Review & Author Chat: When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

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Rating: 9.5/10

Synopsis

Life in the Caspian Republic has taught Agent Nikolai South two rules. Trust No One. And work just hard enough not to make enemies.

Here, in the last sanctuary for the dying embers of the human race in a world run by artificial intelligence, if you stray from the path – your life is forfeit. But when a Party propagandist is killed – and is discovered as a “machine” – he’s given a new mission: chaperone the widow, Lily, who has arrived to claim her husband’s remains.

But when South sees that she, the first “machine” ever allowed into the country, bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, he’s thrown into a maelstrom of betrayal, murder, and conspiracy that may bring down the Republic for good.

WHEN THE SPARROW FALLS illuminates authoritarianism, complicity, and identity in the digital age, in a page turning, darkly-funny, frightening and touching story that recalls Philip K. Dick, John le Carré and Kurt Vonnegut in equal measure.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of When the Sparrow Falls for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

When the Sparrow Falls is a phenomenal debut; equal parts thrilling and emotionally-charged, Sharpson has written one of the most fascinating sci-fi dystopian stories I have read in quite a while. Think dashes of 1984 and Bladerunner.

Such an interesting concept here. Sharpson adapted When the Sparrow Falls from a play he wrote over the course of several years called ‘The Caspian Sea’. We have seen our fair share of adaptations from movies and television, but it is quite rare to see a play or screenplay.

The book is almost written in an episodic manner, playing timelines in the present and the past together to weave through the entirety of the story. Sort of similar to acts in a play, so you can tell the author leaned on his strengths.

I think what hit me most about this novel was the emotional involvement I felt with Agent Nikolai South, who is our main protagonist. He has just been getting by for these past 30 years after his wife passed and is suddenly thrown head over heels into this conspiracy that he has no real gumption for. Protecting something that has no right to be in the Caspian Republic, yet the connection he feels with Lily because of the resemblance to his wife feels so real.

There is so much going on in this novel, and just when you think you have it all figured out, Sharpson doles out these little plot twists at the very end that just leave you reeling.

I absolutely LOVED this novel and I hope it garners the readership it deserves. Definitely looking forward to more from this author.


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