Book Review: Faller, by Will McIntosh
Faller, by Will McIntosh
Faller
By Will McIntosh
Tor
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Although it’s certainly a valid trick that can occasionally be put to very good use (Memento comes to mind, for example), genre authors need to be very careful when when deploying the “selective amnesia” trope within their fantastical stories; because when done wrong, you get something like Will McIntosh’s disappointing science-fiction novel Faller, whose logic often feels like the author just flat-out confessing, “For the purposes of my badly constructed plot I just happened to need this character to forget this random thing at this particular random moment, which is why they did; then for the purposes of my badly constructed plot I just happened to need this other character to remember this other random thing at this particular random moment, which is why they did.” That always feels like a cop-out because it always is, an internal logic that makes no sense merely because the author is trying to hide a weak storyline; in this case, a story that begins with a big chunk of Manhattan floating in space and the people on it having no recollection of who they are or why they’re there, but who for some inexplicable reason do remember that violent gangs string up their enemies on telephone poles as a way of intimidating everyone who’s left, which is exactly what the violent gangs start doing the moment this chunk of New York starts running out of food.

The whole novel is like this, full of lazy moments of random remembrances and forgetfulness based on what McIntosh needs to have happen on that particular page of the story: humanity has apparently completely forgotten the very concept of English proper names, yet remembers enough about English to assign themselves poetically symbolic names like “Clue” and “Orchid” and “Steel;” humanity has forgotten what cars and planes are, but seemingly remember every single stereotype about small-town rural people being conservatively superstitious and their children plaintively playing hopscotch on the sidewalk with chalk like something out of a bad alt-country song. That makes it even more of a disappointment, then, when the cause of the planet-busting and mass amnesia is finally revealed and it turns out to be a trendy explanation that anyone even vaguely familiar with particle colliders can already guess; and this doesn’t even take into account the pre-explosion situation McIntosh invents to get our players all into a place where they’re taking such desperate measures in the first place, one whose details defy any and all believability whatsoever (including a ground war in which enemy combatants have invaded California yet not a single nuclear weapon has been used in retaliation; a global conflict that has left tens of millions dead over a final grab for the planet’s last fossil fuels, yet with not even a single word said about the current state of solar, water and wind power; and a world in which a coalition of barely functioning third-world nations like Russia and North Korea can somehow completely overpower the endlessly vast and all-powerful US military complex).

The whole thing feels like a case of McIntosh getting one great image in his head one day (and to be fair, the image of a hollowed-out Midtown Manhattan free-floating in the sky is a great image), but then never seeming able to dream up 60,000 words of credible three-act story to wrap around that central image, which unfortunately is the case with way more science-fiction novels than any of us genre fans care to admit. It’s getting a minimally decent score for at least being well-written and a fast read, although with a plot that only the most undiscerning hardcore SF fan could love.

Out of 10: 6.9

Read even more about Faller: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Jason Pettus is the owner of CCLaP, and a former novelist, slam poet and travel writer. During the day he is a front-end software developer within the Chicago tech startup community. Goodreads | LibraryThing | Twitter | Instagram | Letterboxd