There’s been a lot of post-apocalyptic books recently, and this one intrigued me because it is set during the apocalypse. While I found it too dark and dire for my taste, I suspect some might enjoy this new (quite violent) YA thriller (available November, 2011).
The disaster starts with an earthquake on the west coast of North America – not only does the quake rip buildings to shreds, it allows an ancient and pervasive evil an irresistible opportunity. So this apocalypse isn’t from outside – it’s not through natural disaster, nuclear war, or disease – apparently it comes from the dark impulses that live in all of us. As the book unfolds, it seems some people are turned into monsters through this evil (you can spot them by their black-veined eyes), who in turn rip civilians to shreds (quite literally – this is not a book for the fait of heart). A few lucky (or unlucky?) survive – perhaps to carry on the species, or perhaps to provide future targets for the monsters.
I admit I found a lot of it very familiar – Buffy fans might have “from beneath you it devours” in your head for the whole book, as I did. The monster-people reminded me a lot of the demons encountered on the TV series Supernatural, and I half expected two wise-cracking (and handsome) brothers to step in and deal with it all with their bag of salt and sawed-off shotgun. Unfortunately for the teens in the book, this didn’t happen. It also reminded me very much of the vampire-apocalypse novel, The Strain. I read that one a year or two ago, and it was such a horror-style book, it ruined me for this kind of novel. I couldn’t even read The Passage, which was supposed to be wonderful. I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of literature. So it’s not surprising that Dark Inside was a real struggle for me to finish. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I was in the safe realm of YA fiction in which even if the ending isn’t happy, it will at least be hopeful.
Dark Inside follows four teens and their struggle to stay alive in this dangerous new world. For very different reasons, they all find themselves on the road to Vancouver, hoping to find safety, or at least some kind of sanctuary. I admit, I did like watching the apocalypse happen, especially seeing technology crumble as everything electric is rendered useless overnight. The concrete details of dead cities and abandoned homes was poignant and could even have been expanded on.
Given my bias against this type of book, I find it hard to evaluate. I certainly didn’t enjoy it, though I can almost imagine that some would. I did find it genuinely creepy (a good thing for this type of book, yes?), and while the dialogue was sometimes quite stiff, the characters were pretty good. I was nagged by some of the unanswered questions in this book: what is the source of this evil? Why did an earthquake provide an opportunity? Why are some affected and not others? Will those not affected eventually become so? If this has happened before (apparently this is how civilizations are destroyed), how does it go away? Why do their eyes turn black? Is there going to be a sequel or is that really the ending?
But it didn’t drag, and it didn’t hold back, and it did make me wonder where I would be if all this was happening (probably in that first wave of people being ripped apart). I wish I knew where to place it in the genre – I liked it better than The Strain, but I’m not sure it would measure well against The Road or The Passage (why do they all have the same name?). Makes me think I should break down and finally read those (shudder). My problem is I’m already too paranoid about the state of the world – I already devote serious worry time to it, and I want my fiction to take me away from these worries.