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on 2 September 2014
This had me hooked as I love to read how writers explore the subject of our society, an indeed the world as a whole, being shaken and torn apart by a catastrophic event. Be that zombies, aliens, natural phenomena, it's fascinating to read fresh new ideas on this genre.

Earthfall is pretty damn good. I was hooked start to finish. The plot moved at a decent pace, the characters were engaging, though it would have been better for some of the background characters to be more fleshed out as I found myself wondering which of them I should care about.

The arc of Sam is well paced and the implications of the invasion lead to a much wider story, unexplored as yet by myself, so I can only comment on this book, though I know there are others in the series.

I did have some issues, and though it's clear this story is aimed at teenagers who might not grumble at such details, I can't help but find them annoying.

Sam talking to himself was weird. I guess we all talk to ourselves from time to time, but this felt forced somehow, as if the author thought he needed to put snippets of dialogue in to break up the narrative for fear of boring them with long chunks of description. It wasn't necessary as the narrative sped along nicely without them.

Maybe there's a need for clichéd characters because without them certain stories wouldn't work. This said it seems that here those standard types are slotted neatly into place - the young hero, the scientist guy with secrets he only shares when the plot needs him to, the troop of supporting characters with the banter and grim determination against all odds, and so on.

Not saying this is a bad thing as it worked well here, but it felt a little too easy, like everything unfolded as it should without too much effort from the author to make things difficult. Again, this is likely due to the story being aimed at a younger audience, so it's not exactly bad, just not brilliant.

Earth Fall popped up on recommended reading on Amazon due to having read Charlie Higson's The Enemy series. It's probably not entirely fair to compare the two stories, but since they do indeed share similarities (not to mention they have a character called Sam) I was compelled to compare them, from a plot and character standpoint, not writing style.

Side note on style - readers have their favourite authors, Stephen King = exploring or looking at something from a different and unique perspective, just as they have favourite movie directors, Michael Bay = big bangs, JJ Abrams = lens flare. I couldn't find a single quirk or style here by Mark Walden that stood out as different or special. Sure it read well and moved along nicely, but there wasn't much pop or wow factor.

Higson gives his characters an aim and then puts one obstacle after another in their way to hinder them as much as possible. That in itself is believable because characters (as in real life) don't just get what they want. Having said that, too many hurdles can become unrealistic and annoying so there must be a decent balance.

There don't seem to be many barriers in Earthfall. Yes, it's a bad situation, and yes, there's the obvious giant hurdle to get over, but like I said, it's a bit too easy for the good guys to get what they want. I felt somewhat cheated out of any small victory along the way as it felt the struggle to get there wasn't as tough as it could have been.

I like big plots, massive ideas that are drip fed to the reader until they begin to realise the scope of the story is much bigger than they realised. But I'm also a big fan of character driven stories. For me that's the adventure, the journey of the character through the changes. So when plot gears force a character to do things it feels awkward and formulaic.

The instance of Sam being rescued felt inevitable (though I guess it would have been a different story if he hadn't)because of the lead up to it. It bothered me that he was shown how to use guns, something the rest of the characters had been doing for 18 months, and way too quick Sam became an expert and was an important and crucial part of the team.

I wonder if teenagers would accept that more than adult readers because of how they're socially conditioned these days to accept and demand how fast things happen, both in real life and fiction.

Thinking about it, Sam seems to be the only one who progresses through an arc, starting in one place and ending up in another, at least in terms of personal growth. Though I find it weird that he takes everything his stride as if he's playing a disposable video game of his own life.

And there's the issue of conflict. Sure, there's conflict (to a limited degree) between Voidborn invaders and the surviving teenagers. Sadly there's not much more conflict to be had, and that is a shame as conflict is what drives a story. Everyone seems to get along with each other.

One huge thing that bothered me, and I can't not say this, was how the Voidborn control humans, turning them into mindless slaves (though not zombies which was made very clear in a roundabout way) who were then stored in large areas like warehouses etc. That isn't so bad since it makes sense for an invading force like the Voidborn to gather its workforce up, stock up on food and water and keep them together ready for working on whatever that thing in London they were supposed to be building.

Weird how that's not made clear to the reader.

