One day Sam Riley is a normal teenager being goaded to tidy his room. The next he is on the run and hiding in sewers after the rest of humanity slips into a vegetative state – up and walking, but completely unresponsive. Meanwhile there are now flying metal jellyfish-like creatures patrolling the skies over London, and they may well be looking for Sam.

Sam eventually discovers he is not the last conscious remnant of the human race, and runs into a group of other teenagers much like himself – except these ones seem to have military training, and rocket launchers to go with it. Joining them in a hidden underground shelter, Sam learns of their little guerrilla war against the alien invaders, which they call the Threat. Some of those in the shelter, however, have been keeping a devastating secret since before the Threat first arrived.

At times Earthfall reads like the ultimate piece of fan fiction. It proudly wears its influences like a succession of band T-shirts. Giant round alien spacecraft settling over key locations in all the world’s cities reminded me of Independence Day. Semi-robotic flying drones with lethal tendrils reminded me of War of the Worlds. And Doctor Who has been making cheap monsters out of zombified humans for decades.

What it lacks in originality it makes up for with a fast-paced story packed with expertly crafted action scenes. You can tell Mark Walden has a background in video games. The book is perfect for distracted teenage boys or any other reluctant readers more likely to switch on a movie than pick up a book. I see a second installment comes out soon, which I will be checking out.

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