BOOKS: ALL FALL DOWN

A FIRST NOVEL WEIGHS THE IMPACT OF A PLANE CRASH

An airliner crashes in the first paragraph of a novel. The author, who, of course, has decreed the time and place of the crash as well as the passenger list, has a number of choices. Does he thread backward, exploring the chilly ironies of Fate's dice rolling? Forward, tracing a bizarre linkage of events unexpectedly tumbled into motion? Does he find sabotage, corporate greed, a pilot who memorized an eye chart he could no longer read?

In his fine, dreamlike first novel, The Light of Falling Stars (Riverhead; 308 pages; $23.95), J. Robert Lennon does start off with an air crash,...

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