So, that bit's fine. What I didn't like was the clear rip-off of Stephen King's Cell, where the good guys head to Wembley stadium and find all the mindless humans laying on their backs. Whilst it does make sense, when storing human slaves/drones, to keep them somewhere, that scene felt plagiarised to a degree. Sure, all stories are copies of other stores and writing fiction is the method of regurgitating or retelling the same plot in a different way.

But that was just wrong. It could have been done in many different ways. It simply felt copied, without much hard work on the part of the author to try something new. Now, this isn't coming from a Stephen King fan boy at all, and I'm happy to say where old Kingy went wrong in some of his painfully bad books, but it's pointing out that borrowing an idea without putting your own slant on it feels like cheating.

There were parts of the story that felt rushed and left unexplored, Sam's sudden need to track down his family but then forgotten for 18 months, for example. And also the scientist guy (sorry, can't remember his name) picked the perfect moment to give the reader a vast chunk of exposition just so Sam and the reader can be brought up to date in one quick hit.

It felt forced and unnecessary, like when the bad guy in movies tells the hero everything because it's assumed they're going to die, only for the hero to escape with all that convenient knowledge.

However, all those irritating bits and pieces aside, I did indeed enjoy Earthfall. I continued to turn the pages because I wanted to know what happens next. I cared about Sam way more than the other characters. I like the fact that the Voidborn used to be something else. I am intrigued to learn where they came from and how they contacted humans, and how the struggle will continue to play out.

Earthfall isn't a brilliant "must read" book like some reviewers may call it. It's a decent, entertaining, and above all easy, read. And despite my irks I am looking forward to reading the next one.
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on 1 March 2014
The day that Alien ships appeared over London was the day that Sams life changed forever. When Sam sees the news with the pictures of the ship over London he thinks its a trick, that is until he turns to his mother to ask her and sees that she isnt responding. Its like she is a zombie. When his mother and sister walk out of the house Sam follows. He cant believe his eyes when he sees the things near the ship. Why is he the only one not in a trance? What has happened to humanity?

Six months on and Sam still isn't closer to any answers. Every day is a struggle to find food and water without getting caught. He is totally alone, or so he thinks! When he meets another survivor he hopes to get the answers he needs.

This was a refreshing surprise. Its aimed at a younger reader but any age will enjoy it. The author has a way of drawing you in to the story. It starts straight with Sam trying to survive and dodge the aliens. He struggles for food and water but what really hits is his loneliness. Six months with no sign of any other person not affected by the aliens and you see him wondering if he is the only one still functioning. He is a strong character but you still feel sorry for him.

EarthFall was at times hard to see where it was going and at times I was a little bored. The story itself was awesome and very descriptive but a little boring at the start. It picked up when Sam met up with the other survivors though. He really came into his own then.

Overall it was a solid story. The concept is believable if a little odd at times. The action when it took off really made the story so much better. The characters were all strong and capable and I liked each of them. I will say that what bothered me at times was how one minute Sam has never fired a gun and the next he is hitting everything. The author didn't really give us a sense of how he trained. Even though the author did have a very descriptive manner, he did skim over certain things!

In the end I'm glad I read this. I enjoyed it and will read book 2 to see what happens. I purchased a paperback for my boys because I know its something they will love and Id highly recommend for kids.
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on 6 August 2013
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.)
Teenager Sam has been surviving alone for 18 months, since alien's invaded and everybody turned into mindless zombies.
One day though Sam is approached by a couple of other kids, who also seem to have survived, and then take him to the place where they live - with a group of other kids underground, led by a scientist called Dr Stirling.
How is it that these kids haven't been zapped by the aliens? How did they find Sam? And how can they fight back?

This book was a bit unbelievable, and I didn't like the ending.

Sam was an okay character, although I thought that him talking to himself was the least of his worries having not seen another non-zombie human being in 18 months. I thought that he had done well to keep his spirits up for so long, all things considered.

I did have some trouble with the storyline in this book. I think it's aimed at younger teens really, and they probably wouldn't have the issues that I had with it, but even so, I'm going to point them out.
When Sam is rescued by these other kids, they clean him up a bit, teach him how to fire a gun, and five minutes later he's a critical part of their anti-threat task force. I mean really? This happened way too quickly for me.

