Monday, 26 July 2010
Review: Dark Life by Kate Falls
Ty has lived under the ocean for his entire life. Following global warming and the rise of the seas, his family joined an underwater community in hopes of living in the new frontier of the ocean floor. But When Ty meets Gemma, a girl from "topside", who is searching the seas for her brother, she quickly makes his life very complicated. Together Ty and Gemma face dangerous sea creatures and venture into the frontier town's rough underworld as they search for her missing brother. But the deeper they dig, the more attention they attract, and soon Ty and Gemma find themselves being hunted by a gang of outlaws who roam the underwater territories causing havoc, and who seem to have eerie abilities. But Ty has a secret of his own, living underwater for his entire life has meant he has also developed a "special" power. Can he keep it a secret from Gemma and his family or is it time for him to finally tell everyone the truth?
I was sent this book months ago as it was originally scheduled for a May release. However, the publication date was pushed back to 5th August, and as I had so many other books to review at the time I decided to put my review for Dark Life on hold. Now we are less than two weeks away from its official release date, and copies are already available on Amazon I feel it is time to tell the world how much I enjoyed this book - it should definitely be on your holiday reading list this summer.
It often amazes me how an author can pull in a reader with just a handful of words in an opening paragraph, making that reader want to continue reading more than anything else at that moment in time. Kat Falls pulls this off with remarkable ease, especially considering this is her debut novel:
"I peered into the deep-sea canyon, hoping to spot a toppled skyscraper. Maybe even the Statue of Liberty. But there was no sign of the old East Coast, just a sheer drop into darkness."
And she has not been let down by the designer of the book's cover. If any book was going to shout "Buy me!" from a book store shelf this summer it is going to be this one.
Dark Life is set in the future, when the oceans have risen due to global warming. Land is now at a premium with the majority of the world's population living in tightly packed high rise towers, and people only venture out smothered in super-high factor sunblock in order to stop their skin from being stripped away by the extremely high levels of UV radiation that now bombard the planet. In an attempt to forge a better life a small number of brave individuals and fmailies have set up homesteads on the sea beds, staking claims to land just as the pioneers of the Old West did one hundred and fifty years ago. In fact, the parallels with the Old West do not stop there. Imagine all those classic Westerns that are repeated on TV ad infinitum, but in a future setting, where the farms are underwater, the crops farmed include plankton and kelp, and outlaws travel in submarines instead of on horseback. Ms Falls has taken a period in american history that we all know so well from decades of Hollywood movies, and has used this as the basis for her creation of a fully realised and fascinating future world.
The story is told through the voice of Ty, a teenage boy whose mother and father own 200 acres of ocean floor. Right from the start we discover how different Ty's life is from your average modern day teenager when he has to evade a green lantern shark - only twelve inches long but able to "rip apart something twenty times their size". On balance I generally prefer third person narration, but the telling of this story in the first person really worked for me - Ty's life is so alien to anything that a young reader has ever experienced the first person narration really helps us get inside his head and understand his hopes and dreams, and his fears and frustrations. Ty can come across as a little too goody-goody at times, and yet he is also a rule breaker as he bravely takes risks and ignores the boundaries set by his parents as he seeks to explore his fascinating world. With so few teenagers to socialise with who can blame him for wanting a little excitement?
Excitement suddenly comes along by the truckload when he meets Gemma, a Topsider who has run away from her boarding house and is searching the subsea area for her long lost brother. From the moment the two meet Ty's life seems to go into overdrive as he races from one near-death experience straight into another, facing deadly creatures and bloodthirsty outlaws, whilst also trying to hide a dark secret about himself and his sister. Rumours abound amongst Topiders that children born beneath the waves have special mutant powers resulting from the 'unnatural environment' in which they live. Ty, his sister and his friend Hewitt have spent their lives hiding their powers from everyone, including their parents, as they worry that their parents will worry about any potential long-term damage and move the families back to dry land. Gemma has her suspicions right from the start, although some of this is prompted by Ty's physical appearance - his skin shimmers, a product of eating bioluminescent fish.
I think boys will love this book. The action is non-stop throughout - there is certainly no chance to get bored. The subsea world is truly fascinating, and although the concept of people dwelling beneath the waves has been around for centuries, in Dark Life it is explored in a fresh and original way. Most of all I think boys will love the villains of the story - the ruthless Shade and his Seablite Gang, the most feared outlaws beneath the waves. These guys are nasty, seemingly happy to kill anyone if it suits their cause.
Unlike many books being released these days this book doesn't end on a cliffhanger, and all the loose ends and various little mysteries created by the author are brought to a satisfying conclusion. I would be very disappointed however if this isn't the first in a series as I very much want to see what happens next in the lives of Ty and Gemma in their underwater world. Thanks go to the generous people at Simon and Schuster who sent me a copy of Dark Life to review.