This edition contains the first two books of Sniegoski’s series of four, first published in America in 2003/04. They have subsequently formed the basis of a short US television series, broadcast by ABC Family and available on DVD, and a further book is a possibility. Amongst the author’s prodigious output are some comic books and, like many of their heroes, the central character of The Fallen, Aaron, combines an everyday American life with hidden, extraordinary powers. The story’s superstructure is derived from Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, with its legions of angels driven out of Heaven into Chaos. Aaron, it transpires, is a Nephilim – ‘part heavenly host, part human: a blending of the Almighty’s most impressive creations’. We first meet him at the age of 18 as the foster-son in a largely idyllic American household, ‘tall, dark and brooding’. However, he has a mission, foretold by prophesy – ‘to eradicate the enemies of Heaven’. His greatest enemies are the Powers – the first angels created by God who falsely act as ‘God’s storm-troopers’ and regard the Nephilim as a ‘blight before the eyes of God’. It is not long before the ensuing cosmic battle destroys Aaron’s home and adoptive family.
Sniegoski draws heavily on biblical and similar Middle-Eastern sources to create powerful characters and scenes of apocalyptic dimensions. Aaron’s dual nature is emphasised – at first, he resists the responsibility that his adulthood brings, preferring the high-school life and his first girl-friend. Even after he has set out on his quest, he remains rooted in reality: in the middle of his heroic battle with the sea-beast, Leviathan, he mutters, ‘Messenger of God, my ass; I don’t have a chance in hell’. The mundane is also evident in Aaron’s relationship with his talking dog, Gabriel (who generally thinks about food), and when he introduces the archangel, Camael, to ‘French fries’. This switching between the cosmic and the comic sustains a story that constantly holds the attention, and this is not dissipated by occasional changes in point-of-view and the interpolation of film noir-like scenes in which the trench-coated Powers pick off other enemies. It is possible that some may object to the story on religious grounds, although in this volume we are still awaiting an overall outcome. Some of the violence is quite graphic; nevertheless, the book could be appreciated by readers as young as 11.