Way Down Dark by J. P. Smythe

The premise behind Way Down Dark is a simple yet compelling one – overcrowding and global warming mean that Earth is no longer habitable.  In a last desperate attempt to save the human race, ships were built.  Loaded with humans, they were launched into space, and went in search of a new home.  They never found one.

Chan lives on the Australia – one the ships that left Earth several generations ago.  The years are starting to show on the ship – materials are running out, and scavengers have begun stripping the interior for the metal.  Gangs and cults fight over territory, and it’s a kill or be killed mentality – only the strong survive.

But what if there was a way to escape?

Life on board the Australia is portrayed in excellent detail – it’s bleak and grim and exactly what I’d expect from a dystopian state.  The descriptions of the interior evoke feelings of claustrophobia.  I thought that the structuring of the society was really well done, particularly given that Smythe had such a limited amount of space to play with (set as it is on a spaceship).  On the lower levels of the ship are the gangs (the Lows), and at the top are the Pale Women and their testaments, preaching their own form of religion.  Everyone else is in the middle, just trying to keep their head down and not attract unwanted attention.

Chan is a kick-ass heroine trying to do her best to live up to a promise not to die before her time.  She’s both selfless and reckless, which is a dangerous combination, and you have to admire her determination even when you think that this time she has gone too far.  And in Rex (the name taken by the whoever is currently the leader of the Lows), she has a formidable opponent.  This is someone who wants power and control and will do anything they can to get it.

Way Down Dark is aimed at the young adult market, but I think that there’s something here for everyone irrespective of age – it’s truly amazing!  It’s such a gripping story – once I started reading it, I didn’t want to put it down.  It’s non-stop action right from the first page, and had my heart racing in places.

Way Down Dark is the first book in the Australia trilogy, and I can’t wait for the next instalment, the title of which has been released – Long Dark Dusk – but no release date, as far as I’m aware.

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