Author: Kat Falls
Release date: August 2010
Genre: Sci-fi Adventure / Underwater Western / Dystopia
Target audience: 10+
Summary from Goodreads:
Set in an apocalyptic future where rising oceans have swallowed up entire regions and people live packed like sardines on the dry land left, DARK LIFE is the harrowing tale of underwater pioneers who have carved out a life for themselves in the harsh deep-sea environment, farming the seafloor in exchange for the land deed.
The story follows Ty, who has lived his whole life on his family's homestead and has dreams of claiming his own stake when he turns eighteen. But when outlaws' attacks on government supply ships and settlements...
... threaten to destroy the underwater territory, Ty finds himself in a fight to stop the outlaws and save the only home he has ever known.
Joined by a girl from the Topside who has come subsea to look for her prospector brother, Ty ventures into the frontier's rough underworld and begins to discover some dark secrets to Dark Life.
Dark Life is a fascinating tale which has an old-school charm. It takes me back to a time when I used to watch Westerns at my grandparents' house. But there is nothing out-dated about this book, it is a novel set in the future after the collapse of the the world's infrastructure because of the rising oceans. Brave pioneers set out to build a life beneath the oceans and the story follows Ty, the child of two scientists who live beneath the waves and were the first Benthic Territory settlers. Ty was the first child born sub-sea level. He is as much a part of the ocean as any fish and he has grand plans to stake his claim on an area and make it his home. Unfortunately, there are dangerous outlaws raiding government ships and their actions are threatening the survival of the subsea settlers. It is all so good I have the desire to call them "filthy varmints" and don a cowboy hat. Yee ha!
The author has an extraordinary talent for transporting us to an underwater world which still holds so much mystery for humanity. We always hear scientists talking about exploration of planets, stars and galaxies but we still have not explored every inch of the astounding world beneath the water's surface. The amazing descriptions of the sea life in Dark Life really captivated me. As did, all the ingenius tools that the author invented for humans to be able to live below sea-level. The imaginative power of this book really blew me away.
The plot itself is relatively simple. In this way it does imitate the traditional western although I feel far from an expert to be able to comment more fully on this. It was certainly gripping although it lacked twists. The characterisation was another huge strength of this book but Ty is completely believable and a great perspective to read the story from. The other child characters are also interesting. Gemma was a great leading lady. She had bags of gusto and her wittisms made me chuckle. Ty's sister Zoe was a little bizarre with her obsession with scary ocean creatures but in a really good way. Hewitt had very understandable frustrations about living under the sea and I could emphathise easily with his loneliness.
The unusual descriptions and attention to oceanic detail were one of my favourite things about this book. It has a huge appeal for anyone remotely interested in sea life. Dark Life is also very complete in itself but I felt that there could have been more exploration of the dark gifts. This makes me think a sequel is in order.
Overall, a fascinating story which will take you to the far reach of the ocean floor. It will entertain you with its funny dialogue and have you rather enamoured of its hero. A great read which I definitely recommend!
Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for sending me a copy to review.