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The Fallen

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Yasira Shen used to be a famous scientist dedicated to her work. However, after the disastrous Jai generator incident that descended most of the planet into chaos, she’s now a symbol of rebellion, whether she wants it or not. But bringing people together to fight against the Gods and their Angels is difficult, especially when the world is falling apart, literally.

The Fallen is the sequel to The Outside, a book I read back in 2019 and very much enjoyed. I was impressed by the worldbuilding and the character work and I was curious to see where Hoffman was going to take the story. My feelings towards the sequel are a bit mixed, I enjoyed it but, I didn’t think The Fallen was nearly as good as the first book.

Some elements were still very good like the worldbuilding. It was what I liked the most in The Outside and I was excited to learn more about the Gods, artificial intelligences that managed to completely take over humanity. In The Fallen, Hoffman expands the history and how the Gods came to be. Without a doubt, the chapter I enjoyed the most was Tiv’s visit to the Museum of History on Old Earth. Sure, the chapter was a bit info-dumpy but, I loved it nonetheless because it gave context to the current situation and how the Gods became as powerful as they are.

I also loved learning more about the Angels, humans turned (voluntarily or not…) into Gods’ weapons. In The Fallen, we get several Angels POVs and my favorite was by far Enga, a woman who was turned as an angel against her will. She’s very angry and she definitely has reasons to be. The parts we followed from her perspectives were my favorites and honestly, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if it was told entirely from her perspective.

If I enjoyed the worldbuilding in the sequel, I have to say that the character relationships and how angsty everyone was really tampered my enjoyment of the book. The Outside introduces the world and the conflict but, The Fallen is much more focused on the character relationships and it is centered on Yasira and Tiv’s romance. And while I enjoyed both characters on their own, I struggle to care about how unsure and angsty they were about their relationship. I usually struggle with miscommunication tropes and, it was irritating to read about and felt very YA. If the characters in this novel just talked to each other like adults, most of the relationship conflicts could have been avoided…

If I usually like character-driven story, The Fallen fell a bit flat compared to the tight plot of the first book. I’m still intrigued about the world and I have a lot of questions that need answers, so I will probably read the next book (I expect the conclusion of the trilogy to be more plot-heavy) but, I hope it won’t focus as much on character relationship drama.

Still, I would recommend this series if you are looking for a science fiction series about AIs turned evil gods, hyper-modified humans and neuroatypical characters. The Fallen is not a new favorite book but I still had a good time reading it.

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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2022 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="">

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Earlier this year I read The Outside, a sleeper of a novel that I just simply adore. It explored neurodivergence with care, and thematically centered it against a backdrop of conformity. I eagerly awaited the sequel and I was not disappointed. The Fallen, by Ada Hoffmann, is a solid, if shorter, sequel that continues the path of its predecessor with great character development and excellent examination of its themes.

Following the events of The Outside, the characters are in a bit of a slump. Without too many spoilers, Yasira was able to redirect the energies of the Outside on the planet Jai and create a haven for those affected by its heresies. While not entirely chaotic, it does not meet the Gods’ standards for organized living, and the planet has been sanctioned off. Yasira, along with her partner Tiv, have organized a small resistance group offering aid to the many communities cut off by the Gods and their angels. However, the task of redirecting the heretical energy has taken a toll on Yasira and Tiv is trying to keep the group together as resources and hope dwindle. Meanwhile, Akavi is lurking in the background, doing whatever they can to disrupt everyone’s plans in service of their own. What does revolution and resistance look like when you’re beset on all sides with no chance of military parity? And can it withstand questions from within?

Hoffmann roped me in with The Outside and The Fallen is no different. Hoffmann takes her time with this story, exploring the physical and psychological effects of standing against hegemonic powers. It’s a shorter book, so the slow-down feels evenly paced, giving the characters room to breathe, without feeling overwhelmed by their feelings and different ways of processing the events. Hoffmann’s focus on varying neurodivergence amongst the characters was refreshing, giving different perspectives on how to live in a changing world. There were explorations of anger, sadness, triumph and despair, and Hoffmann weaves them together nicely, having them conflict with each other within the small group of people just trying to do right. There is also a tight focused plot that guides the reader through the character exploration that feels just right.

Yasira takes a slight backseat, giving Tiv an excellent opportunity to shine here. Tiv was a small role in the first book, and she’s heavily featured as a leader in The Fallen. She’s resourceful, diligent and strong headed. She is separate from the group in that she didn’t gain some of the spectacular powers the others did, and it makes her feel she has to work harder to be worthwhile. She runs communications between different villages on the planet and makes the decisions for the group, pulling more than her own weight. She has a complex relationship with her God, since before everything she truly devoted her life to their work. Hoffmann handles the inner turmoil well, giving Tiv space to explore her own biases and reorient herself as she wants, instead of in service to Yasira.

