Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Way Down Dark

Stay out of trouble.
Be selfish.
Don’t die.

Seventeen year old Chan has only ever known life on board the Australia. A ship that left earth many generations ago in search of a new home. But they never found one. Life in the ship is harsh, you keep your head down, your fight or you die. Things are starting to change, and not for the better. Is this the only home she’ll ever have or is there a way back to Earth?

In Way Down Dark, James Smythe’s trademark bleakness gets the young adult treatment. What, you weren’t expecting a cheery book were you? There is a sense of futility on board the Australia. That no matter what you do, you can’t undo the choices made by previous generations. It can feel impossible to escape the circumstances you were born into. Something that has become a general feeling amongst disillusioned, younger generations today.

Life on board the Australia is tough but Chan makes the most of it and stays out of trouble. It’s what her mother would have wanted. There are social hierarchies to navigate, the ship containing an entire city of sorts, with all the sordid elements that comes with. There are those who rule through fear and those who attempt to create what little community they can. Are there are, of course, the religious fanatics who live at the top of the ship in the dark, who roam the lower levels looking for people to bring to their cause. But if there is a god, why has he left them here?

It’s a hard book to review without spoiling part two, because that is where everything shifts. You might work it out beforehand; there is a massive hint. I think my mind made the connection early on but didn’t translate it into any sort of relevance to the story. But it is what makes the book so good, and without it, it did start to feel like one of many other stories in space.

If you’re reading it and feeling the hope drain from your veins, just keep going. Chan’s life does seem like it can’t go anywhere, and certainly things can’t get better as they only seem to be getting worse. Personally, there was a bit too many long action scenes for me. The fighting, violence and damage inflicted is crucial to the overall story and tone, but it did mean I lost interest in some of the passages, wanting to skip onto whatever happens next. But, I’m not a huge fan of action scenes in general, so this is just personal preference.

I hope the next book has a little more world-building from outside Chan’s world. Ship is presented as the whole world, with their own mythologies, but what on Earth (literally) has happened to get them to this point. Don’t get me wrong, I think the world within the ship is crafted wonderfully, full of ominous shadows and creaking metal. The ship feels on its last legs, long past the duration of its intended purpose.

It is a trilogy but I was satisfied by the ending of this first book. It manages to feel like a conclusion as well as the start of something new. Something new and exciting that I definitely want to read more of. And that’s exactly how trilogies should be done.

Way Down Dark is published by Hodder and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 2nd July 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

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