Then there was the issue of the other humans. Supposedly, the aliens used some sort of signal to control them, which turned them into mindless zombies. At one point though the kids go to Wembley stadium, and find it full of rows of lying down zombie humans, which they say must be where they store them. My question is; how do they keep them fed, watered, and clean? They can't just have them lying there all the time or they'd all be dead within 3 days, yet there's no mention of the aliens doing anything more than `storing' them.

There were also a couple of other plot-holes like this that I came across that I don't want to mention because of dropping spoilers. There were a couple of twists in the tale, but I guessed them quite early on unfortunately, and they really weren't all that impressive when they were revealed.
I didn't like the ending much either. It was like the author got bored and just decided to end the story. Basically as soon as they got some little victory over the aliens, we were given a sort of message of hope, and the book finished. The end. Not impressed really.
Overall; a less than exciting post-apocalyptic story, that was unbelievable, and didn't have a very good ending.
4.5 out of 10.
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on 5 June 2012
4¼ Out of 5
It started off as a signal. Then they came and enslaved humanity.
In the world of Sam Riley, there is danger everywhere: alien ships, Drones, mindless human slaves. To make everything worse, supplies are running low and after an almost fatal run-in with a Drone, Sam has a seriously infected wound.
All alone, Sam doesn't know why he's immune to the mind-enslaving signal or whether he's the last free-willed human left.
Until he's rescued by a band of teen survivors just like him - also immune to the signal. It's only then that he discovers the truth behind the invasion and how it started.
And starts to fight back...
A book for fans of V and Falling Skies, Earthfall sucked me in from the word go. I love all of the H.I.V.E. books so couldn't wait to get my hands on Earthfall! It didn't disappoint! There was alien action, mind control, a group of teen rebels and constant suspense and action; I just sped through the book, unable to put it down. It may not have been the most complex book, but it was an addictive, suspenseful, utterly enjoyable read that I loved to pieces. I think H.I.V.E. and alien-post-apocalyptic-world lovers will love this just as much as I did!
I loved all the characters because they were all unique and really real. I loved Sam, who was brave and practical and very relatable (unlike Otto from H.I.V.E., who's a freakin' genius). Sam was a natural leader, a boy just trying to survive in a broken world. I really liked Rachel, `cause she was kickbutt, snarky and an ace with a gun! Jay was brilliant too, with his snark and cheekiness and funniness - also, you just gotta love the Jay Plans! I really loved was the band of rebels, how they stuck together and how they teased each other. The relationship between the scavengers (or "reclamation technicians") Kate and Adam really made me laugh! I really liked Jack as well - he was funny. Jackson and Starling were both brilliant and wonderfully padded out characters too - Jackson in particular I loved.
The book started with our hero getting chased down by an alien Drone, which is soon joined by others, and from there the action and suspense just grew and grew! I loved how initially we didn't know exactly how the invasion went down and how a flashback of Sam's revealed the start. It wasn't the most original overall or the most complex plot, but Walden sure did throw in some curve balls! I officially cannot wait for Earthfall II to land! As with all Walden's books, the writing was amazing. I felt like I really got into Sam's head and could see it all. Also, the action scenes were wonderfully written and adrenalin fuelled! There was so much suspense - I was constantly on the edge of my seat! My only qualm was that the names of the aliens kept changing - from "Drones" to "Hunters", "The Threat" to "Voidborn". Speaking of the aliens, the world itself was terrifying! Alien Drones, huge ships, alien-controlled-humans, known as Walkers, and their masters too, sucking up all food and weapons and medicines. The zombie people creeped the heck outta me, as did the huge, absolutely terrifying Grendels. Eek! I loved how we slowly learnt more about the Threat and their reasons for coming to Earth.
Y'know, if you ask me YA/MG literature is seriously lacking in TV-worthy alien-post-apocalyptic world books. Which is a shame, 'cause I do love me some Fallen Skies and Luke to pieces and I know kids would love books just like this too. So thank god for Earthfall
With an alien invasion, brainwashed humans, a band of rebels and one boy in the middle of it all... Earthfall was action packed, fast paced, addictive and suspenseful. Ok, so this book was very, very Sci-fi, which isn't a genre I instantly go for. But what I loved about this one was that even though it's Sci-fi and aliens, it also has loads of post-apocalyptic action and was a teeny bit dystopia-esque. These genres combined with kick-butt characters, nonstop action and suspense and an underground rebellion made for an addictive, super fun book I couldn't put down! It did have some similarities to other alien TV shows, but I absolutely loved the characters, writing and plot, and I just know that kids and teens will love it just as much!
How can you resist Sci-fi-dystopia-post-apocalyptic?! Yay!
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VINE VOICEon 5 December 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What a great story! It's a middle grade book aimed at a younger audience but despite not being in the correct age bracket (not by a long stretch of the imagination) I was kept entertained to the end. I'll read anything that hints of an apocalypse and I just love a solid End Of The World story and that's exactly what I got with this. One of the things I especially liked about it is that it's set in London in present time, which isn't that common in apocalyptic fiction. I love post apoc even more if it's set in the UK so this one was off to a great start before I'd even turned a page.

