Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review: Earthfall by Mark Walden

If you are caught, you will not return.

If you escape, they will hunt you down.

The past is dead. 

You are the future. 

If life on Earth is to survive 

You must not be captured. 

Get ready to run. 

Everything depends on you. 

Prepare for 


It is no secret that Mark Walden's H.I.V.E. books rank amongst my favourite series of the last few years, so I was intrigued when I first heard that he was writing a new series. In that previous series Walden proved that he has a talent for writing fast paced, exciting action stories with a sci-fi twist, and now Earthfall shows that he is no one-trick pony. Science fiction has a much greater emphasis in this story, but the all the other elements that we have come to love in the H.I.V.E. books are also all present and correct: young heroes who have to overcome insurmountable odds if they are to survive; heart pounding action/chase scenes; high tech gadgetry; and a plot that draws the reader in and then races along so that before you know it you have read the book in a single sitting.

Alien invasion of earth stories have made many appearances recently on both the small and the big  screen (Battle for Los Angeles, Battleship, Skyline, Falling Skies, the V reboot), and of course they have been popular themes for video games for some years. Sadly, until relatively recently this popularity has not extended to modern books for kids, Keith Mansfield's brilliant Johnny Mackintosh stories being the exception, and we have been crying out for more well-written sci-fi for young people. POD by Steven Wallenfels managed to beat Walden's Earthfall as far as release dates were concerned, but much as I enjoyed POD, I found Earthfall to be a vastly more enjoyable read.

The story starts with an as yet unnamed boy, fleeing through the streets from the things he refers to as drones. We soon discover that he has spent the past eighteen months hiding out beneath the London streets, thinking he is the only free person  in London, and surviving off anything he can scavenge. As the story proceeds we find out that eighteen months earlier everyone in London, and potentially the whole world, were turned into mind-controlled automatons as huge objects, miles in diameter, appear above the skies of the world's major cities.

After a year and a half of living in solitude, Sam is saved from the alien machines by Rachel, a machine gun toting teen, and he soon discovers that he is no longer alone - a small group of teens, led by a scientist and an ex member of the special forces, have been working together to find a way of defeating the alien menace. With Sam now on board, the fight for freedom ratchets up another level and what follows is an edge-of-your-seat race to find a way to destroy the aliens before the group are tracked down and destroyed.

Aliens invading earth stories have been around for decades, and so readers will be forgiven for thinking that elements of the story have been seen before. However, Mark Walden puts enough of his own spin on the story to make it seem fresh. Naturally, being a Mark Walden book, there is also a lot more to the story than just a small group of humans fighting for freedom, and there are enough twists in the story to keep readers guessing about the final outcome.

Mark Walden is gong to be a busy guy for the next few years if he is to keep his fans, both old and new, happy. This is the first in a new series (I do not know how many books are planned yet), and of course we are still owed at least one (and hopefully more) H.I.V.E. book, given that Aftershock ended on such a huge cliffhanger. My thanks go to the good people at Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of Earthfall to review.

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