Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: DARK LIFE by Kat Falls

Falls, Kat.  Dark Life.  New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.  ISBN-13: 978-0-545-17814-3.  297 pages.  $16.99.  Young Adult.

Dark Life is probably best classified as dystopian science fiction.  Following the catastrophic rise of sea levels, twenty percent of North America is under water. The forty-five remaining states have formed a Commonwealth that functions in a constant state of emergency.  Since the new frontier is now the ocean, where scientists and pioneers work underwater farms to provide the Commonwealth with sustenance,  the setting is underwater off the Eastern seaboard of the former United States. Families live in “subsea” homes made from soft-sided membranes modeled after deep-sea invertebrates, mostly jellyfish.  Children born and raised in these deep ocean settlements are sometimes referred to as Dark Life, and are thought by their Topsider counterparts to have special powers. 

One of these Dark Life adolescents, Ty, is the teenage son of scientist/underwater terra-formers.  Both Ty and his nine year-old sister Zoe, born subsea, possess unique talents suited for underwater living.  In the first chapter, Ty scavenges among the ruins of the now submerged New York City, though doing so violates his parents’ rules.  While investigating an abandoned sub, he discovers Gemma, a teenage Topsider and ward of the Commonwealth, who is searching for her brother.  Ty agrees to help Gemma, but the search proves way more dangerous than either could imagine.  They find themselves caught in an unfolding mystery that involves seagangs, escaped convicts, secret experiments, and the Benthic territory’s struggle for equal representation in the Commonwealth.

Falls’ Dark Life is a neat little gem.  Writing in first person from Ty’s perspective, she re-imagines the American Wild West. Her underwater setting is rife with settlers, outlaws, prospectors, and posses.  She mixes an appropriate amount of action with world building and character development to create an enjoyable read. And while Ty is a well- rounded character, I wished Gemma was a bit more developed. All in all, Falls’ prose is well constructed and pretty evenly paced.

Heather Tylock

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