Cameron's Reviews > Dark Life

Dark Life by Kat Falls
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's review
Jun 03, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: first-reads, reviewed, read-with-wife
Read from June 22 to 30, 2010 — I own a copy

Critically speaking, Dark Life was quite the roller coaster ride for me. There were points when I was certain I was going to give this book a high rating and then, 30 pages later, I was sure that I was going to give it a low rating. Then there were the points where I had no idea what rating I thought it deserved. (Which, in this metaphor, equates to the loops, I suppose. Or perhaps it's that split second where you're absolutely sure that you're going to die when you come an inch off your seat, shoulder restraints be damned). When I finally settled on three stars, I groaned. Books like Dark Life are always the hardest to review, because when all things are considered, they don't make me feel anything one way or the other. I don't love it or hate it enough to be passionate when I write or talk about it and I often have to force my thoughts out of me. Oh well, down to business.

Let's start with the good. I very much like the concept of this book. The undersea life Falls has created is fun and creative. It's vividly described and there's some pretty neat tech in the book. Though I wish she went into a bit more detail on how some of the technologies worked. How exactly does a "bubble fence" keep sharks and other unwanted marine life out of people's property?

Though unremarkable, both the main antagonist and the action scenes are well written. Shade, the aforementioned antagonist, has some pretty fun moments. I don't think he's as scary as the author wanted him to be, but he is at least entertaining. The action in the book is pretty much in the same boat. Fun and comprehensible, but not particularly thrilling or exciting.

More often than I'd like, I read books that just turn out to be giant trailers or previews for an upcoming sequel. Dark Life isn't one of those books. There's certainly room for a sequel, but all the story's major conflicts are more or less resolved. It's nice to read a book that has a sense of closure to it when you, you know, close it. So points for that.

As far as the negative is concerned, I'm disappointed that more of the world Falls has created here wasn't explored. We get a good sense of what "Dark Life", or life underwater, is like, but it's really not too different from the life we live now. The setting's different sure, and it's interesting to see how humans have adapted to life underwater, but once you look past that, it's pretty much the same life. What I really wanted to see, was what life was like "Topside". It would have been nice if more insight was given on the condition of a world so drastically different from its accepted norm. We never get much more than passing comments from the characters about life above water, though. Sad really.

Characters are another problem. Aside from Shade, most of them are all frustrating in some form or fashion. Frustratingly whiny, frustratingly incompetent, frustratingly sarcastic. Ty, the protagonist, is the only one who really comes close to being likable. Notice that I said close. Even he is, at best, tolerable.

My biggest problem with the book is its climax. As mentioned before, the writing here is handled well enough, but what's wrote about isn't anything we haven't seen, heard, or read a hundred times before. It's all pretty basic and most readers will be able to guess what happens a dozen or so pages ahead of time. Not only that, but the scenarios are groan inducingly cliche. (Warning: Details about the end of the book follow. If you don't want anything spoiled, proceed to the conclusion of the review after "Spoilers End Here").

<<<---Spoilers Start Here--->>>

Once, just once, I would love to see a character NOT be miraculously brought back to life after drowning through the use of CPR, defibrillation, and/or the sorrowful scream of the line "You can't die! Not now!". One time! That's it. That's all I'm asking.

<<<---Spoilers End Here--->>>

Despite its faults, Dark Life isn't a bad book. It's actually a pretty good effort from a new author. One final warning though: This book makes no attempt to hide the fact that it's written for the YA crowd. That's not a complaint (considering that it is a YA book) but older readers may not be able to shake the feeling that they aren't the target audience. That said, if you're looking for a fun YA tale, and you've already read The Hunger Games and Graceling, Dark Life should satisfy you.

*Received via Goodreads First Reads*
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