The Future Falls is the third novel by Tanya Huff in her “Gale family” contemporary fantasy series from DAW Books, after 2009’s The Enchantment Emporium and 2011’s The Wild Ways. The Enchantment Emporium focused on the character of Allie, one of the only Gales without sisters, while The Wild Ways spent more time with Charlie, musician and Wild Power, Allie’s cousin and sometime lover, and the teenage Dragon Prince Jack. The Future Falls continues in this vein, with Charlie and Jack carrying the weight of the narrative.
The Gale family are terrifyingly powerful. Ruled by the aunties, their influence on the world is mostly benign: unless you piss one of them off, they tend to only involve themselves in matters that directly affect the family. But when the aunties get involved in anything, the aunties take over—or at least try very hard to get their own way.
So when Charlie’s Aunt Catherine—the Gale family’s other Wild Power, with a knack for seeing the future and an ongoing estrangement from the rest of her relatives—gets in touch to warn Charlie that a world-ending catastrophe is heading for Earth, Charlie’s not inclined to let the family know. For one thing, Aunt Catherine could be mistaken about how bad things might get; for another, Charlie’s cousin Allie is pregnant (again) and liable to overreact to news of potential disaster.
But the danger is just as bad as Aunt Catherine sees. NASA has detected an asteroid on a collision course with Earth—one hidden behind another, harmless asteroid until it was only months away—and once the news gets out, millions are sure to die in a panic; billions, on the impact. The aunties, bound to the Earth, can do nothing to affect it: it’s up to Charlie to avert the end of the world. Charlie, and maybe Jack.
The Future Falls is an unusual book. Asteroid impacts and NASA aren’t usually part of the landscape of fantasy, and it took me a little while to reconcile my narrative expectations. It’s more common in contemporary fantasy to see scientists portrayed as villains, or at least antagonists, rather than as diligent people doing necessary jobs. It makes a pleasant change.
The Future Falls doesn’t have a grand over-arching heroic narrative. Like all Huff’s Gale books, at base it’s most concerned with family and relationships. Here, alongside Charlie’s quest to find someone or something that could avert the asteroid apocalypse, The Future Falls gives us her attraction—definitely mutual—to seventeen-year-old Jack. Charlie’s significantly older than Jack, and worse, they’re both Gales. Not that Gales mind other Gales sleeping with each other, quite the opposite, but it’s a Gale family rule that it should only happen between people within seven years of age of each other.
And that’s one rule that even Charlie won’t break.
The Future Falls is an engaging story. Huff keeps events moving along briskly, with an occasionally wicked sense of humour and an ability to take the ridiculous and make it work. (Elves playing professional basketball; sirens in the city. Astrophysicists getting chased by unicorns—I would’ve liked to see more of Dr. Kiren Mehta.)
Although I never quite understood the attraction between Charlie and Jack—for me it’s the weakest part of the novel. The resolution of their relationship comes along with the resolution of the asteroid problem, and leaves me rather disappointed; I can’t help feeling that it’s cheating.
All things considered, The Future Falls is a fair-to-middling contemporary fantasy novel. It’s diverting and fun, with well-drawn characters and entertaining incidents, but it’s not going to bowl you over and sweep you off your feet, and it doesn’t quite stick its ending.
The Future Falls is available Novemeber 4th from DAW.