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BOOK REVIEW: Way Down Dark by JP Smythe

| 15 August 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Way Down Dark by JP Smythe

Hodder & Stoughton
July 2015
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

7/10

9781444796322

There’s one truth on Australia: You fight or you die. Usually both.

 

Hundreds of years ago, people fled a dying Earth in search of a new home. They never found one.

Everything the people on the spaceship Australia remember now is from the stories that were handed down, generation to generation; there is no permanent record of any of it. All the books have long since crumbled, and any scraps of use – be they fabric, metal scavenged from the ship itself, or items collected from the decomposing bodies in the pit at the bottom of the ship – have been recycled, many times over.

The only place they can get anything new or fresh is the arboretum, a greenhouse that hangs in the middle of their ship, where they can work to pick fruit and vegetables. Everything else is recycled and turned into food, water, or clothing.

Everything we wear is recycled, like the air, like the water, but how they get their materials is different. They scavenge. We’ve come to accept it: that they go to the Pit at the bottom of the ship, take what they need from the bodies and then clean it, dye it, re-cut it. They turn the scraps into something new and you’d never know where they originally came from. Rumour has it, even the dyes they use come from down there. Rumour has it that they harvest skin with tattoos and recycle the colour from them, draining it out of the dead skin, soaking it out and breaking it down. I don’t know if that’s true, but it feels like it could be.

After the death of Chan’s mother, the power on the ship is shifting, with the ruthless, barbaric Lows starting to claim more territory by any means possible, and Chan has no one else to watch her back anymore.

I arrange my pillow so that I can keep my knife underneath it, my hand resting on it, just in case. I have my shoes ready to step into; and I sleep in enough clothes that, if I’m forced to run, I won’t be caught short. And I say goodnight to my mother. I have said goodnight to my mother every single night of my life; I don’t stop just because she’s dead.

The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.

‘Enough. This is enough, now. You’ve done what you can, and you’ve pushed your luck. Soon enough it will run out.’ She takes my face in her hands. ‘You aren’t special, Chan. None of us are.’
‘I’m not special,’ I say, ‘that’s right. I’m really not. Anybody could have done what I’m doing, but they didn’t. So I am going to. Maybe that’s enough.’

 

Way Down Dark was a very interesting concept, with reasonable writing, and a main character who wasn’t a chosen one, but rather chose to do something about the situation. But it was sadly lacking any great “wow” factor that would kick this up to a rating of eight or higher. An easily devoured novel, it doesn’t disappoint, exactly, but falls just shy of being something really amazing, rather than just enjoyable.

Throughout the story, spec fic fans will be able to spot elements of their favourite shows and books, including:

– The evacuation of Earth, and various other elements of reminiscent of The 100.
– The Lows, who take on an attitude that is almost Reaver-like at times (from Firefly/Serenity).
– Other conflicts suggesting that these characters might be at home in Lord of the Flies.

Those taken into consideration, this story still manages to stand on its own, and has a lot of potential. One can only hope that the following books in this trilogy live up to it.

 

Way Down Dark is the first book in the Australia trilogy. 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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