Book Review: Falling Sky

Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna

Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.

Ben has his own airship, a family heirloom, and has signed up to help a group of scientists looking for a cure. But that's not as easy as it sounds, especially with a power-hungry air city looking to raid any nearby settlements. To make matters worse, his airship, the only home he's ever known, is stolen. Ben must try to survive on the ground while trying to get his ship back.

This brings him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. When events turn deadly, Ben must decide what really matters--whether to risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future or to truly remain on his own.3

Pyr is one of those publishers that have an exciting line up books that they publish, though the amount cannot be compared by the big houses, the quality is high. When I heard about Falling Sky, I was definitely thinking that this would be much more of a steampunk kind of story, mainly because of the references towards airships and Gastown, but instead, after the first few pages, I found that there was a clear focus on a dystopian science fiction setting. There are many books in the current fantasy genre that focus on apocalyptics plagues hitting a planet etc, but I am going to be very honest. The story that Rajan Khanna tells in Falling Sky hasn't been told before, it's very cool and will definitely get your heart racing. 

The story of Falling Sky picks up with an immediate sense of danger, Rajan Khanna does a great job is showing just how dire and ruined the whole world has become. In the midst of it all you meet up with the protagonist of the story, Ben Gold, who is currently helping scientists to develop a cure for a plague known as "the Bug", a viral plague that completely decimated the globe years ago. The Bug turned every human being into monsters, called Ferals, these human that caught the virus reverted back to their basic living urges. Eating. And preferably other humans. Since the plague was highly virulent and spread easily through fluids, the survivors only had one option left and that was to take living to the skies. Living in the air is the only place where it cannot get to you. Living his life by his own set of rules have kept Ben safe for a long time, but unforeseen events start to throw Ben's plans into slight disarray. The family heirloom, the airship The Cherub, is what keeps Ben mobile and in the air safe from the Bug. But when Ben thinks he is doing the right thing, he looses it all, his safety in the skies and his precious Cherub, now stranded on the ground, the tables are turned on Ben and he will have to do everything to try to stay alive. I can make a comment here that the hunter has become the hunted, but the general tone is to stay away as far as possible from this nasty Feral's. One thing that Ben just cant let happen is to have his legacy seen taken away from him, Ben is more than determined to right this wrong put upon him by the raiders, he want back what is his. No matter the cost. While he is at it, Ben starts to uncover a much bigger plot in the making, one that involves utilizing the Bug for other purposes. 

I have read my fair share of post-apocalyptic zombie books, for me this is a setting that has so many different interpretations. What Rajan Khanna does and what I mentioned briefly up top is that he has created a very unique story in Falling Sky, one that I haven't had read before. The whole setting that Rajan Khanna bring to the forefront is richly detailed from the world itself down to the different characters that you follow. 

This directly brings me to the world of Falling Sky. From above you can make out the setting of the story a futuristic, post-apocalytic viral outbreak. So you can undoubtedly guess that the world isn't all rainbows and sunshine. From the first page of the book you are confronted by a very dark and grim setting and that every currently living human does everything not to get infected. Normally you have these kind of scenarios take place on the ground only, people living in shelters or underground etc. But what Rajan Khanna does is take his idea to higher levels, literally, the whole society in his book has taken to the skies in order to survive creating giant floating cities for safety. When I first read about this I had to think of the movie Waterworld, where you have the settlements on water. I really liked this idea and the way that Rajan Khanna went about and describe these events and surroundings was just spot on, it's very creepy and trust me you don't want to be alone on the ground level... 

As for the characters, the focus is on Ben Gold. Now I found his character to be one of the best representations of how a human will possibly act in a destroyed world. He is selfish, picking himself before others in many a different situation. Come on, wouldn't you do everything to survive? This personality trait of Ben will cause you to either love or hate him, but for me it is more the human nature aspect that made me enjoy reading about him. Ben is very serious about almost everything and in his character you will not find that many joking moments to lighten the mood, this again only futher bolsters the image that Rajan Khanna wants to bring over. A dark and inhospitable place to live. But back to Ben's character. He is very well developed and shown in the best possible light on how, more realistically, a human in a destroyed world should react. I do have to confess that sometimes I would have liked to smack him in the head and say "stop being such a jerk (and that is the nice version)" but on the other hand. I can't fault him. Next to Ben you have one of the scientists that he helps, Miranda. Miranda is quite the opposite when compared to Ben. She would risk her own life to find that cure to the Bug. This is perhaps more the standard way a scientist acts in these kind of stories but when you pair both Ben and Miranda together you get a great and tense dynamic between them. (One side note, romance doesn't really feature here). Where you can clearly see that it puts strain on both their patience. This was a very nice interplay.

Falling Sky is a safe and sound debut, it's an highly enjoyable debut. From the beginning of the book Rajan Khanna knows just how to put the tone of the book in a dark and grim surrounding. The world  on the ground IS destroyed and you don't want to be there at any given moment. I am in full praise of firstly the world building that was carried out, Rajan Khanna has created a very unique setting in Falling Sky, a pathogen that rips through humanity might not be that original but what he does add in the mix by taking to the skies, is. Building his story surrounding a society that lives in the skies to survive and only takes technology from the ground to survive is very cool. Every time when the scenes feature on the ground level I was pushed to the edge of my seat, the action that takes place between Ben and the Feral is rapid paced and even though Ben is an ass you don't want to see him get infected. Rajan Khanna has gotten all the right elements for a solid debut and only further makes him an author to watch out for. I read his short story in the Dead Man's Hand anthology earlier this year Second Hand and fell is love. There isn't a confirmed sequel yet but in the interview on the blog you can read that he has plenty more ideas for stories. Can't wait to read them. 


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