Beyond the great character work, I love Hoffmann’s depiction of a community under siege and spread out from each other. The main characters’ attempts to keep these wildly different villages supplied and informed, while the members of those towns try to determine their own way forward is engaging. There are conflicts of interest and timing issues. Some are militant while others prefer a more peaceful form of resistance. It felt very informed by the events consistently in the news from the last year and while sad, it also felt empowering. I’m a sucker for stories like this, and I am excited to see more.

The Fallen is a great follow up to a sleeper novel. There is more variety within the characters, and solid exploration of resistance through coalition. The world is built out just a little more, but you won’t get too much beyond what already exists. The length is just right for the story told, opening up for a larger conflict later. I’m impressed by Hoffmann’s writing and will be diligently awaiting more.

Rating: The Fallen 8.5/10

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I enjoyed THE FALLEN! It’s well written, has a great premise, amazing world-building, and a touch of magic, although the pacing is on the slower side. The first half of the book explains life on Jai after the plague, and moves key players into position. There are a lot of characters, so the POV skips around, as does the timeline. So the story is always moving, but you’re moving in a few different directions, not always forward.

Normally, I’m not a fan of non-linear storytelling, because it pops me out of the story too often. But Outside forces distort reality, many things are a lie, including time! So a jumbled POV and timeline actually actually works well in this story.

Great neurodivergent representation, and a lot of the themes and events resonated with me on account of the past year’s protests and the present political climate.

I received a free e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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After The Outside became one of my favourite novels of 2020, I was beyond excited for the follow up novel in the series, The Fallen. While The Outside focused on one central, chronological (insomuch as you can be chronological in a world where the phrase ‘Time is a lie’ comes up multiple times) conflict, The Fallen’s focus is more diffuse, following several different plot threads as a result of the climax of the first novel. This more widespread focus diluted the powerful potency I loved in The Outside, but many of the elements I loved remained and were expanded on further.

One of the things I loved about The Outside was a focus on neurodivergence and mental health, and I’m pleased to report The Fallen goes even harder in the paint regarding those subjects. I loved the on page and unflinching depictions of mental illness as well as the more realistic nods to what happens to people after they experience severe trauma; the universe continues to be queernormative with even more queer side characters introduced. The technological angels and gods continue to be a huge favourite, as cool as they are ominous and forbidding. And of course, the nature of Outside and the powers associated with it are wonderfully described; the groundwork is laid for several interesting implications of those powers in this novel.

Characters were both a strong point and detriment for The Fallen. On one hand, we get several POVs of existing characters that expand upon their growth and arcs; on the other hand, some of the new introductions involved more telling as opposed to showing than I would have liked. Tiv makes a return and I feel most conflicted about her motivations—though I’d hoped to get more of a sense of her character, she still felt reduced to what she could do for other people as opposed to who she was for herself. Yasira, on the other hand, grows exponentially, and I find her character work fascinating and compelling in The Fallen.

This book suffered a bit from the dreaded second book slump. A great deal of setup for what promises to be a smash hit, home run of a third book happened at the expense of focus and pacing in this one. Still, Hoffmann’s prose and style are both descriptive and readable, and there are some sections within that definitely show her awesome poetry skills. (Did you know they wrote a whole book of poems about dinosaurs that is freaking fantastic? Well, now you do.)

Despite a few stumbles in execution, The Fallen continues a fantastic, stand-out, and criminally underrated science fiction series in my humble opinion. After an intense set-up of an ending, I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series and will continue to shout about this one from the rooftops.

Thank you to Angry Robot and NetGalley for an advance reading copy. All opinions are my own.

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6/10 stars

My full review can be found on my blog (link attached).

I wanted to read something by Ada Hoffman for a while, as her books have been praised as both a good representation of neurodivergence and as solidly written stories. So when I saw this at NG I jumped at the opportunity, especially because the blurb was promising some cool hard SF, AI elevated to godhood, and a brewing human revolution on a distant planet. Not once had it mentioned that it’s a sequel ;). My bad, I guess, I should have checked the specs on other websites – though to be fair, I think this is one of the sequels where I’m better off not having read the first installment; the sequel explains all the previous events in detail.

If I were to describe this book in a few words, I’d go with Neurodivergent Superheroes: Angst and Rebellion.


The Fallen turned out to be more along the lines of YA fantasy than SF, and to be perfectly honest, had I known it beforehand, I wouldn’t have requested the book. I have no patience for the YA angst and emotional upheavals, and this type of scenario has been worked to death by many, many authors already – often with better results.

