The Fortress at the End of Time

February 27, 2017
The Fortress at the End of Time Book Cover The Fortress at the End of Time
Joe M. McDermott
Science Fiction
January 17th, 2017

In The Fortress at the End of Time, humanity has expanded across the galaxy by use of ansible and clone technology, but an enemy stands in their way—an enemy alien in concept as much as physiology. Ronaldo Aldo is a clone stationed in the back-end of nowhere—a watch station with a glorious military past, but no future. He’s desperate to prove himself worthy of ascension—of having his consciousness broadcast to a newer clone, far away from his current post at the Citadel.


(via Goodreads)


I picked up this book for my Science Fiction/Fantasy book club. I was really excited because I was going to be reading a book within weeks of it being published. I never do that! And yet… I knew within 5 pages that I would likely DNF this book. By the time I reached 38%, I was done. I couldn’t read another word in The Fortress at the End of Time.

The premise of the book is simple: The clone of a soldier exists on the other side of the universe from his origin. Here, at the most boring and worthless post in the universe, he diligently does his job while being an emotionless self-absorbed jerk until he has an existential crisis and tries to “ascend” by committing a crime he is imprisoned for. If that plot catches your eye, don’t fret– there are plenty of other reasons not to read this book.

First off, our narrator and protagonist is completely unlikable. That is in some cases a selling point for me. I do enjoy the occasional unlikable narrator. But Aldo… he is melodramatic and incredibly self-obsessed. He doesn’t listen to anyone around him, always assuming that even though he is the lowest on the totem pole that he knows what to do best in all situations. He also seems to be completely emotionally detached from everyone and everything. I never got the sense that Aldo was engaged in what he was experiencing.

Our plot is completely glacial. It is alluded to in the beginning that Aldo has done some terrible thing which has landed him in jail. In the almost 40% of the book I read there was no rising action taking us towards this moment. He mentioned it and then we just heard about his daily life at the Citadel for pages and pages. Nothing. Is. Happening.

You might be thinking, “But, Jackie! I have loved some books with slow pacing!” Ah yes, but did you love books with slow pacing where you weren’t immersed in the world or their characters? The secondary characters have no personality. They are forgettable, interchangeable, and completely static. They exist in my opinion, as a way to drag the text on for pages while Aldo recounts his dreary interactions with them. As this is a first-person narrative, we don’t see anything about these characters or their personal arcs other than what Aldo wants us to. Since he doesn’t care about them, we don’t either.

After talking with my book club, no one would really recommend The Fortress at the End of Time; either for me to finish reading it or for someone else to pick up. It’s like McDermott wanted to explore philosophy but wasn’t certain how to, so he just wrote until he felt done. One of my friends even said, “This would have been a great 80-page novella.”

Sorry, McDermott, your first attempt at a novel didn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s best if you stick to short stories?

What do you think?

  • Have you read this book, or is it on your TBR? What do you think? Why are you interested in reading this?
  • Have you read any of Joe McDermott’s short stories? What do you think of them?
  • What do you think of DNF reviews?


  • Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek February 27, 2017 at 11:52 am

    If you knew after only 5 pages that you wouldn’t finish the book then I applaud you for getting to 38%

    Very true, slow pacing is fine if you are immersed in the story and invested in the characters but if not then probably not no, though any pacing with this book doesn’t sound like it would have helped.

    • Jackie B February 28, 2017 at 10:14 am

      It was for a book club, so I wanted to keep going. There was something off for me about the first 5 pages, though. I knew it was never going to click. I was hoping by reading more I could clearly articulate my dislike. Well, it worked.

      I would love to meet someone who enjoyed this book and see if they can help me see something I missed. I hate it when this happens, but with all the books in the world, well, of *course* it will happen occasionally.

  • AvalinahsBooks February 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Ooh, sounds like such a waste if your time :/ well, we all get books like that from time to time. Good that you didn’t try ploughing through all of it (I do most of the time xD)

    • Jackie B February 28, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      Well, it was a strangely quick read, so it wasn’t *that much* time wasted. But you’re right, it does happen.

      When do you decide to DNF a book? What makes you keep reading?

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel February 28, 2017 at 2:14 am

    By the reasons you have stated, I am sure I would not enjoy the book as well. Good that you tried yoru best to enjoy the read upto nearly 40 pct of the novel

    • Jackie B February 28, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks, Resh Susan! It was a bit of a slog, but I wanted to try for my book club. C’est la vie.

  • Laila@BigReadingLife February 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Almost 40% sounds like enough to me! There are too many other books out there to waste time. Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 is generally my guiding principle on whether to finish a book.

    • Jackie B February 28, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      Exactly! When it comes to eBooks, I’m less aware of the progress I am making. I probably would have stopped earlier if I was turning pages. I was reading on the treadmill and when my workout ended I just said to myself, “Well. We’re done here.” I’m glad that I’m not alone. 😀

  • LizScanlon February 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    woooops! Intially I was intrigued to see a scifi title being reviewed here by you and the blurb indicated a rather hardcore scifi as well… alas… pity it didn’t work out for you. Well done for getting to the 38% mark. It can be a task and a half to get this far when you’re really not enjoying what you’re reading.

    • Jackie B February 28, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      I really enjoy science fiction, actually. Until you pointed this out, I didn’t realize how little I was reading/reviewing in the past year! How embarrassing. Hopefully my Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club will help out with that. I really need to get more sci-fi on my TBR for this year! Oy. Thanks for catching me on that, Liis!

  • theorangutanlibrarian March 3, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Ah I always struggle to DNF things- but it always turns out that I should have gone with my gut and put down the book- especially if it’s like this where the characters are unlikable and the whole thing is dragging!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom March 3, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Oh no! Sorry this book didn’t do anything for you, but good for you for throwing in the towel and not wasting your time. Look on the bright side, you’ve saved me from attempting it lol

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