Reviewed date: 2004 Jul 25
Earthfall is a post-apocalypic tale. Offworld survivors of the nuclear war have returned to Earth to search for the fabled SD-Alpha documents that reveal the secrets of the universe. The offworlders' presence disturbs the local Stone Age mutant humans, and everything turns into a neverending orgy of violence.
The story focuses on several characters: 1) Chia Swann, a private contractor space pilot, 2) Allin Yaelu, the commander of the Earth expedition, and 3) O'Rourke, a native Earthman from up North. Earthfall can hardly be classified as science fiction, because despite the post-Apocalyptic setting, much of the plot is contingent upon the the clairvoyance and supernatural healing powers of Stares-at-Nothing, a mutant Earth boy.
The plot moves along quickly, and while the science is minimal, the action is intense. The plot is woefully thin (I saw each of the major plot points coming a dozen pages in advance) and the characters' motivations are often confusing. Actually that is understandable--many of the main characters are certifiably insane. At first I thought the author was beating the reader over the head about how the rich abundance of Earth's natural resources makes people go crazy and commit atrocities, but then I realized his point is much simpler: people are just naturally depraved.
Earthfall portrays religion in a rational way. Christianity has survived the nuclear armageddon and religion is alive and well among the primitive people of Earth. Some of the priests abuse their power and use religion as a tool to oppress the people; some priests have genuine faith and care for the people.
There is nothing compelling about this book. There are episodes of brilliant writing and storytelling, and there are other episodes of clumsiness and altogether poor writing. I admit that I am partial to post-apocalyptic stories, but this one just wasn't all that good. Earthfall barely rates a three out of five.
I found one other review of Earthfall online, by computer guru Eric S. Raymond: [ Raymond's Review ]