Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Richard Farnsworth
Published by Reliquary Press
It’s difficult for a writer to catch a reviewer’s interest. Seriously, we get so many books a month that for one to stand out, it really has to make an impact. When Richard Farnsworth’s Succumbing to Gravity came across my desk, my knee-jerk reaction was one of trepidation. For one thing, it’s the author’s first published novel. For another, most books with a religious bent to them either come off as too preachy or are often interchangeable with about a thousand other such books so that they all run together. Five pages in, I was hooked.
Succumbing to Gravity is the story of Greg (not his real name), an angel who, along with many of his brethren, was sent to Earth to help and guide man. And, also like many of his brethren, he fell under the influence of sin. The price they paid was dear in that they had their wings cut off and were branded with a damning mark. They still have all the knowledge and abilities of what they once were, but while many of them were consigned to Hell, less fortunate ones, like Greg, have to walk among the “clay children” (us) and try to cope. Greg’s answer was to become a raging heroin junkie.
On the other side of the barrier, fallen angels (read: demons) are trying to break back through to earth and reclaim what they believe is rightfully theirs. In order to do that, they need an old soul to act as a key. It falls to Greg to protect a Dominican immigrant as the forces of Hell try to rip her soul from her body.
What struck me first about this novel was the emotional content portrayed by Greg and the other supporting cast members. Every character has an element of tragedy, but the level at which they are played isn’t a bludgeoning to the readers’ sensibilities. Rather, those elements are directed to enhance the characters and draw the reader closer to them. Even the “demons” have an element of tragedy because, in the end, all they want is to go home.
Another thing that worked very well was Farnsworth’s writing style. In a single paragraph, he moves from phrases of rich description of beauty to some truly brutal violence and death. And the ease with which he does it makes the segments flow into one another seamlessly, keeping the reader fully engrossed in the story. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but one of the running themes here is that of choice and free will. Farnsworth shows every agonizing decision and drags the reader along for the ride.
In summary, Succumbing to Gravity is an emotional meat grinder, a tightly written novel that grabs the reader by the gut and refuses to let go until the last page. To say I was impressed would be a gross understatement, and I sincerely look forward to Farnsworth’s next offering.
4 1/2 out of 5
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