Faller by Will McIntosh
Posted November 14, 2016on:
published October 2016
where I got it: Accessed ARC via Netgalley
If people had a chance to start fresh, to start again with no history, how could things in our world be different? With no memories, you have no guilt, no regrets, and no shame. You can truly start fresh. And that would be great, right?
Although Faller follows two very intense and ultra fast paced story lines, you’ll have no problem keeping track of what’s happening in each plotline. One plotline follows brilliant scientist Peter Sandoval and his colleagues as they develop technologies, and the other follows a populace that has been afflicted with biographical amnesia. People can remember how to use a can opener, how to use a gun, what a telephone is. But no one remembers what their name is, where they live, or who they are married to. And the telephones aren’t ringing anymore because there is no electricity. Some people open wallets to find photos of assumed loved ones, yet one man’s pockets are empty except for a photo of him and a beautiful woman, a plastic army guy with a parachute, and a drawing that makes no sense.
As in all his novels, McIntosh has seeded a garden of abundant visuals, and as the story progresses, it’s as if the flowers are bursting into bloom. The man who spent the morning fidgeting with a plastic army guy and a parachute ends up building a parachute and jumping off a building. But he doesn’t land on the road, in fact he doesn’t land at all. Known as Faller, he falls right off the edge of the world. While reading, I could see a visual novel unfolding in my mind, complete with shadowed faces and moments of clarity that last pages as people take the plunge towards the consequences of their decisions.
That man falls, and falls, and falls. Until he reaches the next world. When will he find what he’s looking for? How fall will he need to fall?
It’s hard to talk about the central conceit of Faller without huge spoilers, so I’ll be as vague as possible. Let’s just say that this book isn’t about what you think it’s about, and I love how McIntosh lets the story unfold in non-chronological order. Perception is reality, and changing how people the characters changes the reader’s view of what is going on. Well done McIntosh!
On twitter a while back, someone posed a question along the lines of “what makes a great villain?”, and I responded with something along the lines of “Someone who thinks they are the good guy”. Peter Sandoval thinks he’s the good guy. He’s brilliant, but impulsive and over-confident. Due to an epidemic, Peter and his team are under intense pressure to produce results. And they’ll get results all right, but it will cost them everything. If you could end a war, if you could cure a disease, what price is too high?
That’s something I love about McIntosh books. They aren’t about what they say they are about. Sure, the story sprawls all over the place, and the stakes are high and lives are on the line. But when it comes down to it, Faller, and McIntosh’s other novels, are about intimate moments between people. The best bits of the books aren’t the chase scenes or the action sequences, it’s the quiet moments. Not a lot of authors can write those scenes the way McIntosh does.
A lot of readers will love the fast pace of this novel (and I did zip through it in a few days!), but as a whole it was too fast paced for me. I couldn’t keep up, psychologically and emotionally, with everything that was going on. I felt like I was being left behind. I guess I just prefer to take my time a little bit more. That said, I found myself fascinated by the things this novel made me think about (and isn’t that the point of story telling? To make us think? McIntosh novels always get me thinking). Our main characters impulsiveness, their single-mindedness, their disinterest in the opinions of others, their insistence that they are right no matter what anyone else says. Are these people heroes? Mad scientists? Assholes?
Read the book, and let me know what you think.
If you’ve already read this book, please, no spoilers in the comments.
I’ve read and highly enjoyed a number of McIntosh’s other novels, so if you are interested in exploring more of his work, I highly recommend his Defenders, Soft Apocalypse, and Love Minus Eighty (click to go to my reviews).