Page Count: 304 (Hardcover)
Published: May 2010 by Scholastic
Genre: YA, science-fiction, dystopia
Recommended For: fans of far-out science fiction
Synopsis: 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. As Ty gets closer to the truth, he discovers that the outlaws may not be the bloodthirsty criminals the government has portrayed them as. And that the government abandoning the territory might be the best thing for everyone, especially for someone like Ty, someone with a Dark Gift.
My Thoughts: Dark Life is without a doubt one of the most unique books I've read in a long time, setting-wise. It's sort of like the movie Water World meets Heroes meets the old Wild West movies-- you've got pioneers living on ocean-floor fish farms, driven to find new free land after the government and overpopulation made the surface world all but unlivable. There are a band of mysterious outlaws-- sort of sub-sea pirates, really, called the Seablite Gang-- attacking the settlers' homesteads and destroying the complex system of their underwater homes. And then we have the revelation that many of the children who were born sub-sea or have lived there for most of their lives have adapted to their environment and developed powers-- called Dark Gifts. At times the nature of these Dark Gifts could be a little beyond far-out... bordering on beyond belief. Yes, I realize this is sci-fi, but the author didn't really offer a valid explanation for why these kids are developing these incredible powers. I wish Kat Falls (another author namesake!) had expanded a little more on all that.
The book's first-person narrator, Ty, draws you immediately into the action of the plot, which kicks off on the first page and doesn't cease for a single paragraph until the very end. The break-necked pace and colorful inventiveness of the story world really draw a reader in, and I can't imagine anyone being unable to put down this engrossing read for more than a few minutes. (I'm very guilty of reading it under my desk at school.) Gemma, the Topside girl who Ty meets on an apparently abandoned submarine, is one tough girl-- I really loved her backstory and the way she was determined to survive in the underwater world she was utterly unfamiliar with. There's a hint or two of romance between Gemma and Ty, but the pages are mostly devoted to Ty's thwarting the Seablite Gang. There are quite a few plot twists, but I saw most of them coming a mile away.
I recommend Dark Life for the amazing, intricate dytopia world and as a quick, fun read. It's not the most memorable book I've read this year, but all in all, I definitely enjoyed it. The sequel, Rip Tide, has just been announced and will be released sometime in 2011. I will definitely be looking forward to re-submerging into Ty's undersea world.
Overall Rating: 4/5