Book One of the Ben Gold Series
by Rajan Khanna
Science Fiction | 252 Pages | Published by Pyr in 2014
This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review
Falling Sky first came to my attention after reading the synopsis for its sequel, Rising Tide. With its backdrop of a post-apocalyptic Earth teaming with terrifying Ferals, glorious airships and cities in the sky, this is a novel which had me hooked with anticipation alone. And it didn’t disappoint. Falling Sky is a new and exciting interpretation of the post-apocalyptic zombie genre which, though short, remains a fast-paced and action filled debut whose climactic conclusion left me reaching for the next book.
Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.
Ben, a lone wolf, has reluctantly agreed to use his skills and his airship to help an idealist scientist, Miranda, on her search for a cure. Protecting her from Ferals is dangerous enough but when power-mad raiders run rampant, Ben finds himself in the most dangerous place of all—the ground.
Ben’s journey leads him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. Old friends and new enemies are drawn into a struggle that quickly becomes a fight for the fate of the world. Ben must decide to focus on his own survival or risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future.
Falling Sky follows the story of Ben Gold – a gun-wielding, Feral-fighting airship captain – who finds himself the protector of a colony of scientists, and Miranda in particular, at the small research town of Apple Pi. Except this is a world of vicious Ferals who roam the earth and barbarian raiders and hostile townships who patrol the skies. Ferals kill indiscriminately and the bandit states revel in pillage and plunder, actively seeking the destruction of others. Once under their radar, no one is safe… and for Apple Pi time is running out. Ben and Miranda must set off on an adventure which takes them into the heart of the piratical state as Miranda attempts to continue her search for a cure to the Feral plague and Ben does all he can to help Miranda, and himself, survive.
Khanna has creating a terrifying and enthralling world where the beauty and wonder of life aboard airships and on sky towns is contrasted with the destruction of the human race and the unstoppable spread of the virus which turns humans into Ferals. Thematically I loved this book, and in particular the wonderful depiction of the warmongering bandit states -Valhalla and Gastown. Khanna has fashioned a world where airships and, quite literal, townships vie for supremacy over a ruined and overrun world; where life on the ground is undeniably dangerous, and where carving out an honest existence in a world of cruelty and selfish greed is an incredible hardship.
It is through the voice of the narrator, Ben Gold, that a true sense of this hardship is made apparent. Ben is an interesting protagonist whose rough and ready approach makes for a fast-paced and exciting read, his life and history unfolding unobtrusively as the narrative progresses. However, whilst enjoyable throughout, Ben’s voice failed to captivate me as much as it ought to and I became keenly aware that I would prefer to read this book in a third person perspective, in order to convey more of the post-apocalyptic landscape.
This, as always, is subjective and whilst Ben might not be the man for me, he played an excellent counterpoise to the scientists of the novel who are almost in a world of their own with their singular, and sometimes dangerous, determination. Khanna also fields a host of other characters full of charm, wit and gun-toting reflexes; in particular Diego and Rosie, who convey a sense of strength and solidity in a fragile world, and Claudia, who all became firm favourites over the course of the novel.
Falling Sky is a thoroughly exciting read set in a brilliantly realised world, whose climactic conclusion had me reaching for the next book. Khanna has succeeded in creating a dynamic tale which is constantly moving forward (even when looking backwards) and practically brims with action on every page. This is a novel which surprised me with its world and storyline, left me a little wanting where the protagonist was concerned, yet surprised me again with its cliffhanger ending. In short – a very enjoyable read.
If you want to read a novel about a terrifying post-apocalyptic world where lives are carved from the ruined remnants of society, and life is truly experienced in the airships of the sky, then this might just be the read for you. Whilst by no means perfect, Falling Sky remains an exciting and enjoyable read, has satisfied my zombie cravings, and has introduced an author who I certainly intend to read far more of in the near future.