Jam packed with Action, Adventure and Mystery. Throw in an alien apocalypse with only a handful of teens/pre-teen survivors and it's a winner no matter how you slice it. I just loved it so I imagine that it would be even more appealing to the target audience. I'm sure any fans of Charlie Higson's zombie series would lap this up.

I'd describe it as a mix of Independence Day and Falling Skies (both of which I love) and will probably appeal to both boys and girls alike as there are strong characters of both sexes in the story.

Sam, the main character is very likeable, as are the other survivors and the alien/mech creatures are suitably scary for the intended age group. There's plenty here to keep adults amused too though. It's a solid apocalypse story. The story is gripping and fast paced and there are enough little plot twists to keep things moving. It's thoroughly entertaining and overall a great read. I thought it was very good and am looking forward to the next in the series which I believe is in the pipeline. I'll definitely be reading it when it comes out.

Who would I recommend it to? Everyone, but if you know a reluctant younger reader with a taste for carnage and destruction in a world with no rules...this is the book to tempt them with.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A work of science fiction for younger readers. Ideal reading age would be ten and up. It does have scenes of shooting and characters aren't invincible. But the readers this is aimed at would probably be used to all that from video games anyhow.

It's readable enough for older readers also, though. It runs for two hundred and eighty pages and is divided into twelve chapters. And although the end is reasonably self contained it does leave enough questions for further volumes. Of which there will be some, since this is marked as the start of a series.

In the first chapter we're introduced to a character who is initially just referred to as 'the boy' as he's on a quest for certain things in the middle of a devastated London. He has to dodge alien drones in order to find what he wants and get back to where he's hiding out. And the drones aren't the only danger he faces on the way.

This is all well written and readable and should make the reader think about what they'd do in a similar situation.

Things then change when he meets another person.

After a flashback chapter which names our hero and tells how things came to be the way they are, he and his new friend are part of the fightback against the aliens who have seemingly conquered the world, and left it in this state.

But a few questions as to what the aliens are up to remain to be answered. Among other things...

The character dynamics once this part of the story gets going are pretty good, although some of them do make more impression than others. The writing does again make you think about what you would do if the world got like this. And the slow reveal of certain plot elements does keep the reader going nicely.

Along with some decent and pretty credible action scenes this is very readable and engaging stuff, and ideal material for it's target age group. Or anyone older who wants a bit of light and entertaining post apocalyptic science fiction.

A good start to what should be a good series.
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on 8 July 2014
The author of the H.I.V.E series, Mark Walden, has turned his imagination to envisioning the coming of aliens to earth. 'Earthfall' is the first chapter about school boy Sam and his fellow survivors, who band together to create a renegade group, intent on thwarting the unwanted intruders to their planet.

From the opening chapter, the reader is thrust straight into the fight as our as yet unnamed hero battles against a drone-like creature - an octopus type object with deadly tendrils. This left me in no doubt that the rest of the book was going to be a rollercoaster ride for survival.

I thought Mark Walden did a really good job of depicting the world as its now become. The majority of humans have become Walkers, as Sam calls them and among them are his mother and older sister. There's quite a detailed and slightly complex explanation of events near the end of the book which provides a fresh perspective on things which have happened. This was a bit hard to follow at first but I gradually began to make sense of it all and found it fascinating.

