Sunday, 17 April 2016

Long Dark Dusk

Long Dark Dusk is the second book in the Australia trilogy and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book, Way Down Dark.

Having escaped Australia and survived the crash on Earth, Chan has never been more alone. She has lost the people she loved; her mother, Agatha, Jonah. She has one hope, that she can still save Mae, the little girl she promised to keep safe. But life off the radar in Washington isn’t so easy and Chan must learn to trust strangers to get what she needs.

People live in a state of stasis for long enough, and then it gets hot and they explode.

Way Down Dark dealt with the idea of being punished for the crimes of your ancestors, being unable to escape your circumstances in life, and the themes of incarceration and rehabilitation are explored a bit further in Long Dark Dusk. As well as people an action packed ride through a future earth where populations have plummeted and every human being should be a productive member of society.

Chan finds herself living in the docks, surrounded by those at the bottom, the junkies, the criminals, those that just can’t get ahead in this highly controlled city. She feels like she has made a few friends, Ziegler, a reporter keen to tell her story of life on board Australia and the crash that has been kept secret, and Alala, a woman who trades in anything that might be needed, be that information or drugs. I’m not quite sure why the slums at the docks were left to run riot if this is a future where every human life is precious, where the state wants every to contribute. It is reflective of the kinds of places where the poor end up, but it seemed at odds with what the people in charge said they wanted. Maybe that’s the point.

It's amazing how fast peace can turn into a riot, how quickly a single violent act can upend the status quo.

I was really keen to know what had happened to Earth to lead it to send prisoners into space. Chan reveals plenty of snippets about the history, through visits to the museum and things Ziegler tells her. Overpopulation and global warming has changed the face of the Earth, now the obliging live within walled cities, the air filtered and every move monitored. Some of the constraints of the new world are shown through encounters Chan has. As the book opens she is trying to help a girl with an illegal baby, suggesting that reproduction is now strictly controlled. These things aren’t central to the story but they help to shape the world it unfolds in.

I liked the evolution of some of our familiar technology now into Gaia, the Siri/Cortana of the future, and driverless cars. The augments might seem further fetched but there are already bionic limbs and you can have your retinas zapped with lasers to help you see better.

Just as the second part of the first book made more of an impact on me, the things I really liked about the second instalment fell in part two. Again! So I don’t feel I can talk about much without dropping some spoilers. The people from the Australia are still considered criminals, even though they were never sentenced, not in a court of law at least, and there is no proof of what they did on board the ship. They deserve the chance at rehabilitation but not without the chance to be themselves, to prove that they can be better without state intervention.

I've really only ever known three places properly [...] and really, they're not so different. They're all prisons in their own way.

Chan is a good person at heart, despite what she may have done to survive. She wants to help other people, keep her people safe and ultimately keep her promises, no matter how hard that might be. Her treatment feels a lot like an injustice, her past clouding the judgement of those who might otherwise see her as an individual.

I did find it a bit slow to get going, like I said of the previous book, action isn’t really my thing so I was glad that it was in three distinct parts, with some of it being a bit more introspective. I am still excited to read the third book, Dark Made Dawn (that's a positive title, right?), which is out October this year. So not too long to wait!

Long Dark Dusk is published by Hodder and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. 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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