3 out of 4 stars
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Trekker Jiles is the only one left who saw the world end. He calls it World War III and tells us that it took less than two weeks for the world to die. He doesn’t know who shot the first missile. No one knew, even then. Scientists said that the nuclear winter would only last for about ten years, but this is the year 66 A.E. (After the Extinction), and there’s no end in sight. My name is Loreto, and I was born seventeen years ago. As is the custom in Toleran (formerly known as Emery Deep Mine), I got my assignment today. I’m going to be a Topsider! Even as bad as Jiles says it is, I can’t wait to see the “world above” on the surface. I want to be the best scavenger ever. If I’m incredibly lucky, maybe I’ll spot signs of life, possibly even other survivors!
Being a Topsider is not for everyone. The open spaces can be terrifying when you’re used to the protection of miles of solid rock. Then there’s the Ash Walkers - those who stayed above. They’re not entirely human anymore. They adapted to the Extinction differently than we did – their lives are violent, and only the strongest survive. The weak are killed or allowed to die. Afterward, they become food. And if the Ash-Walkers catch us outside? So do we.
In Earth has Fallen: Return from Darkness, by Peter Servidio, we meet Loreto as he receives his assignment as a Topsider and accompany him on his first excursion topside. He faces a devastated landscape. The Earth exists in constant twilight, covered by dust and ever-falling ash. (Time-skip to approximately two years later.) Loreto has become a seasoned veteran with more than one hundred trips topside under his belt. He found a few signs of life along the way, fresh scat (animal poop) or sometimes a contaminated animal carcass. But he never encountered any humans other than those in Toleran…until now.
With as many books as I have read over the years, it is rare for me to find a true can’t-put-down read. I was up until 4 a.m. when I blearily realized that I had read the book straight through in one sitting. The lost sleep was well worth it. Peter Servidio has a distinctive writing style that uses the history of war and real-world nuclear capabilities to create a frighteningly credible tale of ‘what-might-be.’ Add to that a taste of H.P. Lovecraft, a dash of Stephen King, and a (small) bit of Tolkien and you have a novel comprised of consummate world-building and detail.
I came to know and care about each of those who would become Loreto’s companions as well as a select few of the other characters. Some I liked more than others and rooted for from the beginning, others I found merely tolerable. But there was one I found truly horrifying – Michael, the antagonist. I mean that literally…horrifying…not distasteful or anything weaker. The author crafted this man so adroitly that he showed darkness as only the human soul can render it. If you don’t or can’t appreciate the dark side of humanity, you might want to steer clear of this book.
The author’s writing is incisive and thought-provoking. But even better (in my opinion) was the sheer immersion I felt while reading. The danger was real, my heart was racing, and I could almost feel the Ash-Walker’s hot breath on the back of my neck. Loreto and his companions were stunningly engaging and relatable. I traveled with them and sat with them as our campfire fought the freezing cold of winter. I laughed with them and fought alongside them. And I felt both their victories and defeats as if they were my own. This immersion was what I loved best about the book. I never wanted it to end. But end it did, and in one of my least favorite ways – on a major cliffhanger. I must admit, as much as I hate it, it worked this time. I will be eagerly looking for the next book in the series. I must see where this goes.
I wish I could give Earth has Fallen a resounding four stars. However, reluctantly and with great regret, I can only award it 3 out of 4 stars due to the many errors I found. There are only a few non-borderline curse words in the book and no erotic scenes whatsoever. However, there are a few gory scenes. I would recommend this book to any sci-fi enthusiast with a taste for post-apocalyptic novels with a bit of darkness within them.
Moderator's Note: The author has has this book edited since the publication of this review.
Earth has Fallen
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