Book Review: “When the Sparrow Falls” by Neil Sharpson

When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson
When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson (Cover)

When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson is more than another AI novel that questions what it means to be human. The story explores technology, complicity, and authoritarianism in a future where Artificial Intelligence dominates every nation except for the Caspian Republic (Eastern Europe).

I’ve received a free ARC of When the Sparrow Falls from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Security Agent Nikolai South starts his narrative with an execution. He witnesses the hanging of a man, a rare occurrence in the Caspian Republic. Afterward, South is assigned to chaperone the man’s wife. But the widow Lily is a machine, one that resembles South’s late wife. Until now, South has kept to himself, going by the rules in this supposedly AI-free sanctuary. These new series of events in his life will propel him to unearth a conspiracy that, if revealed, could shatter the Caspian Republic.

Sharpson’s fluid prose reads like a lullaby, albeit one that keeps you awake. He narrows in on the small but significant details like the remains of someone’s breakfast on their beard, or how a crowd looks like unwashed potatoes. Sharpson breathes life into this future and South’s narrative arc. Not only are epigraphs included at the start of every chapter, providing glimpses of how this future had manifested over time, but atmospheric and vivid details paint a poignant portrait of the Caspian Republic and its citizens. Even when the story dwells on this world’s history, Sharpson manages to compel his audience through his attention to detail.

When the Sparrow Falls navigates themes of AI consciousness and human supremacy. The Republic executed Lily’s husband because he was found out to be an AI, and Lily is now also a target for the same reason. Nikolai and Lily’s character dynamics remind me of the 2002 film Solaris and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. A personal story about memory and autonomy, When the Sparrow Falls offers a vision of a human future.

Released today, When the Sparrow Falls is available from Macmillian Publishers and Tor.

You can read an excerpt here.

Author: Brahidaliz Martinez

Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. They’re a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine. Their various areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, Artificial Intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media.

Pronouns: he/they
Location: DC Metro area

Twitter: @brahidaliz


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