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SPFBO 9 Official Review

The Fall Is All There Is

by CM Caplan

 

All Petre Mercy wanted was a good old-fashioned dramatic exit from his life as a prince. But it’s been five years since he fled home on a cyborg horse. Now the King—his Dad—is dead—and Petre has to decide which heir to pledge his thyroid-powered sword to.

As the youngest in a set of quadruplets, he’s all too aware that the line of succession is murky. His siblings are on the precipice of power grabs, and each of them want him to pick their side.

If Petre has any hope of preventing civil war, he’ll have to avoid one sibling who wants to take him hostage, win back another’s trust after years of rivalry and resentment, and get an audience with a sister he’s been avoiding for five years.

Before he knows it, he’s plunged himself into a web of intrigue and a world of strange, unnatural inventions just to get to her doorstep.

Family reunions can be a special form of torture.


Shaggy Shepherd:

I have been meaning to read The Fall Is All There Is by C.M. Caplan since it came out and I’m so glad that between the tour and SPFBO, I finally was able to prioritize it. I had heard so many crazy things about this book and knew I had to check it out for myself.

Going from Cold West to The Fall Is All There Is was really interesting when considering the strength of each MC’s voice. Both were very distinct and fit their story well. What was fantastic for TFIATI was having the perfect narrator for the audiobook on top of that. I couldn’t imagine a better choice. The anxiety of the MC in particular felt really well done and his thought processes were very relatable to me. While Petre’s impulses did drive me nuts sometimes, I could still follow his reasonings for them most of the time.

“I’ve never understood how that shit works. How do you think of something you don’t want to be thinking about? Just don’t. Move on. It doesn’t have to haunt you.”

One of the biggest highlights about this book was the representation for neurodiversity. The MC is autistic but as someone seeking a diagnosis for ADHD, I could relate to some of the symptoms on page really well too. Too well sometimes. There was one scene in particular used to torture the MC that worked almost as well on me as I was reading it. I was so shocked because I had never experienced it to that degree before while reading. The symptoms that stood out to me the most were intrusive thoughts, spiraling, and hyperfixation, but others might see even more that I don’t know myself.

This story mainly focuses on the relationships between the four siblings. Just like Petre, I was a little confused about what was going on at first but did enjoy the paranoia and reveal of the characters’ motivations along the way. I did get lost a little bit in the convolution here and there with Petre’s rambling to keep straight or because my mind was still stuck on the last familial horror that happened but overall it was an intriguing familial dynamic to follow.

I really would’ve liked more world building. This is probably one of the craziest world I’ve ever read about but the combination of magic and science and craziness was so cool to explore. I wanted more and more and more since new worlds are one of my favorite things about a new series but do think Caplan incorporated bits and pieces smoothly into the story at appropriate times and the book didn’t actually need more to function well. With its deep focus on relationships, it probably would’ve overshadowed the intentions of the book to have a lot more info about the world itself.

Despite not being able to follow every detail in this book, I really enjoyed myself. There were some extremely funny moments and I laughed out loud so hard sometimes at the predicaments and reveals. There was also a little spice and while I would’ve loved some more on that front as well, I again understand how that would’ve shifted the focus of the book too much. I can’t wait to see how this series continues and wish the author good luck in the rest of the SPFBO competition.


John Mauro:

“I was six years old the first time Mom threatened to sew my mouth shut.”

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 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.



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