What would it be like to soar, to power your way through the heavens, ushered forward by the might of your own wings? What would it be like to be one of the Blessed Angels of Heaven? What would it be like to have words of power, knowledge of all things human and Almighty?
What would it be like to lose all that?
Araqiel knows what it’s like, because he was once one of God’s Angels. Now, he’s a heroin junkie, sharing a room with a good Samaritan goth girl and a black cat. He uses his mild psychic powers to make a few bucks between trips, and the only soaring he does is when he shoots up. Going by the nearly anonymous moniker Greg Smith, the angel cares about nothing. He lives on the alternating tides of tripping and withdrawal, and if Hell came for him and all of humanity, he wouldn’t budge.
All that changes when Sarah, his roommate, introduces him to Maria Furcal. Greg can see souls and things about people that they may not know themselves, or that haven’t happened yet. Maria asks to be read, and Greg tells her just enough to get her money and leave. However, there’s more to his vision. He knows she’s going to die a horrible death that night, but he got his cash, and his next fix, and nothing else matters. Except that this time, everything is different. Greg is thrust into the unlikely and unwanted role of hero, as he learns that Maria’s soul can open a rift and let the Fallen Angels of Hell rise up and wipe out mankind.
“Succumbing to Gravity” is a sort of supernatural noir, minus the detective stuff from the main character. The detective work is taken care of by the unusual pairing of Det. Graves and Det. Etcher. They’re the ultimate good cop/bad cop pair, and they’re determined that Greg is behind a pair of homicides. When they confront him, they find themselves experiencing a very personal introduction to the supernatural forces at work.
First-time author Richard Farnsworth is fantastic at creating a scene without needing 12 pages to describe it. He uses imagery to attack all five senses, and the horror tone of the book is especially effective. An Apache helicopter pilot, Farnsworth is particularly adept at describing the joy of flight through the eyes of his anti-hero. He writes as if he’s seeing every character and every interaction; like he’s watching the film adaptation. Farnsworth overcomes the limitation of first person point of view by divvying up the chapters. It’s not a traditional approach, but it works very well in “Succumbing to Gravity.”
Greg is not a cape and tights superhero. He’s flawed. He’s vulnerable. He’s weak, and he’s tortured. Farnsworth gives readers plenty of reasons to care about the main characters, and lots of action and comedy to offset the depression and fear. One scene that takes place in a church is especially powerful in combining all the actions and emotions of the characters. The book’s finale is a mesmerizing battle between good and evil, with a conclusion that readers may not quite be ready for.