REVIEW: The Fall Is All There Is by C.M. Caplan

C.M. Caplan’s frenetic grimdark novel, The Fall Is All There Is, blends fantasy and science fiction in a brutal post-apocalyptic world dripping with familial drama.

The Fall Is All There IsThe first-person protagonist, Petre, is the youngest among quadruplets, born just minutes following his older siblings, Anoïse, Edgar, and Desmon. The death of their ruling father sets off a battle of succession that takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level.

Petre is a junkie of sorts, taking frequent Intramuscular Memory Injections and walking a thin line between maintaining basic human functioning and experiencing a terrifying overdose:

“…without Intramuscular Memory Injections I wasn’t even able to achieve basic competency in anything involving fighting, riding, sword work, sneaking, or court etiquette.”

Petre is impulsive to a fault and doesn’t hesitate to take extreme measures. He is also neurodivergent and struggles to understand people’s emotions and the subtext of conversations:

“I winced. I’d never been as good at navigating this world of double meanings as my siblings. They’d all found ways to adapt to it, and while I could manage it with the people I didn’t like much, I hated being so indirect with people I cared about.”

Although it’s difficult being trapped in Petre’s mind for the duration of The Fall Is All There Is, C.M. Caplan’s vibrant writing perfectly captures the mental anarchy of his protagonist. Caplan also shines in writing fight scenes, and The Fall Is All There Is also features plenty of grimdark action.

The Fall Is All There Is feels like Prince of Thorns on acid. Both C.M. Caplan’s SPFBO9 finalist and Mark Lawrence’s debut novel are told from the tunnel vision of an exceedingly violent, emotionally damaged protagonist with major family issues. Both novels skillfully combine fantasy and science fiction in the aftermath of apocalypse. However, in C.M. Caplan’s case, the world is technically post-post-apocalyptic, having suffered a First Annihilation caused by magic and a Second Annihilation caused by technology:

“After the First Annihilation, the survivors built strange tech on top of the arcane landscapes left behind. Until they got so good at it that they, too, blasted themselves back to the stone age, in the Second Annihilation. The tech they’d left behind died with all knowledge of how to use it.”

Although the chaos of The Fall Is All There Is felt a bit too much to handle at times, overall this is a highly worthwhile read and definitely recommended for grimdark fans.

I originally reviewed this book as part of the Before We Go Blog team for SPFBO9.

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.