The Aliens have landed, and young Sam Riley is thrown onto his own resources to resist enslavement or death. He goes from being a boy teased at school about his weight to a lean and resourceful survivor, living in the sewers and scavenging among the ruins of London for food and medical supplies. Before long, he joins a gang of young guerillas who, like him, seem able to resist the mind-control which the Aliens have used to turn most of the population into zombified labour.
This book, the first of a series, begins with 40 pages of action as Sam dodges through rear-exits and hides in alleys, avoiding the floating ‘mechanised jelly-fish’ with deadly tentacles used by the Aliens to hunt their enemies. We then return to the domestic life he was enjoying 18 months earlier, only for him to see on TV the arrival of a monstrous space-ship over London and to witness his family-members turn into mindless shells. We share some of the disturbing dreams that he experiences before he trains as a guerrilla and rapidly becomes a seasoned resistance-fighter, swapping laconic Americanised dialogue with his youthful comrades (both male and female). In a more reflective vein, he finds it quaint that ‘people had once been scared of other human beings’ rather than ‘something that humanity would be completely defenceless against’. The disintegration of human society is effectively conveyed: Sam smiles at a sign warning that shop-lifters will be prosecuted as he helps himself to necessary supplies from a deserted shop and, later, when the group launches a guerrilla-attack through the abandoned Houses of Parliament, muses that the formerly ‘powerful’ are now, like most others, reduced to mindless slaves. Eventually, we find out why these young people have retained their reason, and the mysterious underlying connections – leaving Sam to feel ‘like a tiny, insignificant part of a conspiracy that was almost too big to comprehend’.
Earthfall is an ingenious combination of several established concepts – an extra-terrestrial invasion, survival in a disintegrated society, dehumanised workers, military comradeship, hair’s-breadth action, a suave villain, mad science and a conspiracy spanning the millennia. The aliens themselves, ‘neither wholly organic nor mechanical, but instead something in between’, provide the basis for an intriguing conceptualisation which becomes fully developed towards the end of this volume. Like the best generic work, the book weaves these strands together to produce an original and enthralling tale which will interest readers of 10+.