Tanya Huff’s The Future Falls

Huff-Future FallsThe Future Falls continues the saga of the Gale family, begun in The Enchantment Emporium and continued in The Wild Ways. The Gales are not your normal family, although certainly given to family politics and rivalries, with a few interesting twists: for want of a better word, let’s call them witches. (If you want more background, see the reviews of the first two books, here and here.) When this segment begins, Charlie Gale – Charlotte Marie Gale, thirty years old, musician and Wild Power – is more or less comfortably ensconced in Calgary with her cousin Allie, Allie’s husband Graham – the seventh son of a seventh son – their twin boys, aged two, and Jack, sorcerer, Dragon Prince, Wild Power, and a Gale boy, aged seventeen. (You should know that Gale boys are a rare breed, much rarer than Gale girls.)

The story actually begins with Auntie Catherine – the family’s third Wild Power – relaxing on a sunny beach, far from Calgary, where her granddaughter, Allie, anchors the western branch of the family, and from rural Ontario, where the family is centered. She’s enjoying the scenery – shirtless, tanned, well-muscled scenery — when she Sees a rock falling. It’s a very large rock.

We are then taken to NASA, where Dr. Kiren Mehta, an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, is reporting, with her boss, the discovery of a large asteroid hidden behind another, not-quite-so-large asteroid that is projected to pass near the earth. The hidden asteroid is not projected to pass near the earth; it’s not projected to pass at all.

And back to Charlie, who is following the music wherever it leads, as long as it’s not back to Calgary – at least, not until she can get a handle on her relationship with Jack, which is fraught with the usual problems, older woman/younger man variety, with one complication: the seven year rule. It’s a family thing, and simply means that no emotional/physical entanglements between those more than seven years apart in age are allowed. While wandering, and joining local groups for jam sessions, she runs into Gary, who until two weeks before was an engineer, and who, moved by an impulse that he’s not talking about, persuaded his wife to give up stability and join him on the road – another itinerant musician.

As Charlie parts ways with Gary and Sheryl, her phone rings; it’s cousin Katie, and it’s imperative that Charlie come home right now. Charlie bows to the inevitable.

There’s one more thread that gets woven into this skein: Dumpster Dan, a homeless man who Jack takes care of and who hears voices. Unfortunately, he’s started repeating one of them and it’s made the news, after going viral on the Internet: as Dan puts it, “The sky is falling.” No, that’s not a Chicken Little take-off: he means it literally.

This is not a particularly tight novel. Huff takes her time with the set-up, and the whole is interspersed with family politics, not only internal but vis-à-vis the rest of the world: while Charlie and Jack feel impelled to do something about what looks to be a dinosaur-level extinction event, the family’s attitude is, as always, if it doesn’t directly affect us, we don’t get involved, and they figure they can take steps to insure that the Gales, or most of them, survive.

The resolution of both crises – the Charlie/Jack relationship and the end of life as we know it – happens pretty much simultaneously, and through the same means, and while the elements have been laid out, they’re not really brought together up front, so speak – it’s almost a deus ex machina, and while there is a deus, he’s actually more of a distraction than a necessity.

And ultimately it doesn’t matter. Huff’s strength as a writer is enough to pull this off, whatever formal eccentricities there may be, and her signature attitude combined with her ability to create engaging characters make it a fun read.

(DAW Books, 2014)

Robert

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there. You may e-mail him, but include a reference to Green Man Review so you don’t get deleted with the spam.

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