I would have liked to have seen more of Sam's progression in the book, as his training was skipped over quite quickly. Although he's wily and tough from the beginning, I think after having been on his own for such a long time, that it would have taken him longer to adjust to being part of a group. It would also have been interesting to have found out more background to some of the other people that he joins up with.

'Earthfall' was a promising start to the series which will appeal to slightly younger readers, boys in particular. There's lots of action and excitement which will have them totally hooked!
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 June 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The story bursts into life with Sam running for his life, as the drones, the machines built to serve the invaders, are after him. Sam thinks he is the only human left who is still able to control his own mind. That's the one thing he is wrong about. There are others, and a fight back, however futile that might seem to be, is about to start. This is a well written, from the author of the H.I.V.E. (Higher Institute of Villainous Education) (Hive) series. Well paced, it was exciting to read. My 12 year old son went to take a brief look at the book when it first arrived, and then spent the next five hours devouring it.

Set in London, there are echos and nods to The War of the Worlds and The Day of the Triffids (Penguin Modern Classics),The Art of War, amongst others. There are the classic themes of survival in a devastated urban environment, with conspiracy and a the military fight against all odds. My son describes it as,"a classic alien apocalypse book," with,"the unimaginable scale and description you would find in a really good alien movie with a massive budget." That might be a warning to anyone wishing to make it into a film (the CGI budget will need to be high....). He went on to suggest that to get 5 stars, it could have been longer, and a little less obvious, saying, "I figured out half of it before I even got past the first 7 or so chapters."

I'd recommend this for 10+. There is a sequel planned, which will take the story further and hopefully explain some of the yet unanswered questions, such as why the alien race were waiting for this particular moment in history.
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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the best teen Sci-Fi that I have read for many years (give away - I'm not therefore a teen!). I was brought up on Dr Who, The Triffids, the John Christopher Tripod books etc. There is a bit of all these in Earthfall, but a lot that is original too. Mark Walden has added a dose of computer game action, modern sensibility and overall roller coaster ride.

I have just finished the book, and it has left me kind of breathless. I'm also on board for the sequel, which MUST come! The book opens with a `last boy left alive' feel to it. It's powerful and immediate. We bond with the hero Sam immediately. Some of the format is taken from recent Zombie style films like Resident Evil, which itself , of course, is derived from a computer game. I won't spoil the experience by telling you the plot ( a distressing habit of the more boring Amazon reviewer), but I can guarantee that Earthfall has a good one, which is developed at a cracking pace, but without the usual holes I have come to expect from lazy TV bred writers.

It could be argued that this is a `boy' book, with resistance, guns, aliens and techno hardware. Mark Walden has taken pains to balance this with numerous female characters and sassy dialogue. It does not, however, really play for a female readership. There is no love angle or feminine sub-text - although love of family is a theme. Two of my four daughters would have read this avidly in their teens, two would have avoided it. A teen novel that gets to all of one sex and 50% of another is still quite a feat! Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 12 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Earthfall" is the first part of a new series of sci-fi 'invading alien menace' books by Mark Walden (author of the popular "H.I.V.E. (Higher Institute of Villainous Education)" series) aimed primarily at teenagers and young adults. For those who like their action thick and fast, this book will not disappoint; equally, however, there are plenty of other things to like here -- Mark Walden's writing style is accomplished and yet easy on the brain, allowing the pages to turn at a fine old rate, while the story line and the characterisations are both entertaining and engaging enough to keep a reader up long beyond their sensible bed-time, regardless of their age! The author does a good job of keeping a tight rein on episodes that could all too easily become hackneyed and manages to keep the excitement tempered with humour, with the violence never becoming overly graphical or gratuitous. By and large, I have to say that I found everything in the book pitched just right.

While the book is far from original, either in its central ideas, its storyline or even much of the detail, it represents a synthesis of ideas drawn from a sufficiently wide range of originals -- John Christopher's "Tripods Trilogy"; the BBC's "Dr Who"; "DOOM" and "Resident Evil" shoot-em-up computer games; "Star Wars", "Alien", "The Matrix" movies, to name but a few of the more obvious -- and in such a convincingly internally consistent manner (and within a well conceived and carefully planned out story arc) to stand fully in its own right as a new landmark of teen fiction. It would also look very spectacular in a 3D big screen adaptation...
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