And yet, I don’t regret reading it; no, I’m actually glad I had the opportunity – after all, it’s not my usual fare and it’s good to venture out into the unknown from time to time ;). Moreover, I think that the neurodivergence representation is really very well done here, and the topic becomes increasingly more valid as we seem to have created a social and technological environment that is less and less forgiving to ourselves. I believe we all would do well to consider the boundaries of “normal” in our society, and how the “normal” is shaped by our culture, artifacts, beliefs and social expectations. The fact that Hoffmann introduces as protagonists a bunch of characters who are variously autistic, have split personality disorder, speech apraxia, fight with depression and anger issues, and even a light case of a Stockholm syndrome, is truly laudable. They are all broken, damaged by various traumas, and deeply imperfect, and yet they are still striving to do the right thing, even at a cost to themselves. We don’t seem to get many such characters in the mainstream books, so hats off for this.

The relationships between our protagonists are complex and believable, though the characterization itself is somewhat lacking: I couldn’t really grasp the personality of any of them, beyond their unique neurodivergent traits, and they seemed to me more like representations of certain ideas than real-life people – but maybe this element had been more detailed in the first book. What was harder to swallow, however, was the amount of angst. Man, that angst. Everybody is unsure of themselves and their relationship, they all have their insecurities and fears and little sadnesses and grudges, and their description takes pages and pages of text, leaving very little space for any kind of action. The various relationships seem to have taken nearly all the author’s mental space for writing the book – and ultimately, this relegates the rebellion plot to the last 50 pages or so, making it almost an afterthought. The whole thing is over so quickly and nearly bloodlessly that it lacks any realism, turning instead into a necessary setup for the next installment.

So, points for representation and inclusiveness, but definitely not for plot, pacing, or even worldbuilding. This is also very much a middle book, resolving minor issues only to create more, and bigger, problems. And yet, despite this all, I quite liked it. It’s such a well-meaning book, devoted to bring us, the readers, a gentle reminder that people can be very, very different, but they still remain thoroughly, unequivocally human.


I have received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

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The Fallen es la continuación de The Outside, la sorprendente novela de Ada Hoffman que mezclaba horrores lovecraftianos del espacio exterior con personajes neuroatípicos. En esta ocasión, Hoffman deja un poco de lado la space opera para centrar la narración en un solo planeta, que se vio transformado en gran parte por los sucesos acontecidos en la entrega anterior.

The Fallen es una novela de personajes y de sus relaciones. Lo que más me maravilla es el amplio espectro de condiciones neuroatípicas que aparecen durante la lectura, algunas consecuencia de lo que pasa en The Outside pero otras preexistentes. Me parece especialmente encomiable cómo la autora hace hincapié en la adaptación al entorno de estos personajes con características tan particulares y cómo la red de interconexiones creada entre ellos ayuda a cada uno a encontrar su lugar.

La forma escogida para narrar la historia, con relación a los acontecimientos en un pasado reciente y en un pasado remoto me parece también muy acertada, porque así podemos conocer más a fondo a los antagonistas, sus motivaciones y su desarrollo. Lo que quizá era uno de los puntos débiles de The Outside se vuelve uno de los pilares de The Fallen y eso no debe haber sido para nada fácil.

Dentro de mi desconocimiento, me ha dado que pensar el hecho de relacionar los trastornos de personalidad múltiple como precursor de las mentes colmena, algo que tendrá un impacto importante en el desarrollo de la historia.

Una cosa que me resulta difícil de creer es que los dioses permitan una suerte de resistencia pasiva que puede ser el germen que derive en una auténtica revolución, como si les interesara mucho la opinión pública del resto de sectores, mientras que por otro lado sabemos sin lugar a duda que son seres crueles, veleidosos y que conceden una importancia casi nula a los intereses humanos.

The Fallen no es una lectura especialmente fácil, aunque es bastante más asequible que The Outside precisamente porque el mayor esfuerzo de presentación del mundo ya se hizo en la primera novela. No sería justo clasificar este libro como una novela de transición, pero es verdad que deja muchos cabos sueltos destinados (espero) a ser atados en la siguiente entrega.

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The Outside is an excellent novel and this one is even better.
It's a riveting, enthralling and sometimes heartbreaking story.
The author delivers a great novel and the mix of horror and speculative fiction works wonderfully.
Great world building and character development, excellent storytelling.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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The Fallen is the sequel to The Outside and deals with the fallout of the events in the first book. It combines cosmic horror, sci-fi, and fantasy into one compelling storyline.

It focuses more on the characters compared to the first book. We dive into the different perspectives of Yasira's girlfriend, Tiv; previously imprisoned people by Akavi; and different angels. The plot was fast-paced with a solid world-building, although, in The Fallen, there's no new addition to the world which for me, is a shortcoming of the book.

