My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Length: 187 pages (e-book)
Release date: 1 November 2017
The first word that comes to mind when I think of The New Dark is decent. It’s not amazing, it doesn’t pull out all the stops and dazzle you, nor does it bring an insane new concept to the table. At the same time, it’s a comfortably satisfying read, weighed down by tropes as it may be.
Sorrel is a tough, admirable protagonist. She may be immature, impulsive, or rash at times, but no more so than the normal YA lead (or your average teenager, for that matter). Considering what she goes through, I’m frankly impressed that she still keeps her head up and moves forward in her quest to find the people she lost. What the blurb leaves out is that Thomson doesn’t just show us Sorrel’s perspective, though. We get an equal amount of her boyfriend David’s POV, and it’s written with every bit the care given to hers. This isn’t one of those books where you’ll end up skimming one of the POVs because it’s so much inferior to the other.
Worldbuilding is where The New Dark falls short. We’re thrown into the deep end from the very first chapters, a Mad Max-esque universe with little explanation of how or why things came to be the way they are. Sorrel mentions her grandmother’s tales of Before (our present), so did the vaguely alluded to apocalyptic event occur a mere two generations ago? No one knows, or cares to say. To be fair, the lack of clarity isn’t that big of an issue, and we do get to see a few more remnants of the old world–Bigshops! Flashlights! Running water!–as the story goes on. It does make you wonder, though: What kind of apocalypse could have wiped out even memories of established society, yet left so many functioning items behind? Somebody rides a scavenged electronic scooter in the book without any problem. If these things are still left behind, how could people not know more of the past? Sorrel and everyone from her hometown of Amat is illiterate–has the written word disappeared in just two generations? Hopefully some of these questions will be answered in the sequels, which I’m quite looking forward to after the cliffhanger ending of the first book.
Another thing about The New Dark, which might be good or bad depending on your personal taste, is that it’s significantly darker than I expected. (Well, no duh, you say. Look at the title. Shh.) Mad Max-esque isn’t that much of an exaggeration. There’s some crazy stuff that goes down in the story, and Thomson’s post-apocalyptic anarchy is pretty crapsack as they come. Rule #1 of The New Dark: Half the people out there want to kill you, and the other half want to make you their slave. Rule #2: For the love of God, don’t eat/drink/too deeply inhale anything that’s been out of your sight for longer than a second. And don’t fall asleep on the road.
Ultimately, the plot turns out fairly predictable. Despite the detours and side quests that Sorrel falls into on her road trip of murder and child slavery, the novel ends at a place that many Book Ones in YA trilogies do, barring the cliffhanger of the final few pages. That didn’t detract too much from the story, which I thoroughly enjoyed as a shorter than average read with a hefty amount of plot in its 187 pages.
*Thank you to NetGalley and Bastei Entertainment for a review copy of this book! All opinions represented remain my own.*