Falling Sky is a post apocalyptic thriller / zombie survival story with shades of steampunk (e.g., airships). A lot of the expected tropes are there: menacing infectious zombies, scavenging, the conflict between self preservation/subsisting vs. banding together to try to find a way out of the situation. But this is written in en engaging way with the right balance of backstory and characters.
Story: Ben Gold survived the highly infectious ‘bug’ that swept the world and turned people to cannibalistic zombies. He survives by scavenging in an ‘every man for himself’ world. But when he takes on work protecting scientists who are trying to find a cure, Ben is forced to recognize there may be more to life than simply survival. Unfortunately for Ben and the scientists, both the feral zombies and non-infected humans live by a very selfish and primal creed: man’s worst enemy will always be man himself. If the zombies don’t infect/kill him, he’ll still have to survive pirates and worse, his own conscience.
Khanna goes for several deep philosophical questions – natures of religion (Ben’s Judaism is explored heavily in several parts) and survival of the species are mused upon. It’s almost a book about finding spirtuality in order to rise above man’s baser nature and work for a better cause. But in between, there is enough action to keep the book moving and the reader interested.
The backstory is intriguing and not the typical “plague to zombie to apocalypse to survival story” set up. In Falling Sky, people have taken to the skies in order to avoid being infected by the Ferals. It makes sense – as does the premise that those who control helium plants or hydrogen stores are going to be in positions of power and danger. It’s survival of the fittest and altruistic goals such as the saving of humanity from the plague take on lesser importance to desperate survivalism.
Throughout the story we’re given little snippets of Ben’s life up to the point of the story – from why he survived alone and interesting hints as to why the world ended up in the current position. Ben’s viewpoint is grounded by his airship, the Cherub, and its ties to his family. But along the way in the book, we’re given a large cast of characters with whom Ben can interact (for better or worse) and I appreciated that those actions involved consequences to Ben and to others. There is some excellent world building here.
Those who like Zombie yarns will certainly appreciate Falling Sky. I was greatly reminded of a different zombie book, The Darwin Elevator, due to similarities of the main character and those he interacted. It translates into a good and recommendable read.
Reviewed from an ARC.