I really appreciate the representation of gender inclusion and physical and mental disabilities such as (but not limited to) autism, depression, and physical augmentations. I find that the representation is pictured better. Also, the relationship depiction, the good and the bad, is also well-done.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Fallen and highly recommend it for fans of hard sci-fi.

Big thanks to Angry Robot Books and Netgalley for the DRC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

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I really enjoyed The Outside by Ada Hoffmann and was excited to find out what happened next. I'd give this book 2.5 stars.

The Outside was a very tight book. It focused on Yasira, a young woman caught up in events of universal importance, and Akavi, an angel interested in preserving the status quo. This book branches out to quite a few more viewpoints. We get into the heads of more angels, more of the geniuses previously imprisoned by Akavi, Yasira's girlfriend Tiv, and some of the people living in the portion of the planet of Jai that has had the fabric of its reality altered. Honestly, this was probably the issue I had with the book. It was not as tightly focused and it lost some intensity because of that. I also never really felt who Tiv was as a person any more in this book than in the previous book, when she was filtered through Yasira's perceptions. It felt like more of a book that was exploring ideas and concepts than a book about people and characters, and with that change of balance came a loss of interest for me.

This is also very much a middle book. There is quite a bit unresolved at the end of it. I'm not sure if I will continue or not.

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With thanks to NetGalley for the eARC.

I don’t quite know what to make of The Fallen. It is VERY good on neurodiversity and gender/sex is handled fluidly. Good and bad relationships are shown without romance. The world building is solid and tight for a second book (I haven’t read the first but was able to follow perfectly). AI, cyborgs, people modified to have superhuman abilities… at its heart though this is the story of what happens after the initial act of rebellion. When the people looked to as heroes are already pretty broken by events and can only do so much. The climax isn’t where you might think - it’s in the act of making the decision - which sums up how The Fallen is different. I wanted to know more about the world and understood the characters very well, even Enga with all her rage, and Yasira… but I just didn’t connect with the book which is why I’ve rounded down slightly to a 3. If you want a les standard story of a growing rebellion in a sci-fi setting that isn’t militaristic, this is a good bet.

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I absolutely raced through this book! Perhaps it helped that I listed to the audiobook of The Outside right before so I slid into the Fallen like a new coat with a silky lining. Except the coat has turned my brain inside out. Wait... No, that's The Fallen. The Fallen has turned my brain inside out.

Again I congratulate the disability inclusion. I really appreciated the on-page representation of physical and mental disabilities. Autism, apraxia, depression, physical augmentations, and more. Getting to see the differences in neurodiversity explored in science fiction was a treat.

I also enjoyed the multiple POVs. Getting Enga and Elu's perspectives made the book for me. And Tiv! I would read more books with her as Leader. Such a supportive partner, self-deprecating, yeah I'd follow her. The multiple POVs made for an exciting, fast-paced read.

On last mention (and high-five to the author) for going even further with gender inclusion, from the genderfluid shape-shifting Vaurians (**though I still maintain that just because someone is androgynous to presume they would use They pronouns isn't necessarily the inclusion we hope it would be--unless to do so is specific to Vaurians), to nonbinary and trans. Anyway, queerness is all over The Fallen. We approve.

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Ada Hoffmann returns to the world of The Outside in this fantastic sequel. I enjoyed it more than the first book, actually. The character writing is better this time around, particularly with the angels who were complex and captivating. The genre is a combination of sci-fi and "cosmic horror" with some fantasy thrown in. It's a rather complex world-building, but extremely enjoyable. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Outside, of course, but also to fans of cosmic horror and sci-fi in general, and especially for neurodivergent readers.

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~but why do you want weapons
~magic portal-doors are very convenient
~Strike Team gets shit done

This review contains spoilers for book one in the series, The Outside!

When I read The Outside for the first time, I believed it was a standalone – it had an ending that wrapped up the main story, but left enough room that the reader could be satisfied that Life Would Go On once the final page was turned. I adored it and was perfectly happy with that ending.

But it wasn’t a standalone, we got more story, and it is freaking awesome!

Which is maybe a weird thing to say, because The Fallen is a much grimmer book than The Outside was. The Outside was about fighting a clear enemy, more or less (although it ended up being far more complicated than that, because Hoffman is brilliant and doesn’t talk down to her readers), whereas The Fallen is…the aftermath.

And the aftermath isn’t very pretty.

Yasira saved a lot of lives at the end of the previous book by mitigating the worst effects of the Chaos Zone – a fifth of the planet Jai, which Talirr, Yasira’s once-mentor, infected with the forces of the Outside. But in doing so, she made herself an enemy of the AI Gods who rule human space – and broke herself on a fundamental level. What at first looks like severe trauma and depression is soon revealed to be something much more arcane and harder to heal – maybe impossible to fix.

