Review: Falling, by T.J. Newman
It was fine. It was pretty run-of-the-mill thriller, except it takes place on an airplane. I'm obviously not going to be scoring the plot for any sort of plausibility, because there is none - that's the point of ridiculous thrillers! Here are my thoughts on it.
It does all of the things you want a thriller to do, well: the pacing is top-notch, and I was definitely gripped. The suspense is kept up very well from the first page to the lost, and the 'twist' did make me gasp and keep avidly reading in my bath (yes, I read in the bath; it's called self-care, nobody @ me). The bad guys and the good guys are clearly delineated, you know who you're supposed to root for, and the heroism of Bill the pilot and the flight crew is obvious, and part of what makes the plot tick. Setting it on an airplane was also rather clever, as it takes all of the strong elements of the locked-room puzzle subgenres and adds in an extra dimension of drama and suspense, and makes for an extra layer of tension when trying to figure out who can be trusted and who cannot. The characters were richly detailed and fully realized: each had a distinct point of view and I never thought that their internal monologues were interchangeable.
One slight drawback to that, however. is the constant switching from different POVs - sometimes even mid-chapter! - did make the timeline occasionally difficult to follow, and threw the pacing off a bit especially in the middle of the book. It was a bit like Newman wrote too quickly, got to the two-thirds bit, and realized she had to find a way to stretch it out for an extra 100 pages.
Let's get to the bits that I didn't think were as good, as that's always the fun part!
The dialogue was clunky as all hell. I realize that to a certain point that's inevitable, as the dialogue has to be used to convey the drama and the tension of these truly bonkers and unrealistic scenarios, but honestly, T.J. They don't all need to sound like stirring speeches. Also, can someone please swear? I feel like if you were a passenger and you just found out your plane had been hijacked and the pilot being threatened with the extermination of his family if he doesn't give into the terrorist's demands, someone would drop an f-bomb.
Also, no plane has free WiFi available for passengers and crew. That just isn't accurate. I know that T.J. Newman is a former flight attendant, so she really should know better - you cannot Instagram from a domestic flight. Again, I know, plausibility is not what we strive for here - but come on.
And, lastly, let's talk about those terrorists. Props to Newman for treating them with compassion and giving them nuanced, rich backstories, and making them fully realized and complex personalities even though they are there to be the baddies - but oh my god, really, that's the motivation you've given them? Their demands are basically that people educate themselves about the Kurds. I'm not kidding, that was it - that was the demand. Educate yourself. It read so much like a smug, self-righteous white person on Twitter trying to co-opt a racial justice movement that I actually rolled my eyes and considered putting the book aside and not finishing it at that point.
So anyway, that's my thoughts on Falling - perfectly adequate thriller fare, annoying Twitter warrior terrorists, nothing groundbreaking or particularly memorable, but some enjoyable suspense and drama. I'm not recommending it, but if you want an easy, lazy read that'll make you laugh (sometimes inadvertently, I grant you) on a Saturday when you're too hungover to think properly, this should do you.