Fallen Host, sequel to last year’s well-reviewed Archangel Protocol, is a book I should have liked. It has an interesting religious angle, it’s well written, and its storyline is fresh and quite unique. And yet, I did not like it. I never connected with any of the characters and actively detested two of them. The plot confused me more and more as it progressed. All of Morehouse’s cleverness was wasted on me. I found the book to be terribly depressing.
The book’s premise is quite complex and rather difficult to fully absorb. The main characters form a strange trinity: a fallen angel, a cynical religious inquisitor, and a confused computer program (artificial intelligence). The book begins when the Vatican gives Emmaline the Inquisitor the assignment of determining whether the world’s two artificial intelligences, Page and the Dragon, have souls. This search leads her from Rome to New York City where she interviews Page’s creator, Mouse, in prison.
At the same time Morningstar, alias Iblis, alias Lucifer, alias Satan, has begun to realize that the Last Battle may be imminent and he ought to get a jump on finding his Antichrist. He begins to explore his leads. After determining that Page the Intelligence fits his requirements, he also enlists the help of Mouse. Page himself (or herself, artificial intelligences are without sex, naturally) is quite perplexed at his changing situation and confused about how to deal with Morningstar’s attention. Since he turned in his “father,” Mouse, he’s felt guilty, even though he thinks he was justified in doing so as Mouse’s actions were corrupt and deceptive.
Through a series of events, Emmaline, Morningstar, and Page become entangled in each other’s missions without realizing exactly what motives the other members of the trinity have. And the angel Jibril makes enough offensive forays against Morningstar to persuade him that the end of the world may very well be at hand.
Morehouse’s futuristic world is very detailed and convincing, and she does a good job at making all of her details mesh consistently. But for me, that world was a complete turn-off. Medusa bombs have turned cities to nuclear glass. Science is suspect, and religion reigns supreme. Everyone is physically hooked up to the LINK – everyone, that is, who has declared a religion. The circumstances of this world are difficult and frightening, and good seems to have ceased to exist. It was unpleasant to think that almost the entire world was overtly religious, but the only character that had any true faith or integrity was Page, the computer program, and even he faltered. How can this be? Does religion have no value at all?
Morehouse’s portrayal of God and the angels is equally disturbing. Admittedly, most of them are viewed through the eyes of Morningstar, the rebel and outcast, but even so, the heavenly host seem neither compassionate nor particularly good. The whole thing, the Armageddon-End-of-the-World thing, seems like a game. Teams have been divided up, the end is “certain,” and now everyone must play their assigned parts. Good and evil do not enter into the picture at all. It’s like some celestial game of RISK.
Two of the three main characters are so noxious that it was quite unpleasant to read about them. Emmaline is a Catholic priest, yet she is neither devout nor particularly observant. She blithely pushes aside the tenets of her faith and the welfare of others to pursue what she desires. She’s far more attached to the power of her position than she is to the God she “serves.” And Morningstar is, of course, Satan. When he first appears he seems to have some charm and a wry wit. His observations about the End Times hysteria and people’s attempts to predict the Second Coming were quite amusing. Morehouse even attempts to make him sexy. But as the plot unravels itself, he reveals his true nature, and it is not pretty. If Morningstar and Emmaline were the villains of this book, their unattractive traits would be understandable, and perhaps enjoyable. But they are the protagonists! Is the reader supposed to sympathize with their self-centered pursuits?
Page is the only slightly appealing character, but it’s hard to get a grip on “him” since he’s so confused about himself and his own nature. Also, his sections of the book were so full of technological detail it was like reading a computer manual. Perhaps other readers might enjoy the complexity of virtual reality. I found it baffling and distancing.
The book also has no clear ending. Emmaline and Morningstar become entangled romantically, to the extent that two entirely selfish characters can, but I would hardly classify their relationship as romance. The ending has To Be Continued all over it. Perhaps the central question – who is the Antichrist? – has been resolved but that is about it. To know the outcome of the Last Battle readers will have to continue reading the series. Unfortunately, I have no interest in doing so.
Fallen Host is simply not my kind of book. It’s filled with myriad religious images, yet it has no soul. The plot is different and unpredictable, but the characters are so unsympathetic that the reader loses interest in the outcome. And the universe those characters inhabit is dark, depressing, and lacking hope. Anyone reader requiring the slightest sort of HEA should definitely look elsewhere for her fiction needs. This is not a book with which to while away the hours.