What do you think would happen if a team of scientists were to somehow discover a way to create a living cell that was completely synthetic? Even if that cell were nothing more than a single, non-replicating cell, such a discovery would shake the very foundations of science and inevitably lead to more and more discoveries down the road, some of which promise to be amazing, but also potentially terrifying.
Anthem’s Fall by S.L. Dunn puts forth what might happen if that very thing happened not only on Earth, but also on a distant planet that humanity has no idea exists. As you might imagine, the civilizations on the two planets are destined to cross paths. As a debut author, S.L. Dunn has put forth a very strong work with Anthem’s Fall, staying true to some common science fiction tropes while still pushing the envelope just a little bit so his story has its own little slice of unique. I’ve read a lot of debut novels, and this one, while still a little bit rough in some spots, falls near the top of the list.
Interestingly, Anthem’s Fall is a little bit like two separate books that run in parallel and then eventually veer towards each other on a collision course. By the time I was finished with Anthem’s Fall I could see what the author was doing with this format, but something about it still had me feeling skeptical. It all worked out okay in the end, but I really wanted more screen time with the plot line taking place on Earth because I felt that was the stronger of the two main veins of story. Don’t let that discourage you from giving this book a try though because there is an awful lot of good going on within its pages.
On the planet Anthem, scientists have created genetically enhanced beings possessing a serious amount of power. However, this group of beings proceeds to annihilate Anthem’s civilization and Vengelis Epsilon, the young emperor is forced off the planet in search of a solution to the problem. An old mentor of his sends him careening towards Earth for reasons Vengelis does not discover until well after he lands on the planet.
Kristen is on Earth working with some of the top scientists on the planet as they work through the implications of having discovered a way to create a synthetic cell. There are a lot of ethical and moral decisions that need to be made and Kristen is not entirely sure her boss is making those decisions properly. While struggling with how to deal with the situation, Kristen meets Ryan, an intelligent college student (she is very young considering all of her success in life to this point), whom she connects with very strongly after just their first date. The thing is, Ryan has a secret of his own, a huge secret, and it’s pretty spectacular in my opinion.
When Ryan, Kristen, and Vengelis all ultimately cross paths fireworks ensue and things get pretty intense. There are a lot of things that get revealed and some pretty epic battle both on the ground and in the sky. There are superpowers on display and intelligence making itself known in wonderful ways. The only real downside is how the book ends on a major cliffhanger and now I have to wait for the sequel to be finished. I think there are a lot of details in Anthem’s Fall that are still to be fleshed out in coming volumes, the idea of Sejero genetics being one of the larger details I’m most interested in.
I’ve got S.L. Dunn on my list of authors to keep checking on for another book to grab and I hope I don’t have to wait very long in order to see what happens next with this story.