Review: Fallout by Lisa Henry & M. Caspian

High-school boyfriends Jack Haldane and Bastian Wade thought everything would be perfect once they reunited at college, putting disapproving parents and small-town attitudes firmly in the past. Now Jack’s on track for a PhD scholarship and a career as a researcher, and Bastian . . . well, living inside a broken body and trailing along in Jack’s shadow didn’t feature in his lofty teenage ambitions. A weekend camping trip back home offers a chance for them to reconnect, but an ugly confrontation with the local motorcycle gang is only the start of their problems. When disaster occurs and the world unravels, will Bastian and Jack manage to hold on to each other, or fall further apart as they try to survive? 

"If we want to survive, we adapt."

I have a confession to make. I'm a blurb skimmer. I try to read them. I really do, but under certain conditions I tend to lapse. This was one of those times. My blurb skim for this went a little something like:  "blah, blah, blah, two dudes who've known each other for a long time, yada, yada KRAKENRY!!!!!!!!" during which there was much squealing, squeeing and, if I'm totally honest, an approximation of a jig. 

Do not let this happen to you. 

Fallout is not a romance. It's a fascinating look at human nature and its capacity for both good and evil during a catastrophe with the central characters being an established gay couple who are in a low point in their relationship. They go on a hiking vacation back to their home town in an effort to rekindle their relationship. And all hell breaks loose.

The first chapter hooked me and I initially thought Fallout was going to delve into the difficulties of sustaining a relationship after the honeymoon's over and life has dealt them some hard knocks. Then chapter two happened. If you're familiar with these two authors, it should come as no surprise that they are comfortable and even revel in darkness. If you're squeamish, I wouldn't recommend this. There is on page rape and torture.

Now that I've gotten all the warnings out of the way I'm going to gush. I think the cat's out of the bag regarding my feels on these two authors, but they hit it out of the park here. I do hope they collaborate again because this felt like something special. For as dark as it can be it has pockets of beauty that left me a little verklempt, a feat in and of itself. They manipulated the English language to their will, wielded it with artistry in both the characterizations and the narrative which drew me in like a tractor beam then threw me around like a piƱata at a party of seven year olds jacked up on cake and Mt. Dew. 

Fallout kept me on the edge of my seat. I don't mind saying at one point I had serious concerns one of the MCs wasn't going to make it. But the level of research they must've done to build this world is what made this stunning. Jack is working on a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and they get stuck on vacation during a freak volcanic ash fallout. Bas has a spinal injury that requires frequent monitoring and treatment. They folded in legitimate environmental concerns through the underbelly of this story which appealed to me as an environmentalist and illustrated the challenges of mundane daily activities by someone who has suffered a spinal injury. They gave them both depth by focusing on the details of what makes each of these men tick.

Bas and Jack spend the majority of Fallout apart after being separated shortly after the fallout begins. Their faith in their ability to survive is repeatedly tested and they both find themselves thrust into situations they never could have imagined. They discover truths about themselves, encounter atrocities and meet some extraordinary people. The genius, for me, was the plausibility of the catastrophe and, by extension, human nature under extreme conditions. 

How does one reconcile actions committed under extraordinary circumstances with their self-schema in the aftermath? 

He needed to know that Jack still wanted to touch him. He needed that to be the only thing that had never changed, and would never change.

It's a dark roller coaster of emotions but it's also, paradoxically, beautiful. If the warning tags don't scare you, you will be rewarded by what KRAKENRY have accomplished.

An ARC was provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.

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  1. I can't wait to get my hands on this one! Awesome review.