Friday, July 23, 2021

"When the Sparrow Falls"

Neil Sharpson lives in Dublin with his wife and their two children. Having written for theatre since his teens, Sharpson transitioned to writing novels in 2017, adapting his own play The Caspian Sea into When The Sparrow Falls.

A huge fan of animation, Sharpson writes Unshaved Mouse, a comedic review blog mostly focusing on animated film and comic book movies.

He applied the Page 69 Test to When The Sparrow Falls and reported the following:
From page 69:
“A pleasure to meet you,” she said, and extended her hand.

StaSec is not in the business of shaking hands. I ignored her.

“I am to take you to identify your husband’s remains.” A look of mild confusion passed over her features but I continued. “Before we leave the airport I must ensure that you understand the conditions of your stay here.”

“All right,” she said, quietly.

I had been given a specific text to read to her. Fortunately, the morning light had improved enough that I could actually read it.

“You have been granted the status of natural-born human by special dispensation of the Parliament of the Caspian Republic”…
Page 69 (in the US edition at least) sees StaSec Agent Nikolai South meeting his charge at an airport, the visiting AI dignitary Lily Xirau. She tries to be friendly, he is curt and brusque and begins to read a long and increasingly absurd list of restrictions that will be placed on her during her time in the Caspian republic (“in the event of your death, in the eyes of the law you will be considered dead and will be legally obliged to remain so”). This continues until Lily interrupts South with a polite but firm suggestion that they continue this in the car where it's warmer so that she won’t have to stand on the cold tarmac.

I was genuinely surprised at how well this test worked for When the Sparrow Falls. We join right at the beginning of what will be the single most important relationship in the book, that of Nikolai South and Lily Xirau. We learn about StaSec, the anti AI ideology that underpins the Caspian Republic and perhaps most importantly we get the ambience of a paranoid Soviet era state. It’s also a very good introduction to Lily, gentle and polite but with a core of iron. It’s less representative of Nikolai, who here comes across as a rigid and inflexible government bureaucrat rather than the extremely canny and compassionate man he truly is. But all in all, I think Page 69 does a very good job of setting out the book’s stall. I’ll definitely be trying this out next time I’m down the book shop.
Visit Neil Sharpson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue