Hodder & Stoughton | 2016 | 361p | Bought copy | Buy the book
Long Dark Dusk is the middle book in J.P. Smythe’s Young Adult science fiction trilogy, Australia. The good news is that the final novel in the series, Dark Made Dawn, has just been published and so now is the perfect time to read the whole story in one. And it is such a good story. But you wouldn’t want to read Long Dark Dusk without having read the first book, Way Down Dark, so, if you haven’t, proceed with caution.
Everything has changed for Chan since the events of Way Down Dark. She did all she could to save the people aboard Australia, the prison spaceship orbiting Earth, but on landing back on the planet she was separated from everyone she knew, including the little girl Maia whom Chan would do anything to protect. Chan does all she can to find Maia while spending her days simply surviving on a planet that has been all but destroyed by mankind. Chan’s world is now a walled city, no less a prison than Australia, she mixes with criminals, trading goods with gangsters, trading stories with the curious, grabbing what chances she can, however dangerous, to find her lost friends. But everyday Chan is reminded of events aboard Australia and those she left behind.
Long Dark Dusk might be at times a bleak and disturbing read – Chan’s life has had the light taken out of it – but it is thoroughly involving and its movement, in three parts, is gripping. For me, the novel really comes into its own during the second and third parts, when Chan is able to make her move. In these sections there are shocks and surprises galore, not to mention action and general mayhem. The world has undergone an apocalyptic event, technology has stalled for decades, and, although there are glimpses of advanced gadgets on display here (including cars and motorbikes that drive themselves), these are overshadowed by far by violence, blood, crime, punishment and fear. There are moments in the first third that really disturbed me – this might be a Young Adult novel but I think that young adults may be far harder to shock than me. In fact, I would argue that despite the Young Adult label the Australia trilogy is perfect science fiction reading for adults of all ages.
The worldbuilding in Long Dark Dusk is fantastic. We’re taken to a number of environments, both inside the walls and outside, and you can almost feel the heat of this burned Earth on your skin and taste its ragged, ungiving air. I do like Chan. She’s on her own and has to do the best she can. But she never gives up. There is another really intriguing character here but I’m not going to mention them as you should discover them for yourselves.
When all’s said and done, Long Dark Dusk is a thrilling science fiction adventure, now transferred from space to a ravaged futuristic Earth. It is full of mysteries and surprising developments, not all of them fully explained or explored. That is left for Dark Made Dawn and I can’t wait to see what happens.
I am a huge fan of James (J.P.) Smythe’s work. His novels are always ingenious, original and intelligent, albeit often dark and disturbing. He has a unique voice. It’s well worth listening to.
Also reviewed at Curiosity killed the bookworm.