. You don’t understand what that means, so please, let this pamphlet explain it to you. It is, certainly, not what you expected, not what any of us expected.

Theo is suffering from a bleeding disease with no cure, his daughter died before the Anomaly hit and his wife left after, with no reason. When he hears of a sighting of his wife, in a Waitrose in London, he sets off from LA, across an America scorched by climate change, to try and find passage to Europe.

The previous books have been rather bleak, but The Ends is more optimistic about our future. There may be death cults and cannibals, but there are also decent people willing to help. There are people that might fear catching Theo’s disease, but they still treat him with kindness, just at a distance. Our own experience of a pandemic has taught us a crisis can bring out the best in people, and the worst in others.

We have walked empty streets, wondering if this is the end. We’re hoarded essential supplies, ready for civilisation to disappear, even if we didn’t truly believe that. I can imagine that the last two years will shape our post-apocalyptic novels from now on. We felt we saw a glimpse of that apocalypse ourselves.

I’ve read a lot of books, I know what people are like when there’s an apocalypse.

In this case, the pandemic came before, unleashed for a purpose it never came to serve. Theo should be dead, but he carries on, prepared for any day to be his last. To wake up thirty years’ younger, alone in LA, with his neighbour dying across the hall. He has things he wants, needs, to remember.

Memory is a theme that runs through many of James Smythe’s books and it is present here in the reason why death is still feared. You’re reset to the person you were when the Anomaly first passed over you. Your memories made since, thirty years’ of them in Theo’s case, are gone. Are you still you, if the memories that have shaped you for half of your life are missing?

They didn’t speak to this: the Marie Celesting of square miles of conurbation, the boarding up of the things we can’t change and the hoarding of things we don’t want to. The didn’t speak to seeing nobody and finding that unsettling.

People deal with this in different ways. There are the cults that celebrate immortality, purposefully killing themselves over and over. Others leave instructions for themselves, telling themselves who they are, what they have done with their lives. Some relish being young again, sacrificing their memories for eternal youth.

If you’ve been paying attention, you may realise you have met Theo before. If you worried about what became of him, left behind with his cult-worshipping father, here is your chance to find out. The Ends is a fitting end to an excellent series.

There simply needed to be something to prevent the public thinking that the preservatives made the foods somehow immortal. Because immortality was something to be afraid of; we are meant to decay, as are all things.

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