and Falling, Fly
Published 2010 335 pages
Reviewed by Ania Tyburska
Summary (from the book jacket)
In a dark and seedy underground of burned-out rock stars and angels-turned- vampires, a revolutionary neuroscientist and a fallen angel must put medicine against mythology in an attempt to erase their tortured pasts... but at what price?
Olivia, vampire and fallen angel of desire, is hopeless... and damned. Since the fall from Eden, she has hungered for love, but fed only on desire. Dominic O'Shaughnessy is a neuroscientist plagued by impossible visions. When his research and her despair collide at L'Otel Mathillide – a subterranean hell of beauty, demons, and dreams – rationalist and angel unite in a clash of desire and damnation that threatens to destroy them both.
In this fractures Hotel of the Damned, Olivia and Dominic discover the only force consistent in their opposing realities is the deep, erotic gravity between them. Bound to each other finally in a knot of interwoven freedoms, Dominic and Olivia – the vision-touched scientist and the earth-bound angel, reborn and undead – encounter the mystery of love and find it is both fall... and flight.
“and Falling, fly” is the first book in Skyler White’s bibliography and it is surely a work of few years, which clearly shows in the dated pop- cultural references. The book consists of two independent plot lines that get combined, somewhere in the middle. The first one is narrated in first person by Olivia, a vampire. According to this book, vampires are fallen angels of desire, who roam the earth, unfeeling and untouched as a punishment for a grave offence that their parents, angels, have committed. They can feed on mortals who desire or fear them, either through the vampire teeth or tiny quills, which are hidden in their gums and nails. Olivia is looking for a loophole that would relieve her of that horrific existence. She believes that once her victim sees her for what she is, damned and clinically frigid and still desires her, she will get elevated back to angelhood.
I can sympathize with the notion that a character living eternally, without any pleasure, can be somewhat tormented, but it dose not explain the train wreck, that is Olivia’s narration. Imagine a baroque church with Murakami’ statues in the halls. One may call it groundbreaking and experimental. For me it is just nauseating (and obviously contagious ;) I had to make breaks after three pages or so, because the constant heaving, howling waters and washing, illuminating pleasures were just too much to stomach.
The second plot line is narrated in third person and more bearable, although the linguistic oddities sometimes sip through. A brilliant neuroscientist, Dominic, is working on a medicine that would eradicate certain memories from human brain in order to make a person forget a trauma that later led to delusions. Complicated? Well, not really, according to medical journal, but Skyler White seems to think it is a rocket science and keeps explaining the point of the research over and over. Of course Dominic is not your garden variety human. He is a Reborn. A human, who is reincarnated time after time, remembering his previous lives because of a curse, or just because he got screwed by fate. The point rests unresolved by the end of the novel. Dominic, the brilliant scientist that he is, believes he is crazy and so are the other paranormal entities he encounters.
The two protagonists meet in the l’Otel Matillide, a contemporary hell for all those damned misfits of modern world. The scenery is in fact one of the redeeming qualities of the book. I could really enjoy a story about Skyler White’s version of hell and its inhabitants. Unfortunately the contemporary bits get lost in the torrent of really bizarre conversations that the characters participate in, never stopping to admire the scenery. A note to the author: Putting love, neuroscience and cows in one dialogue does not make it profound and epic. It only makes it weird. And not the Tim Burton’s kind of quirky, but just incoherent.
Some time ago Paulo Coelho disguised some universe-old truths in a form of a fairytale about young shepherd and the general public decided it worked. Skyler White tried to use urban fantasy settings to practically do the same, but she fell short. Reaching for a fantasy novel we choose to suspend our belief in reality. We expect angels and talking animals, so once the said animal starts to indignantly explain that he is but just an allegory, the reader, consequently I, am pissed. To add insult to injury the author finishes nearly every chapter with this elegant little quip, that is supposed to show us how intelligent and auto-ironical she is. The Uroboros cannot talk, because its mouth was already full? Gag me with a spoon!
It is fairly possible that the irritating language prevented me from enjoying this book more. Maybe I’m simply not sensitive or educated enough to appreciate the elaborate comparisons and poetic atmosphere. Still I need to give it a score, so here it goes: One star for a modern take on vampire mythos and a nice mythology to back it up. Another one for characters who were flawed and the author did not try to redeem them too soon. Finally a third star for a story that was not based on clichés and horror scenarios. If you decide to read “And Falling, Fly” and find the language as trying as I did, take my advise. It works to divert yourself with a glossy magazine every few pages or so. At least it calls a spade, spade, not a flatly shaped earth-mover.
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