This is the end. Hold your breath and count to ten. Feel the earth move, and then… ashes, ashes, all fall down? Well, something like that. When you reach the end of the world, the only sensible thing to do is jump. Let’s plummet into Faller, by Will McIntosh.
No one can remember anything–who they are, family and friends, or even how to read. Reality has fragmented and Earth consists of an islands of rock floating in an endless sky. Food, water, electricity–gone, except for what people can find, and they can’t find much.
Faller’s pockets contain tantalizing clues: a photo of himself and a woman he can’t remember, a toy solider with a parachute, and a mysterious map drawn in blood. With only these materials as a guide, he makes a leap of faith from the edge of the world to find the woman and set things right.
He encounters other floating islands, impossible replicas of himself and others, and learns that one man hates him enough to take revenge for actions Faller can’t even remember.
Islands of land hang suspended in an infinite sky, and everyone living on them suddenly awakens without any memory of who they are or what came before. This makes for an intriguing premise for an epistemological mystery, and a promisingly strange setting for a speculative fiction story. The execution, however, does not live up to the story’s full potential.
The way stories like this usually play out is that the main character investigates the world they find themselves in, gradually uncovering hints and clues that eventually allow them to piece together who they were and what happened to the world. Faller, however, deviates from that pattern. Flashbacks explaining what happened are presented directly to the reader, while Faller himself remains completely ignorant. I found that this damaged my ability to relate to the character: instead of going on a journey with Faller, making discoveries and coming to realizations alongside of him, I got handed the truth on a platter by an omniscient third-person narrator and then got to watch Faller stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what I already knew.
Then there are the sky-islands which Faller visits. Each is a macrocosm of a different world, a different potential setting: different kinds of people, different terrain, different equipment and natural resources, and resultantly different societies. Each presents its own unique and interesting conflicts. The problem is, none of these conflicts ever see a resolution, because Faller’s solution is always the same: jump off the edge and head to the next world. He doesn’t find solutions to any of the situations he finds himself embroiled in; he just runs away. Now, that makes sense in terms of his character’s motivation – he’s trying to reach the end of his map, not deal with the issues of every miniature dystopia he stumbles across. But just because it’s logical doesn’t mean it makes for a good story. Rather, it results in a lot of short, unsatisfying episodes where Faller turns his back on people in trouble and just goes on his merry way, leaving a long string of unsolved problems and dropped plot threads in his wake.
Combine that with a vague non-ending for the main plot which does not so much resolve things as imply that they might be resolved at some undefined point in the future, and yeah, I can’t recommend this one. Go ahead and toss Faller off the side of the world.
Final Rating: 2/5