Yasira’s current psychological state is at complete odds with her reputation. The people of the Chaos Zone now call her Saviour, and although she hasn’t appeared in public since her miracle, there’s more than a little hero worship going on. But it’s Tiv – Yasira’s girlfriend – who’s been nicknamed Leader; not of any kind of resistance group, exactly, but of the small team of Talirr’s ex-students who use their various Outside abilities to help the people of the Chaos Zone as much as they can. Tiv herself doesn’t have any powers – at least, not any Outside ones; I’d argue that her empathy, compassion, and hopepunk-style optimism definitely count as superpowers. Especially since she’s co-ordinating a number of nuerodiverse and traumatised people, which is like herding cats on a good day.

We didn’t get to see a lot of Tiv in the previous book – although what we saw, I liked – and it was really wonderful that she got to be front-and-centre in The Fallen. In The Outside, we heard Yasira repeatedly refer to Tiv as a ‘good girl’, but I don’t think Yasira really comprehended how accurate that is; Yasira meant that Tiv was a rule-follower, both in the social, cultural sense and in the religious sense, but Tiv actually is a ridiculously good person. If I hadn’t encountered one or two people like her before in my life, I’m not sure I’d have bought into the character, she’s that wonderful. She’s not impossibly perfect, it’s not that she can accomplish everything she sets her mind to and easily overcome everything the world is throwing at her: it’s just that she is unspeakably, unstintingly kind, even when she’s under an incredible amount of pressure. She’s always considerate, never forgets what those around her might find triggering, is gentle even when things are difficult. When she’s tired or frustrated or scared, she mostly manages to keep it to herself. She’s always looking to lighten the load of others. It’s just kind of amazing to read.

And I think it was an excellent narrative choice to feature Tiv, because she is someone who really did believe that the Gods were good. She is still, despite everything, anti-violence. When the people her team are helping start asking for weapons, she refuses. She’s not the kind of character I’m used to seeing in situations like these, and in some way I can’t define, that made it all more real to me. In many ways, Tiv is the ideal person, and so seeing how she navigated the riptides they’re in… It’s just different to see a character with such strong principles and with so much compassion not just in a leadership role, but also facing an immense enemy and an impossible situation. The Gods want them all destroyed, the angels are shooting and kidnapping people…and Tiv grits her teeth and refuses to despair. Refuses to be grimly practical and turn passive resistance into a war.

It’s just…kind of awesome?

Of course, there are many people who disagree with her, and it’s not hard to understand why some people are asking for weapons, why others are demanding that they fight back. It’s really easy to sympathise with them! But I had a bit of a galaxy-brain moment when Tiv decided the team’s response to requests for weaponry would be ‘Why?’

“What do you want them for?”

…”Defense, of course. Weren’t you listening?”

…”No, I mean, what are your objectives. I’m going to be honest with you, Mr. Akiujal, people have been asking us for weapons more and more and we’re starting to want to know why. I know that you fear for your safety, but that’s not enough reason by itself. What are you planning to defend – a location? A group of people? A team while they do a specific task?”

It’s probably a bad sign that it sounds so revolutionary for someone to just ask why do you want weapons? We all just kind of understand that in scary situations, we want guns. I’ve never seen someone question that, but once I read it, I realised that most of the time – at least in fiction – we’re not presented with an objective. Usually there is no specific, carefully-thought-out reason why. People want weapons because weapons make them feel safe, not because they necessarily know how to use them or what to do with them.

That…feels like a very big thing. It feels like something we should all be thinking a lot about, now.

In the case of the Chaos Zone, weapons aren’t really going to be much help: the angels guarding the borders can’t be properly hurt by human weapons, and the Outside monsters – well, they’re not indestructible, but good luck guessing what will hurt them. And the monsters aren’t the real issue, anyway. Not really.

It’s the other monsters, the ones that call themselves Gods and angels, that are the real problem. And I really did love learning more about them in this book – even if what I learned just grew more and more horrifying. When I reviewed The Outside, I said that I didn’t think humanity was living in a dystopia; I’m not 100% sure I still believe that, now I know more about how they operate. Granted, most of what we see is focussed on Nemesis, who has been presented as The Scary God from page one – but I’m going to need some evidence that the other Gods don’t work the same way before I give them a pass.

Is it a dystopia if the awfulness is happening out of sight of most civilians? What does it mean, that most of us can be perfectly happy to keep living our lives while terrible things go on? While we know they go on? That’s not just a question for the humans in Hoffman’s stories; that’s a question for all of us.

The Outside began with a single enemy, and a mission to stop her (Talirr). It grew more complicated than that, but that’s where we were when the book started. The Fallen isn’t that simple at any point. The enemy now isn’t a single human woman; it’s the Gods themselves, and they are just too big and too powerful to fight. It’s hopeless, and it makes for some grim reading.

