In Patrick Flanery’s engaging new novel Fallen Land, Paul Krovik is driven insane by his own failure and the corruption of his personal value system. His dream? To build a luxury, neo-Victorian subdivision. Only the economy tanks, thus derailing the financial success of the development, bad financial decisions are made, his family is torn apart, and paranoia ensues. New residents Julia and Nathaniel arrive with their young son Copley, buying Krovik’s original dream house. To them, this suburb represents all they were trying to escape in Boston. It’s a fresh start, a chance at a better life, but the bitterness runs deep – literally and figuratively. As the characters embark on what can only be a collision course, this dark tale investigates the state of the American psyche.
Although Fallen Land is a psychological novel, it is also a sociological meditation. It deals as heavily with the mental state of its characters as it does with issues plaguing America post-9/11. From unstable Krovik to young, troubled Copley, the characters are well-drawn and nuanced. Lurking underneath the plot’s surface is the questioning of the American dream, thoughts on immigration and racism, how personal freedoms are sacrificed in the name of security, prescription drug reliance, the way the past can haunt us, and the effects of suburban sprawl. It is very much a novel of 'big ideas' - a simulacrum of the failings of American society - this makes the story as thought provoking as it is exhausting.
The novel’s atmosphere is a mix of dystopian and gothic, the characters suffering from a restless, unknowable fear. Emphasizing this is Nathaniel’s company, a forbidding and frightening security company that exacts a heavy toll on its employees simply by its expectations, and Copley’s recurring ‘dreams’. Ultimately it’s a dark, disturbing tale that is equal parts literary fiction and psychological thriller (perhaps William Faulkner meets Stephen King in Huxley's Brave New World?). It eerily demonstrates the thin, malleable line between reason and madness and the illogical labyrinth of the American dream. It encourages the reader to ask: If someone wants you to be afraid, what can they gain by your fear? And furthermore, why is it so hard to see our fears? Read it.