I like to think of books as reflecting three other books I know. For that reason, Fallen = Three-body Problem + The Man Who Stayed Behind + Facade.
Like Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem, Fallen concerns plausible early contact with aliens by a military veteran who has experienced tremendous physical and mental abuse. The combination of situation awareness and action that enables, combined with a mental narrative that might justify surprising or otherwise objectionable actions, is griping. If you wanted to know what a male, American, War-on-Terror version of Ye Wenjie would be up to, this is your book.
Like Sidney Rittenberg’s The Man Who Stayed Behind, Fallen is about an active service military who deeply embeds with a foreign culture under ambiguous orders and legal authorizations. Stayed Behind, a real-life story of the only US citizen to be a member of the Chinese Communist Party, who danced with Mao’s wife and had met every Communist Chinese president (until Xi), echoes Brendan’s adventures in Fallen – as does the hostility from people on both sides. I once met Mr. Rittenberg, and his combination of adventure and sorrow echoes Brendan’s.
Last, Michael Heiser’s Facade is a clear influence. Heiser, a part-time protestant pastor who takes the original context of the Hebrew Bible seriously, wrote a fiction story to express his understanding of salvation history originally and strikingly. While the author of Fallen is Catholic and not protestant (and as such, there’s a remarkable – if implied – rejection of the line of Luther’s Small Catechism “the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die”) – the Catholic humanism in the story is more original than just-another evil-grey-aliens novel. Fallen also incorporates ideas and themes well expressed outside of the Roman traditional – Heiser’s non-fiction work The Unseen Realm as well as the Ethiopian canonical work The Book of Enoch contain themes explored in this story.
In conclusion, Fallen is very good. The best science fiction I have read since Three-Body Problem. (Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary provided stiff competition here, but ultimately Fallen is more thought-provoking). The best going-native soldier story since The Man Who Stayed Behind). The best meditation on Christianity and aliens since Facade. I read this book in three days, and that’s in between Christmas, socializing, and more.
I read Fallen by Patrick Abbott in the Kindle edition.