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Friday, February 25, 2011

"Succumbing To Gravity" by Richard Farnsworth (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Blog
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Read an excerpt HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Richard Farnsworth is a scientist and soldier who decided to give in to his passion for the written word. He received his doctorate from Baylor College of medicine in cell and molecular biology. He has also served his country in the Iraq war as an Apache AH-64 gunship pilot. He lives with his family in Norfolk, Virginia. He also has various previous short story publications. This is his debut.

BOOK BLURB: Greg used to be an angel, but that was an eternity ago… Back when he was Araqiel, part of the celestial chorus… Back before he gave in to his temptations…. Before his fall!

Now he roams the wet streets of a hopeless city, feeding his heroin addiction and punishing himself for sins that cannot be forgiven. But when a desperate girl approaches him for help and a host of vengeful demons cross his path, Greg must choose between redemption and damnation. For him, the two may not be so different!

FORMAT/INFO: The e-ARC of “Succumbing to Gravity” stands at 216 pages divided over forty-five numbered, continuous chapters. The chapter narration is primarily in first person by Greg and secondarily in third person via two characters namely Maria Furcal and Detective Frank Graves.

Succumbing to Gravity” is a solo dark urban fantasy thriller with philosophical overtones. July 14, 2010 marked the Trade paperback publication of the book by Reliquary Press.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I received a query about this book and these specific words “Heroin addicted angel” which were used in the plot description, got me interested. The story is set in both first and third person POV-format however the flow is pretty much evened out. The story begins with Greg who’s reminiscing about his days as an angel before his fall. His name was Araqiel then however he and a score of angels fell and since have been reminiscing about their glory days in various ways. Greg finds solace in heroin which gives him a peace of sorts and allows him to transcend his physical form and reminisce what it felt like to fly free.

Currently he’s shacked up with a runaway names Sarah who helps him stay sane (as much as that is possible) and also helps get odd jobs as a fortune teller. On a routine job like that he comes across a Dominican woman called Maria Furcal, who seems to be having nightmares about a man who’s hunting her however she doesn’t recognize him except for the fact that his intentions seem particularly threatening. Greg notices a peculiarity about her but does not care to decipher it, He however does warn her to place salt around her bed when she sleeps to avoid these nightmares. Unsatisfied with Greg’s assessment Maria does pay his charges and leaves. Sarah however notices that Greg might be withholding some information and when he reveals that she is in more mortal danger than he told her. Sarah immediately leaves Greg and goes in search of Maria.

Greg later on regrets his decision and decided to go after Sarah & Maria. His actions however do not bear fruit the way he wants them to. A deplorable event occurs which causes him to meet with
detectives Frank Graves & Dominique Etcher. Things go from worse to perilous for Greg as he experiences Frank's bad cop side due to his actions and non-compliant attitude. Later on when Maria arrives to identify Greg, trouble arrives with reinforcements and then from here on the tale kicks up as Greg must do his best to protect Maria who’s soul is coveted by his brethren for reasons undisclosed & also at the same time he has to watch his back from Frank Graves who thinks Greg’s existence as an anathema to humanity. The tale then zooms along to its emphatic climax as Greg has to make a choice and therefore make a stand with or against his fallen herald. This story was a very different read because the subject matter while being explored in a variety of ways previously by different authors; is presented in a succinct, emotional way to hook the reader and get them involved.

The prose is competent and often showcases the characters brilliantly in all their flaws. The characters are the main draw in this story as Greg/Araqiel is the central thread which binds this tale we get to see him in all of his previous glory and current squalor. His uneasiness at the current situation is portrayed eloquently throughout the book and showcases that redemption can begin at any step for every one no matter how great the previous fall. The other two characters of Maria and Frank serve as a counterfoil to Greg as we often see him through their eyes as well and can see the confusion and disgust inspired by his actions. Maria’s character however feels a bit under-developed as she often acts as the damsel in distress and rarely shows any initiative especially when she’s supposed to the tale’s epicenter. Frank on the other hand is showcased as a cynical cop however we are given some viewpoints into his actions which are revealing and make his actions believable.

The drawback to this book was that while the author has given us a very emotional story, the pacing is bit languid. This does hamper the read from time to time. The apparent central issue of the tale when revealed does not seem so gargantuan & in the end, there’s a reveal about one of the characters which seemed very off as the reasoning just didn’t make sense to me (this was a personal observation and might not be the case for other readers). There were also a few editing errors which can be concerning for some readers however do not ultimately detract anything from the reading experience.

CONCLUSION: In the end while this book was a good read, it didn’t really measure up to its evocative blurb. Therefore while I think Richard Farnsworth is very much talented and am interested to see what he writes in the future; for me Succumbing to Gravity remains a good book which could have been better.

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