But The Fallen is very much about hope: the bitter, grit-your-teeth kind of hopepunk. The Chaos Zone isn’t a utopia in the sense that life is anything like easy there – it isn’t. But there’s something very utopian about the way the people there have come together. Over and over again, it’s emphasised how the Chaos Zone has pulled together; how people share what they have and contribute as much as they can contribute. How, even if they grumble and mutter about it, they pull in and help each other; to repair roofs, to treat injuries, to have enough to eat. It’s heartwarming, and no, I don’t think it’s unbelievable. Historically, this is very much how people in disaster zones behave; humans don’t revert to club-carrying cavemen when things go bad, no matter what the general media tries to say. You can check out Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman for more about that, if you like.

To get back to my point: The Fallen is a story about how to fight when you can’t fight. It’s a story about different kinds of resistance. It’s a story about losing faith and finding it again in something else – in each other, instead of in computer gods. The situation the characters are in, in The Fallen, seems hopeless, but Hoffman’s story is about holding on to hope anyway. About working together to make things a little bit easier, a little bit better, for everyone. And even, I think, about how there’s no such thing as a broken person. There’s just different kinds of people, who can do and contribute different things, and that’s okay.

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Hoffmann is an excellent writer. I think I liked this more than The Outside, which was good. Both books are written in sophisticated ways (plot, characters, etc). I don't think this is an easy read, but that is not a criticism. Serious sci-fi fans will probably like this most.

I really appreciate receiving the review copy!!

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The Fallen is the sequel to 2019's "The Outside" (my review here), one of the most fascinating books in 2019 (and that's saying something). It was a novel that featured a lot of fascinating concepts, marrying seemingly lovecraftian monsters from another dimension to space opera, featuring AI gods that consume human souls and rule over humanity with an iron fist, and more. But what it really centered itself upon were two autistic characters, the protagonist and seeming-antagonist, both of whom are tremendously uncomfortable interacting with other people, but whom have very different perspectives on the world (in part due to the traumas they've suffered) - with protagonist Yasira still feeling guilt and empathy, even if she has a hard time expressing it directly to others, and antagonist Dr. Talirr seemingly not feeling any, giving human lives no sense of value as she fights to expose the lies of reality. The book featured a few other characters with some issues of their own, who were definitely interesting too, and ended in a really satisfying fashion, so I was fascinated to see where it would take the sequel.

And The Fallen remains - and I'm sorry for overusing this word - a fascinating portrait at a set of characters who are not neurotypical, with the major characters focused upon expanding significantly to a larger set of characters who all have their own unique issues dealing with the world and other people....and are forced to confront those problems by a world on the verge of destruction from lovecraftian madness run amuk and the sheer ruthlessness of the AI gods trying to stomp it out. We no longer focus upon Yasira, although she's one of our major protagonists still, and the result is really really interesting. That said, while the book has a big climactic moment, it ends sort of on a clear transitional moment that doesn't really feel satisfying, as if the story is incomplete, which is a problem you see often in second books of trilogies. So this isn't quite as complete and great as The Outside, but it's still a tremendous continuation, and I greatly look forward to the conclusion to see what Hoffmann will do with what she's setup here.

Minor Spoilers for The Outside will be discussed below, nothing that would ruin enjoyment of that book, but be forewarned.

--------------------------------------------------Plot Summary--------------------------------------------------------
It's been six months since Yasira Shien, now known as "Savior", tapped into the powers of The Outside in an effort to minimize the harm unleashed by her former mentors, Dr. Evianna Talirr (the "Destroyer") on the planet Jai...and to prevent the AI Gods like Nemesis from destroying the planet and everyone on it. In doing so, Yasira gave the people in the "Chaos Zone" a smidgen of control over their new physically impossible world, and prevented the Gods and their Angels from taking direct action....for now. But Yasira's action broke her mind into pieces, leaving her of limited use, while the seven other former disciples of Dr. Talirr, each taking code names of their own, can only use their limited control of Outside energies to help those inside the Chaos Zone a limited amount.

And then there's Productivity "Tiv" Hunt, Yasira's love, who has (even without Outside gifts) taken the role of "Leader" for the Seven, helping manage each of their insecurities and disabilities as she tries to help the people of the Chaos Zone. Tiv once believed devoutly in the gods, only to have that faith broken when she saw what they did to Yasira...but without any powers of her own, she wonders how she can actually help other people, to say nothing of Yasira herself. And with the people of the Chaos Zone struggling to survive thanks to the Angels blockading any assistance, and desperate for weapons, can Tiv, Yasira, and the others really do anything to save them?

