Dark Life by Kat Falls

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Dark Life by Kat Falls

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A really fresh look at a busy future catastrophe genre, in which prospectors are colonising the ocean bed after global warming reaches crisis point. Fantastic tension and a superb imagination feed an original and satisfying book. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1847387616

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Climate change came. The oceans rose. Half the land mass disappeared uner the water. Some of what was left simply crumbled away. Now, Topsiders live in giant tower blocks in a society under an authoritarian regime with emergency powers. Time outside is limited because the sun is so strong it causes third degree burns. Status brings space, not money. Using space to which you aren't entitled brings severe punishment crashing down upon you. It's no wonder Gemma wants to find her brother, who is living as Dark Life on the ocean floor.

Ty is Dark Life. He has lived under the sea for his entire life. In fact, he was the first pioneer child born in the Benthic Territory and he loves his home. Topside is anathema to Ty, with its pink-skinned people, its crowds, its noise and its dirt. He hates the way they stare at his undersea "shine" and make him feel like a freak. In just a few short years, he'll be eighteen and old enough to stake a claim of his own and he wants that more than anything. But the Seablite gang are putting everything at risk. If the settlers don't catch this pirate gang, the authorities are threatening to end support for the colony - and Ty has a secret that could never survive on the surface...

Dystopian fiction? Heroes? Or an undersea western? Hooray! It's all three. I absolutely loved Dark Falls. I'm a complete sucker for speculative future catastrophe fiction, as I'm sure you've all realised by now, and nobody has gone under the sea for absolutely ages. The idea of the undersea dwellers being pioneers in the style of the Old West, of course, adds the potential for danger and tension. And, what would happen to children brought up on the ocean floor? Would they - could they? - mutate? This is such fertile ground for fiction, and it certainly ticks all my boxes.

And Falls didn't let me down. Her worldbuilding is vivid but subtle and she lets events gradually describe her setting, never resorting to tiresome exposition. This allows Dark Falls to come in at under three hundred pages and sustain huge tension perfectly. Neither is Falls in a hurry to reveal her plot's truths - instead, she drops subtle hint after subtle hint and you need to pay real attention to pick up on all of them. It's this blend of the urge to turn the pages as quickly as possible and the need to think things through carefully that forms the real reading enjoyment in Dark Falls. It pushes you on whilst pulling you back and it's a balancing act that Falls pulls off with panache.

Ty and Gemma are very alike in many ways: they're both independent thinkers and fiercely determined. Neither lack courage. But where Gemma is forthright and articulate, Ty tends to be reserved and reticent. They each provide a foil for the other, but together they make a good team. I thought their relationship was tremendously touching. The supporting cast is well-drawn and fully-fleshed and although I'd guessed the twist in the tail a little before the reveal, it wasn't that much before, and I finished the book with a real desire for more.

It's vivid, it's original, it's tense but controlled, and it leaves you wanting more. I understand a sequel is on the way. The sooner the better! Dark Falls comes highly recommended by Bookbag.

My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book. We also have a review of Rip Tide (Dark Life) by Kat Falls.

Helen Dunmore's intensely romantic Ingo series is all about a subsea life and has strong environmental themes, but it's pre-apocalyptic. Some people still have hope! Some of our favourite teen future catastrophe novels are Bad Faith by Gillian Philip, The Declaration by Gemma Malley, and the splendiferous The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd, about a Britain under carbon rationing. Oh, and I mustn't forget Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, which is set in the future but harks back to the mores of a past age.

Booklists.jpg Dark Life by Kat Falls is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2010.

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Buy Dark Life by Kat Falls at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dark Life by Kat Falls at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dark Life by Kat Falls at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dark Life by Kat Falls at Amazon.com.


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