Fallen by Tim Lebbon
Published by Bantam Spectra (US) April 2008, and Allison & Busby (UK) Aug 2008
Review by Mark Yon / Hobbit
Award-winning writer Tim Lebbon’s latest visit to the world of Noreela (his fourth novel) is an interesting one, in that, like the recent After the War, it is a prequel to the best selling books DAWN and DUSK (DAWN reviewed HERE.)
It is also a different style of novel to DUSK/DAWN, being a Fantasy quest-archaeological novel – a sort of Indiana Jones meets The Twilight Zone type story. In my opinion, it’s gripping stuff.
The story’s pretty straightforward – in the earlier expansionist days of Noreela, a discovery of map extracts and legends of untold treasure lead to two close friends - Ramus Rheel, an aging explorer battling cancer, and Nomi Hyden, a younger rival - taking an expedition to the mysterious Great Divide – a massive cliff, Jurassic Park style, which has never (in recent memory) been scaled – and, despite a number of frankly worrying precursors, the expedition sets off well.
Unfortunately tensions between the two leads (and a pretty flabbergasting revelation on the part of one of the characters) mean that the expedition soon divides, with each then racing the other to the anticipated prize. However, as in the best action novels, what they discover should perhaps have been left undisturbed – the awakening of a legendary Sleeping God whose re-emergence has consequences for the whole of Noreela…
What makes this such a rollicking read is not only the plot – a fast-moving story, laced with action, a smattering of sex and a very pleasant sense of wonder – but also the way that Tim has used his obvious writing skills to produce a damn good yarn. What is further interesting is that to my mind, though DAWN was good, this is a much more consistent novel. Though the story has a broad scale, it concentrates on a relatively small cast of participants, with some nicely developed characters that as the story progresses the reader slowly begins to care about. What Tim has been able to do here is spend less time is on world-building and more on characterisation, focusing on the two explorers and their Serian expedition guides.
I’m pleased to say I read the first 100 pages in pretty much one go, and then following that fine tradition of ‘read-it-or-dump-it’ I was hooked.
If I’m looking for criticism, then some may find that in places the developed characterisation can still be a little wobbly and the situations can be a little unrealistic – would an expedition, arranged at great expense, really break up in less than two days? - I guess stranger things can happen. In contrast, the pace of the journey can be seen as a little slow for some - there is a lot of journey here - yet in the book’s defense, it is a measured pace, in that such a progression allows a sense of unease to build that Tim constructs from the beginning. This is clearly a skill from his horror background which is used to good effect here, building on that until the scary climax.
The ending is everything you thought it could horrifically be. Suffice it to say there’s not much remaining at the end. Despite the Indiana overtones mentioned earlier, this is definitely not a book for younger readers.
All in all, for the uninitiated, this is a good place perhaps to start your view of Noreela. For those who’ve visited before, in my opinion, this is the best yet. I actually think that Fallen could be a ‘best kept secret’ - one that eventually will be seen in the future as very cool to have been ‘in at’ in the beginning. It’s not only that we’ve read it, but it’s pretty good when we find ‘a goodie’ first and can tell others about it.
This, in my opinion, is one.
SFFWorld Interview with Tim HERE
Extract from Fallen HERE
Mark Yon / Hobbit, July/August 2008
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