Edition 5: Book Review: Earthfall: The Battle Starts Here by Mark Walden
Reviewed by Damien Smith
Earthfall: The Battle Starts Here is the first book in the new Earthfall series by Mark Walden, author of the excellent young adult H.I.V.E. series.
The story opens with minimal information as an as yet unnamed protagonist attempts to steal a living amongst the ruins of a post-alien invasion Earth. Whether this invasion is localised or global is a mystery, as is the existence of any other free survivors. We are rapidly introduced to ‘drones’—the alien creatures/crafts who patrol the city looking for any survivors—and ‘walkers’—native earthlings who have fallen under the spell of a mysterious alien signal and are now no more than zombie-like workers for the invaders.
After some close calls, including one where our protagonist is ‘stung’ by one of the alien drones and saved by the timely intervention of apparent soldier Rachel, he is finally introduced as Sam Riley. Sam and Rachel flee the closing hordes of aliens and after some narrow calls make it back to Rachel’s HQ where we are introduced to the rest of the survivors, all bar two of whom are teenagers like Sam and Rachel.
The exceptions are one Dr Stirling, who leads the group and creates ‘missions’ against the invaders and appears to know a disturbing amount about the aliens, and Jackson, a possible former royal marine who trains all the teens to be battle-ready.
What follows is a series of escalating conflicts and missions as the survivors attempt to disrupt the alien building works and supplies whilst attempting to ascertain how their signal controls the majority of the human population; how, if it is possible, to break this influence and why Sam isn’t yet dead from his sting.
As a sci-fi novel this is a little simplistic with a few convenient ‘last-moment’ escapes and a reasonably predictable plot which ends on a quite stereotypical ‘Hollywood’ moment that should ramp up nicely in the next book. As a young adult sci-fi novel this is a non-stop, action-packed fight for survival with triumph, tragedy and shocking discoveries that will have you on the edge of whatever you choose to sit on.
I liked that the story was high-paced and it would make an excellent movie. Since nearly all the characters were young with a variety of personalities it would be quite easy for any younger readers to relate to at least one of them. The alien horde is suitably menacing and overwhelming without being invincible and I enjoyed the revelations as they unfolded as well as the filling in of the back story as it became more relevant.
As stated earlier the story is quite simplistic and follows a tried and tested formula. I wasn’t convinced by the rapid transformation of Sam from chubby teen into grizzled veteran, but stranger things have happened under pressure. A few of the more convenient coincidences and lack of details can probably be forgiven as the book is designed to be read at breakneck speed. Once I started I had a great deal of difficulty stopping and managed to finish it the same day.
There isn’t a great deal of ground broken (except when they infiltrate one of the aliens’ huge constructions but I won’t spoil that) so if you’re looking for something startling and new you may not find it here, however that doesn’t take away from an otherwise solid Independence Day-style young adult invasion tale.
Earthfall: The Battle Begins Here by Mark Walden
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2012
Being a writer requires dedication, commitment, devotion, diligence, a skin like an armadillo and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. By this definition, Damien is most definitely not a writer, although he does occasionally put pen to paper. More accurately, Damien is a lover of the written word in nearly all its forms (you can keep vampire romances) and always feels a little down if he can see over his To Read pile.