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Freefall

Review

Freefall

Fourteen-year-old Will Burrows and his best friend, Chester, have unknowingly stumbled into an adventure of a lifetime. It all starts when Will’s father, an archaeologist, disappears. While looking for him, Will and Chester discover a hidden tunnel behind a bookcase in the basement. Positive that this is where Dr. Burrows has gone missing, they delve into the tunnel to search for him, unaware of the adventure --- and horrors --- they are about to experience. They discover an underground city called the Colony, ruled by a harsh and unrelenting people called the Styx, and that Will himself is from the Colony. His birth mom, Sarah, took him and escaped to the surface when he was a baby; the Burrows are actually his foster family. Plus, after years apart and not even knowing he existed, Will is reunited with his younger brother, Cal.

And then they learn of yet another shocker: his adopted sister, Rebecca, is actually a pair of Styx twins who has been spying on him all these years. Will and Chester don’t mix well in the Colony and thus are banished to the Deeps along with Cal. There, they encounter a band of Renegades bound together to fight against the evil Styx. Two of the Renegades --- Drake, the war veteran, and Elliott, his young female protégé --- take Will, Cal and Chester under their wing, teaching them how to find food and fight the Styx. But then Will, Cal, Chester, Elliott, and their huge cat, Bartleby, find themselves tethered together, standing on the edge of the Pore, a massive crater that extends down into the center of the earth. Cal is mercilessly gunned down, falling over the edge of the Pore and dragging his friends with him. Rumor has it that in all of Styx history, only one person has ever managed to escape the depths of the Pore. History may have to change.

So after falling thousands of miles down into the dark depths of the earth, Will and his friends finally come to rest on some huge fungus outcroppings sticking out into the Pore. Elliott has a broken arm and can’t seem to regain consciousness; otherwise the group survives the fall unscathed. Except for Cal, who is, of course, already dead. Will says his goodbyes to Cal and then pushes him back out into the Pore to fall even farther, sort of like a burial at sea. Afterwards, Will and Chester do a bit of exploring and are amazed to find even more caverns and tunnels running out from the fungus nets that caught them on their fall. With no other options, they set off down the tunnel.

Being so deep within the earth has lessened the pull of gravity, and they find they can leap great distances, which entertains them for a bit. It also helps in carrying the unconscious Elliott, making her almost weightless. But it doesn’t take long for them to find more trouble --- trouble in the form of ten-foot-across flesh-eating spiders. They manage to fight off the spiders for a few minutes, but there are too many. Luckily, another refugee in the depths, a woman named Martha, comes along just in time. Martha has been surviving for quite a while in the depths and knows just how to fight off the huge spiders --- and how to prepare them for dinner. So she takes them to her home, and they are very grateful for the help, especially with the still unconscious Elliott. But they know they can’t stay long. They have to find their way home --- despite even more terrors awaiting them.

Unknown to our heroes, the Rebecca twins also have been pushed into the Pore. They, too, manage to land on a fungal outcropping and survive with just a few scratches. Also surviving the fall is the only remaining sample of the deadly Dominion virus and its antidote, worn in containers around their necks. They know that if the Styx plan to kill off the people on the surface with the virus is to be carried out, they need to find their way back to the Colony.

The only one who doesn’t want to return topside is Will’s adopted father, Dr. Burrows. The archaeologist in him is determined to learn more about these ancient peoples buried deep in the earth. He has discovered a set of tiles that he believes to be a map leading to a hidden paradise called “The Garden of the Second Sun” and needs to find his way even deeper into the center of the earth, even if it means risking his own life. Unfortunately, it would also mean endangering the lives of his adopted children.

Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams are two of the most amazing storytellers of our time. Their imaginations seem limitless when fueling the hungry fires of our curiosity. They have a genuine gift for description that literally pulls readers deep into the story, allowing them to really feel the horrors of the characters. And book three brings some changes to those characters. First is obviously the loss of Cal: he will be missed and not only by his cat, Bartleby. Second is Will’s birth mom: she finally breaks free of her debilitating depression and actively joins in the search for her family and the fight against the Styx. Will also has been changing with all of the challenges he has faced: his growing maturity is especially apparent when he finally reunites with Dr. Burrows, who attempts to treat him like a little boy. But Will is no little boy anymore. The authors also cleverly slip in the importance of saving the planet and how much people have hurt our earth, fitting it seamlessly into the story.

Even though FREEFALL is a long story, readers will not want it to end. And it won’t --- at least not yet. A fourth book in the series, CLOSER, is on its way. Many thanks to Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams for this amazing story. It’s the perfect adventure in which to completely bury oneself. 

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on February 1, 2010

Freefall
by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2010
  • Genres: Adventure
  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: The Chicken House
  • ISBN-10: 0545138779
  • ISBN-13: 9780545138772