Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley- Book Review- Grand Central Publishing

Each time I see the words Breaking News on a TV screen I think no not another disaster.  I am desensitized to disasters from the never-ending images on the 24/7 news cycle. It takes a while to get to the truth and news stations milk this on the hour to captivate viewers, ratings matter.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is about this 24/7 news cycle and a story they are covering. A plane crashed with two influential wealthy men aboard, Michael Bateman the head of a major news conglomerate and Ben Kipling a Wall Street financial tycoon. Their families including two young children were aboard. These men were powerful movers and shakers with ties to the top levels of government.  A relentless narrative is spun by the anchor of the news station Michael Bateman headed. It concerns the cause of the crash and questions the motivates of one survivor suggesting he may have instigated the crash.

The most compelling thing about Before The Fall was not only the way the book reflects society and the 24/7 news cycle mirroring viewers' insatiable need to watch news to know who is doing what to whom, but the humanity Hawley showed toward each of the characters on the plane whether they survived or not and to the family members not on the plane whose lives were changed.

At moments the news and the horror of the crash became secondary to the way the characters were revealed to the reader. Hawley juxtaposed chapters that moved the main story line forward with chapters dealing with passengers' pasts. As much as I welcomed the information, I feel that the way these chapters were placed in the story was jarring. I found myself wanting the story’s plot to progress. I had to delay this need to know as the remnants of the plane were found and read a chapter about one of the characters on the plane.  Eventually I realized it was worth it since each person from the stewardess to the copilot was humanized, I am not sure how else Hawley could have gotten so much background information in the book without this continual interruption of plot.
Hawley like all good writers told this story scenically. Objects become important in the scenes. Being the bodyguard of a newsman who has threats on his life for controversial views is tense business. Bateman’s bodyguard "slept with his finger on the trigger of a Glock.”  There were other images like this of objects that enhanced the whole thriller aspect off the story as well as believable dialogues often missing from thrillers.

The narrator’s voice added to the mystery of the plane crash and life in general by searching for meaning in the face of tragedy.  One of the character’s hero was Jack LaLanne the fitness expert who is known for his 50’s TV show. The narrator said, “Where Sartre saw ennui, Jack saw energy. When Camus saw pointlessness and death, Jack saw the broad breaking power of repetition.”

When you read the book you will see how Jack LaLanne influenced one of the characters in a way that enabled him to survive.
Before the Fall is the story of people who happened to be in the wrong plane at the wrong time, the story of the need for connection the news provides to the world, the story of  despair and survival. Despite the way the press sensationalized the crash and tried to defame people's character I invite you to see if the power of  love, integrity and truth wins in the end.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I finished reading Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. After I have had time to reflect on the story, I will post a review. This was quite an amazing   thriller (a contemporary who or what did it  tale)that reflects not only the human response to loss and tragedy but also shows what it is like to be in the news business today. It "ain't" your mama's news anymore.  A disturbing and moving story.