Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 20th 2018
Genres: young adult, science fiction, horror
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Set against a future of marauding space scavengers and deadly aliens who kill with sound, here is a frightening, fast-paced YA adventure from the author of the acclaimed horror novel, Shutter.
Tuck has been in stasis on the USS John Muir, a ship that houses Earth’s most valued artifacts—its natural resources. Parks and mountains are preserved in space.
Laura belongs to a shipraiding family, who are funded by a group used to getting what they want. And they want what’s on the Muir.
Tuck and Laura didn’t bargain on working together, or battling mutant aliens who use sound to kill. But their plan is the only hope for their crews, their families, and themselves.
In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you'll hear.
I just read a kickass book about killer aliens in outer space, two starships colliding, and ecoterrorism. It was tense, paced well, and pretty fucking scary, to be honest. And I thought that was all. But then I read the author’s note at the end. And suddenly what I thought was a straightforward horror novel in space became something a little different.
It’s been a really difficult year and three months (so far) for anyone that was opposed to Trump’s presidency. But it’s probably been a terrifying nightmare come to life for anyone that isn’t white. If you’re a writer, that fear is going to translate into the stories that you write. And suddenly little details that I thought were just regular story elements became subtle parallels to the world we are living in now, and somehow it meant more.
I was a big fan of Shutter, Courtney Alameda’s debut novel. I feel it didn’t get enough attention when it came out, and that will probably be the case for this one too because horror isn’t as big a genre in young adult as I would like it to be. But this author’s fanbase is slowly growing, and it’s clear to me that Courtney can write any kind of horror, but it’s not the kind with a lot of jump scares and no connection. Courtney writes horror with developed character with hopes and dreams, worlds with depth, and original storytelling that ropes the reader in and keeps them there.
Pitch Dark was no different. The premise is simple: a hacker terrorist takes control of the Conquistador, crashing the ship into the USS John Muir, a starship that has been lost in space for over four hundred years. The John Muir’s inhabitants had woken up from a 400 year stasis about twenty-two months before that. They’re just trying to survive on the ship and figure out how to save themselves when the crash happens. Laura is blamed for the crash because unfortunately she had been hacking the system at the same time as the ecoterrorist, making her the perfect scapegoat for the Smithson family, who are trying to sabotage Lauras family’s leadership (her mother is the captain). The ship crashes into the USS John Muir, and all of a sudden survival from these awful once-human creatures that kill with sound and can hear every step you make takes precedent to anything else going on.
For the most part, I enjoyed everything about Pitch Dark, but there were a few things that niggled at me. I had some suspension of disbelief issues. The idea that the people on the USS John Muir woke up from stasis after four hundred years and there was still food and potable water (some kind of reservoir deep in the ship and granola bars) was a little hard for me to go with. The engine and the computers and everything all worked after 400 years too, if a little rusty, and that was a bit tough for me to believe too. Four hundred years is a LONG time.
And then there are the questions I had at the end that either were not answered or not answered to my satisfaction. View Spoiler »I still don’t know where the aliens came from or how they ended up on the John Muir, and why the older humans ended up as Mourners but not the younger ones. What was the science behind it? Why did some end up as Mourners and only a few end up being the rarer Griefers and Wailers? What was the ultimate goal of Pitch Black? I know they thought humanity was worthless and terrible, but what did they want to do about it? Were they just fighting for humanity to end, and how the heck did they end up on the John Muir and why? « Hide Spoiler
Based on the ending, this book could be a standalone, but I’m sort of hoping it’s not because that’s a lot of questions that remain unanswered. Ultimately though, it was a really great book and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. I definitely recommend it.