Saturday, 26 December 2015

Fall by Sean Williams

Fall by Sean Williams (also called Hollowgirl in the US) is the final book in the YA science fiction Twinmaker trilogy. It follows on from Jump and Crash. Because of certain crucial events at the end of book two, which set up the premise for book three, this review, including the blurb, will contain some spoilers of the earlier books.

Clair’s world has been destroyed – again. The only remaining hope of survival is for her and Q to enter the Yard, a simulation as detailed – and as real – as the home they have lost. But in the Yard there are two Clair Hills. The other Clair is headstrong, impulsive, suspicious – just like Clair herself used to be, and their very existence is causing cracks.

As Clair searches for a solution, a surprising new ally emerges from the ashes. Together they fight their way through the digital and political minefield in the hope of saving Jesse, her friends and the whole of humanity.

In the rather dramatic conclusion to Crash, in which Clair and Q/Kari uploaded themselves to the Yard to escape the destruction of all d-mat processed matter on Earth. The story of Fall opens inside the Yard simulation where Clair and Kari run into Clair's friends, who were uploaded two weeks earlier near the start of book one. An earlier version of Clair is also with them. This allows a very interesting contrast between the Clair we had gotten to know and the Clair from before two books' worth of traumatic events. It's easy to side with Clair Two, whose experiences we had just spent a book reading about, but I also enjoyed the way in which Clair Two can almost always see Clair One's point of view. Clair One, however, has fewer reference points for understanding Clair Two, which becomes a source of friction between them.

I enjoyed Fall more than Crash, overall. Among other things, there were fewer piles of bodies and, if I'm remembering correctly, more exploration of philosophical problems. The only real let-down for me was the obviousness of the ending. Exactly how the characters got to the final resolution was the main story, of course, but for me as a reader, the general nature of the ending was never in question. That's not to say it was a bad ending, just an inevitable one. And I think that Williams did a good job of throwing sufficient obstacles at Clair and friends to make the journey an exciting and entertaining one.

The other thing that struck me as I neared the end of Fall was just how much more accessible this series was compared with, for example, Astropolis, Williams's adult SF series (beginning with Saturn Returns, all read pre-blog). Most of that is probably because Twinmaker is YA and not necessarily aimed at people who already know they like hard SF. Possibly making it a good gateway series. I think it's fair to say that if you enjoyed this series, you will probably enjoy other hard science fiction books (assuming the next hard SF you try reading doesn't offend you in some way, which is unfortunately not unlikely).

Ultimately, this series is a detailed exploration of the uses and dangers of teleportation (and fabrication) technology, in what is initially a post-scarcity society. And I'm pretty sure that's more or less what it set out to be. With characters and plot drama added in, of course. I enjoyed it a lot and I would recommend it to all fans of SF and YA and YA SF.

4 / 5 stars

First published: November 2015, Balzer + Bray (US) / Allen & Unwin (Aus)
Series: Twinmaker book 3 of 3
Format read: eARC
Source: Edelweiss courtesy of the US publisher
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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