DNF at 50% or at around 450 pages or so.
I’m not stopping because I dislike this mammoth post-apocalyptic/dystopia m/m novel, but I am stopping because I think it’s too dark for me. Supposedly it’s to be a trilogy, and I decided that if things in this first half were too dark (and very unpredictable), and since usually the process for these things, like trilogies, is to get much-much worse, rather than better and more fluffier, than I should hop off now, so I did. (After flipping to the end to confirm that yes, the ending is a cliffhanger.)
What we have here: Fallocaust is vol. 1 and over 800 pages, and it very much feels like a winding, episodic serial online fiction. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing--I loved the 600+ page beast Close Protection and am digging that author’s more recent novel-in-progress Control.)
But I definitely feel the unwieldy length of this, and some heartless editing would probably have been a good thing to tighten things up along this dark, grim journey. (As well as another copy-edit.)
We follow our two MCs--sociopathic Reaver, who protects his “block”/village with his adopted fathers and the rest of their ragtag, surviving community, and young, book-loving, innocent Killian, a newer resident who catches Reaver’s attention, even though Reaver doesn’t understand yet why he can’t get Killian out of his mind.
It’s 200+ years after some terrible events that radiated a good portion of the world, and things are not pleasant. An accepted part of survival is cannibalism, and it’s no big deal to eat those in your community who have passed away. (It’s actually a waste, unless their “meat” is diseased.) There is also factory-produced “meat”, in various forms, although this is rationalized that it came from convicts (people who went against the system) or “rats”, subhuman creatures that are also farmed, bred, and slaughtered in Reaver’s community, and also the ambiguous cans of “Good Boy” which could be...honestly anything human, possibly some poor schmoes that got caught by the army and illegally sold to the factories.
We actually see into one of these factories for a gruesome rescue section, and let me tell you, eating foie gras after this seems much less appealing after seeing the process for foie gras humans. (A delicacy!)
There is some dark things in here. Including torture/mutilation, rape, and brutal attacks by demented animals. Most of these dark things happen to side-characters, or else I would have been out of there faster. But there are definitely some sections I DO NOT want to ponder.
Like another indie book, The Foxhole Court, Fallocaust also boasts an erratic unpredictability that makes it both very addicting (what will happen next????) and also scarier/stressful since seriously, anything bad can really happen. When one character says, “Don’t go past that door without me,” and you’re all “uh-oh, what’s in THERE?” in your head, and then you later find out what’s behind the door...
I am also confused about race. I like that the story doesn’t spell things out—the narrative follows the POVs of both Reaver and Killian, and a lot of what they see is accepted and understood (to them). I started thinking of it as “casual cannibalism” and “everyday atrocity”, the way everyone was so blasé about their canned meat or eating people, or about the process of feeding the live “rats” to their terrible dogs they were breeding, or how Reaver was fine if his buddy would rape a captive, but he himself would lose his shit if someone tries anything against Killian.
The “rats” confused me. I think they are a subhuman or mutated human species created from the fallout of the terrible events. At one point, it is described that they are full grown at three years, which makes me think they’re separate from humans.
But they’re also described as black, which could be their skin from the mutation. They also sound like they’re human-ish in other ways, from the brief descriptions of them.
My confusion was compounded because the humans surviving are called “arians”, which could be based on the Arianism, but also made me ponder aryanism (e.g. European whites.) The MCs are white, and race isn't really spelled out otherwise.
So, part of me was pondering if rats were human, but not-white, and thus seen by society as “not as human” as the arians, or if the rats were actually mutations and “subhumans” and thus seen as akin to cattle even though they are not that different from humans.
I don’t think we were supposed to be comfortable with how blasé people are about slaughtering/canning the rats, but it did make me wonder what was going on, and was the society being even more racist as it was eating itself? I don’t know. I found it very confusing as I pondered how race fit into this really terrible world.
Technology survives! My old Gameboy did not last a decade, so I had a really hard time believing Nintendo game systems would last 200 years. I started to let these head-scratchers go, but it did bother me the amount of tech that survived, although there aren’t companies existing that make them since the disaster.
For Dystopia Fans: For those who like grim, dark-dark dystopian stories, especially with m/m (and there is a sweet love story in there, even if one of the MCs is a sociopath--he just really cares about one person), I think this long-ass story will be like candy. It is VERY readable, and lots of CRAZY things happen, so you’re easily pulled along to find out how our hero/antihero duo will survive and be together.
I think I’m just too much of a delicate flower for this one, especially if things get worse. I’d rather not ponder what’s behind that door at night, or face the gruesome reality once you see it. Props for creating a visceral experience! But I’m off to go find something fluffier. Maybe a reread of The Road will cheer me up.