But Tiv, Yasira, and the Seven are not the only people interested in the Chaos Zone. Yasira's former tormentor, the now disgraced fallen angel Akavi, is also in the area, seeking a way to get close to Yasira for his revenge. His companion and fellow fallen angel Elu remains in love with Akavi, but begins to realize that such love may only be making him more lonely, as he observes what is happening to people struggling in the Chaos one. And of course, the Destroyer is also still out and about, observing what is happening, and trying to figure out where, if anywhere, she went wrong.

And then there's the influence of the Outside itself, flowing throughout the Chaos Zone for seemingly no comprehensible purpose, with the power to change everything at any moment.....
The above is a far far longer plot summary than the blurb on websites and on many other review sites, which seem to focus on Tiv's plotline, as it is largely the central one. But Tiv's storyline is only a small part of this book, which very much feels like the 2nd act in a larger story, to the point where, it kind of doesn't stand alone like the first book does at all. Which is a little disappointing, and yet despite that, the book is highly satisfying, because of all these characters and plotlines, and what the book does with them.

And what it does is use them to explore the different ways people cope with mental stresses, illnesses, and abuse in difficult situations, and examine how those conditions affect how those people react. In the last book that was mainly isolated to Tiv and Dr. Talirr, as the two autistic characters who reacted very differently, Tiv with empathy even for those she couldn't bear to interact with comfortably, Dr. Talirr with no concern for such others due to how she was abused other than in making some see the same "truths" she has, no matter the cost. Here this is expanded elsewhere - to the rest of the Seven, those people who were also tortured physically and psychologically (in one case by making one betray the others) by the angel Akavi and thus have their own mental issues pulling together and staying functional with and without each other - and to other characters, whether that be the two angels Akavi once picked up as tools - Elu and Enga - or the humans trying to survive in the Chaos Zone where nothing seems to make sense or work how it should or even Tiv herself. For Tiv claims to be and might be the most mentally together of all of them, and yet even she has suffered tremendous trauma from having the faith at the core of her world shattered and being put into a leadership position she doesn't think she's capable of, to say nothing of having to care for the broken girl she loves. Tiv's plot is really well done and she's an excellent new protagonist....but again it's everyone else that really makes this special in addition to her.

So you have Elu struggling with his loneliness and his realization that his love of Akavi, who only sees him as a tool, isn't getting him anywhere, and who sees others being able to talk and share with each other....and who thus starts to realize there might be another path. You have Enga, the angel who has been betrayed time and time again, constantly used, and who just wants the chance to vent his rage. You have Yasira, whose mind is shattered into seemingly split personalities who can rarely agree, who is unsure of what she can and could do with her power, and is afraid to tell any of it to Tiv. You have the people of the Chaos Zone, who are adapting in their own various ways, whether that be active resistance, secretly using their own powers, or just trying to help each other survive despite the angel suppression. And you even have, in journal entries, Dr. Talirr herself, who seems to reconsidering perhaps what she's done when she realizes her acts have caused an entire planet to suffer torture at the hands of the gods/angels in the same way she once suffered, and wondering (even without empathy) if that was an acceptable outcome.

It's all really fascinating as an examination of a large cast of characters with mental illnesses and stresses in incredibly tough situations trying to figure out what to do, and this space opera setting, even if near-completely limited to a single planet this time around. The only weak parts of the book are the continued plot focus on the Angel Akavi, who is just a sociopathic self interested asshole (his main character traits are wanting vengeance and being skilled at seeing a use for others, but without actually having any empathy, which makes it just too easy to root against him) and the ending, which like i hinted above just sort of ends after the climax in a way that isn't satisfying and doesn't conclude everything. It does make me desperately want the concluding novel in this trilogy however, so I can't complain too much, the Fallen is well worth your time, even if it'll make you at the end want the next novel immediately rather than fill you with a satisfying feeling.

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This is one of those rare cases where the sequel is even better than the first book. I liked the Outside, but I really liked the Fallen.

I loved the character work in The Fallen. I struggled with the characters introduced in the first book because they felt somewhat flat and distant. However, this second volume provided a much more intimate perspective on the characters. I particularly loved the f/f relationship between the two main characters. Equally, I loved reading from the perspectives of the angels who managed to be incredibly cool and sinister at the same time.

I also appreciate the neurodiverse ownvoices representation in this series. I felt like the representation was more clearly depicted in this second novel, with some fantastic quotes I wanted to highlight.

