Kassa's Reviews > Going Down

Going Down by Ann Somerville
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's review
Mar 26, 2010

really liked it

Like many people I usually read a few reviews before deciding to tackle a book myself. This was the case with Going Down by Ann Somerville and several reviews warned of the dark, intense overtones and somewhat dense prose making for difficult reading. Perhaps these reviews were of a previous version because I found Going Down to be absorbing, engaging, and incredibly quick to read. The unique and complex world offered is not always easy to understand but the emotion and relationships between the various characters play on common and well crafted themes. As an urban fantasy fan, the world building is rich with detail and opportunity, creating a story that I sped through wanting more.

Set in an alternate world, Einan is the main character. He is an empath that has worked for an organization known as the Corps. There enhanced individuals such as empaths, telepaths, telekinetics, and so on work together to help people during times of natural disasters. Sort of like a cross between the modern day National Guard and Red Cross, but with mentally enhanced workers. After a particularly horrifying flood killing hundreds of people, Einan flees from the emotional overload and struggles to regain some semblance of a life. Along the way he befriends another broken and ravaged man in Thalem, a man trying to atone for his past sins.

The main force of the story is Einan’s building friendship with Thalem as Einan slowly gains strength and mental health once again. Both men have many intentional parallels in their past and present using the themes of grief, guilt, and redemption. While Einan struggles with his empathic abilities, Thalem is mired in his desolation and desperation. Both men are lovely, likable, and haunting due to their difficult pasts and uncertain futures. Einan is caught between needing human contact to remain sane and running from strong emotions that overwhelm him. Despite Thalem’s own chaotic emotions, the complicated man’s friendship and steadfast support helps heal Einan. At the same time, Einan must realize that he can’t heal Thalem in the same way and must wait, hoping, that Thalem can find his way out of his own hell.

The story may sound dark and intense and it is to an extent, but the writing keeps the story engaging and interesting without ever being oppressive or depressing. The incredible world building is part of this as the urban fantasy setting is extended with an entirely new vocabulary. This is both good and bad as it helps maintain and enrich the setting while there are also a few too many terms used. Several of these terms are used often and seemingly interchangeable which forces the reader to slow down and think about the terms. This may be frustrating for some. Some may be able to pick out the important terms and move on as the world building is much more than just a set of new words. The lack of context is offset by a rich level of detail and imagination, creating an utterly fascinating backdrop for complicated relationships and characters.

The writing is very good with interesting choices for phrases and never felt heavy or difficult to read. On the contrary, the writing and pace keeps the story moving swiftly with interesting situations and physical counterpoints to the emotional depths of the characters. There are several important relationships including Einan’s relationship to his boss and friend Lano, who serves as a surrogate father to Einan and Thalem to an extent. Also the Sisters of the temple help both men and offer a nice, alternate view of church helpers. There is also a glimpse into the mentality and difficulty of working with homeless and destitute individuals who are not without their own pride.

Overall I was pretty impressed with this short story and left with a theme of hope between the two men. The gritty world building is a great aspect and one that prompts me to read more as the intense issues were well handled with a deft touch that keeps the story engaging and interesting without being depressing and dark. I didn’t want to put the book down and hope there is some kind of follow up to Einan and Thalem, but if not that’s ok too. I’d recommend picking up Going Down and perhaps enjoying this delightful surprise for yourself.

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