Fallen, by David Maine

No one loves you when you're down and out in biblical times
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The Independent Culture

In attempting to retell one of the oldest, most familiar stories ever (literally the oldest, if you subscribe to creationist theory), it helps to offer a different point of view to validate the exercise.

American author David Maine - no stranger to Biblical reinterpretations, as his debut The Flood revisited the story of Noah - has certainly achieved that in Fallen.

His storytelling method seeks as much attention as the tale being told. Offering a kind of inverted family saga, Fallen details the further fall of Adam and Eve once they leave the Garden of Eden, and also that of their children, the faithful but naïve Abel, and the vengeful rebel Cain.

Maine tells his story backwards from Cain's haunted, lonely death, to the very moment his parents are expelled from the Garden. Such a top-down method of storytelling isn't without precedent, but Maine's crisp style and well-planned structure bear on an engaging, and surprisingly revelatory, read.

First and foremost, this is a character piece. Maine finds much to say about his assortment of tired, frustrated, blindly hopeful cast-members.

The marked Cain, the black sheep of the family with his lack of acceptance in the eyes of God, and the act of fratricide which leads to his banishment, is not exactly an aspirational figure. Yet his need to question and to disobey seems the most human of all. And each character is eventually shown to have questions of their own in this brave new world of doubt and struggle. Maine's prose is as simple and economical as the life it's depicting, but it doesn't skimp when elaborating the basic passions felt by its players, as they learn what it is to be human, no longer under the direct guidance of God.

Were this simply a religious study, things would be far less interesting. Essentially, Maine has created a microcosm of the world we live in now; of godless times where nebulous human instinct takes the place of a cast-in-stone morality.

Yet Fallen is also a novel about the passage of life, about how innocence leads to wisdom, which gives way to frustration and eventually a bitter memory of wrong decisions made along the road.

Or at least, it does for Cain, the original anti-hero. Whichever way round you read the book, he emerges with little sympathy, but with a lot of understanding for a man whose biggest crime, apparently, is to trust in his own doomed, foolish humanity.

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