This story blends together science fiction, fantasy and cosmic horror into a dense narrative. Honestly, this book series is not the place to start for beginners. Instead this book is targeted at seasoned SFF readers who will most appreciate the complexities of this work.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend this cosmic scifi series to readers looking for a complex, yet rewarding narrative. This is currently listed as a duology, but there is certainly room to continue this into a longer series.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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I read the first book [book:The Outside|40947778] as part of the Goodreads <a href="">Sci/Fi group selection</a> for Oct 2019 and a general Lovecraftian horror connection. Fallen is the second of the series and picks up right where the first book ends with the same cast of characters ... and is really just a continuation of the original story. As much as I was completely fascinated by the world building in the first book, this book doesn't add anything new ... You have AI Gods that pretty much usurp the roles of traditional deities (complete with a brutal machiavellian oversight of humanity through cruel cyborg "Angels" that highlights standard tropes and criticisms of religion in general. Then you have the reluctant rebels just trying to survive after the chaos of the "Outside" collides with the planet on which they reside. I found all of this pretty interesting ... in the first book ... and we do get a little more information on some of this, but not much. The first half of this book doesn't appear to go anywhere and it took me nearly a week to push through it ... it picks up for the second half though and I cranked through that in just a few days. Still ... I am not exactly sure what if anything was actually resolved plot wise and that is a serious shortcoming for this sequel (so it loses a star).

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#TheFallen #NetGalley

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The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I was excited to pick up the sequel to The Outside. It was neurodivergent Space Opera with a major touch of quantum physics speculation, godling AIs and Others, massive amounts of head games, and rebellion.

The sequel ramps up the rebellion, or at least the survival aspects of it, increases the head-space of neurodivergent characters, and gives us a world that has been very much changed by people's minds. And I don't mean that in a pithy kind of way. I mean literally.

Good SF breaks a lot of boundaries and better SF runs with the consequences. This sequel is all about the consequences. And while I did sometimes get annoyed that the mental consequences often got in the way of good plot or actual developments, it made up for it with a wealth of side characters that were quite fascinating in their own right.

Of course, by the end of this novel, I'm all... WTH I have to have the next! So there's that, too.

Fun stuff, absolutely need more.

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Wow. I was impressed with The Outside, the book this follows, and I admit that I felt a little trepidation that this could not possibly live up to the best book I'd read in a decade.

I was wrong.

In The Fallen, a small group of rebels works to aid the survivors of a bizarre change that has overcome one fifth of the planet Jai, often in opposition to the angels, representatives and soldiers of the powerful A.I. Gods who run the galaxy with an iron fist. The Fallen is fundamentally different from The Outside in that it expands its cast and focus. Instead of focusing as closely on the brilliant autistic physicist Yasira and the manipulative cyborg "angel" Akavi, Hoffman adds several point of view characters, most notably Yasira's girlfriend and fellow resistance member Tiv and Akavi's assistant Elu. This is necessary to an extent. Yasira spends a fair amount of time trying to cope with the trauma she endured in The Outside and is not aware of everything her friends are doing. However, it also deeply enriches the book by giving far more depth to Elu and Tiv than was given previously.

I continue to be impressed at the way Ada Hoffmann handles difficult subject matter deftly, empathetically, and truthfully. She deals with subjects that are frequently used for shock value, that are tokenized, or that are glossed over in a way that feels both pitch perfect and effortless. As an autistic woman myself, her portrayal of Yasira Shien feels true in my very bones. I have rarely if ever felt so seen in a specific character. Hoffmann also portrays trauma and its effects with nuance and depth in a way I've very rarely seen. It is common in fiction, especially epic fiction, for a hero to go through horrible events and come out unscathed, barely different. Hoffmann's characters are deeply changed and deeply damaged by their traumas in ways that feel very real. For example, in The Fallen, a character develops something very like Dissociative Identity Disorder. The sensitivity and realism of Hoffmann's portrayal of a condition that is so frequently misunderstood and demonized(oh no! he has an evil murderous alternate personality!) literally took my breath away.

Even with all of the darkness in this book – a totalitarian regime of AI Gods, a population struggling to survive, a ragtag resistance made up mostly of people with relatively severe mental illness, characters struggling to deal with extreme trauma – there is also so much light. The resistance, despite and in some ways because of their mental illness, do their best to help. They are courageous and heroic, in ways that are amplified by their difficulties rather than diminished, and without being disability inspiration porn. They feel like living, breathing people. Many of the relationships, especially Yasira and Tiv's, are difficult but emotionally healthy due to the good faith effort, willingness to forgive, and committment to communication shown by those involved. (In direct contrast is Akavi's unequal and unhealthy relationship with Elu, which shows Akavi to be toxic on a more intimate and immediately relatable scale than his history of murder, torture, and manipulation alone shows the reader). The Gone people, despite their fundamental difference from regular humans, also take center stage. Disability and difference are at the core of this book, presented in a strengths –forward way.

This is a book I will recommend to everyone I know, just as I do and have The Outside. It is a book I especially feel is important for neurodivergent readers. It is a book that has already taken up permanent residence in my heart. I feel so blessed and lucky to have gotten to read it early, and I am deeply honored to provide this review.

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