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Dark Life: Book 1 Hardcover – May 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6–10—In this futuristic coming-of-age tale, 15-year-old Ty has spent his whole life in a deep-sea colony on the ocean floor. His family and the other pioneers provide fish and other food for the Commonwealth citizens who live aboveground in stacked cities following earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed much of the Earth. The pioneers chafe under the harsh rule of the Commonwealth, a situation made worse when those who live subsea are charged with capturing a gang of pirates that has been terrorizing Commonwealth ships and pioneer homesteads. Ty is swept up in the hunt for the bandits when Gemma, a "Topsider" orphan, comes to his community to search for her missing brother, who may have ties to the pirates. First-time author Falls has created a riveting adventure story that action fans and reluctant readers will enjoy for its fast pace. Teens will like the budding romance between Ty and Gemma and the marvelous, imaginative depictions of life on the ocean floor. Minor characters, such as Ty's neighbors and younger sister, are fully fleshed out in their few short scenes. Although the identity of Gemma's brother and the subplot regarding his past with the pioneers' doctor are hastily explained and not completely satisfying, this is a small point that doesn't detract from the creative setting, adventurous plot, and likable teen heroes. Readers will cheer Ty on in his pursuit of the pirates and clamor for more tales of undersea life.—Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sixteen-year-old Ty, first child born to the pioneers who live in the depths of the ocean, has little patience for topsiders (land dwellers) until he meets feisty Gemma, who immediately enlists his help to locate her missing older brother. Their search is interrupted by pirate attacks of the notorious Seablite Gang and an ultimatum from the Commonwealth Government (located topside) that makes the pioneers responsible for stopping the raids. Ty and Gemma uncover connections between the pirates, illicit medical experiments, and Gemma's missing sibling, who happens to have secret supernatural gifts—like Ty. Although set in an undersea future, this rousing adventure has all the hallmarks of a western, including outlaws, homesteaders, and plenty of shoot-'em-up action (only with harpoonlike weapons). Good guys and bad guys are fairly obvious, as is the outcome, but the exotic setting and well-conceived details about undersea living, along with likable characters and a minor surprise at the end, will keep readers turning the pages. Try this with the ecofiction of David Klass. Grades 6-9. --Cindy Welch
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Top Customer Reviews
This is an action-packed story with a nifty premise at its core, and although Dark Life did not go deep enough to really satisfy me, I could see it succeeding with tween readers. I've been waiting to read a post-apocalyptic science fiction story where most of the Earth is under water, because I've always found the oceans to be more mysterious than outer space. Kat Falls followed through with surprising sea creatures, vivid descriptions, and believable technologies to make undersea life feasible, and those parts made it a fun read. I can see why this book has been optioned for a movie.
Ty is a sweet, likable hero, and at 15-years-old he's still young enough to be innocent, but old enough to take an interest in Gemma. It's not hard to understand why he's so willing to help her, given how rare teenagers and females are under the sea. Gemma, on the other hand, was not so easy to like. Her stubborn side wasn't endearing to me, and I struggled to stay interested in her fate.
This young adult novel skews toward the young side of the spectrum, and I could see this being a big hit with the boy crowd. The hero has cool powers, he's constantly getting into trouble, and he helps save the day.
Ty was the first child born under the sea, and of the 22 children in the territory, he's the only teenager. His discovery of Gemma (a teenage topsider) gives him the first opportunity to socialize with someone his own age. Gemma is looking for her brother who is living in the territory, but nobody seems to know him. Gemma is amazed by life under the ocean, all of the space available, and the fact that settlers actually know who each other are. She's also quite intrigued by the stories of Dark Gifts. According to some doctors, a child born in the territory had his brain altered by the constant pressure and he developed sonar (like a dolphin). Ty is very uncomfortable with Gemma's constant questions about Dark Gifts, mostly because it's used as an excuse by Topsiders to ostracize settlers' children.
While helping Gemma find her brother, the problems with the local Seablite Gang grow. Instead of sticking to raiding government supply ships, they've started attacking homesteads, cutting off power causing the homes to sink and valuable livestock to be lost. The local ranger hates being stationed in the territory and all the people that live there, and never leaves the docking ring above the ocean. The Commonwealth decides that the settlers must bring in the outlaws, dead or alive. If they don't, the government will cut all supplies to the territory: no liquagen, no medical, farm, or mechanical supplies. The settlers are desperate to save their homes, Ty is hates the idea of living topside and doesn't want to lose his chance to homestead, and Gemma's search starts to reveal some terrible secrets the government wants hidden.
There was a lot of world building and explanations required to describe the life of an underwater homesteader, and Falls' wove this seamlessly into her story. The book had a nice pace, no clunky explanations, and some great characters. Ty is such a sweet character. He's the only boy his age and doesn't realize that Topsiders stare at him because he's apparently very handsome, he thinks it's just one more example of them not liking homesteaders. Gemma confuses him, a brash girl who's life has been a polar opposite of Ty's, she's the only girl his age and very pretty. Ty has the emotions that he can't even identify because they're so new, but he handles them, and the dangers they face because of the outlaws, with a level head, bravery, and a bit of grace. Underwater life, from how the homes are built, to how the livestock of fish are cared for are wonderfully explained in an easy to follow manner. What really stuck out was the fact that Ty would use underwater references to describe a smile, butterflies in his stomach, or the color of someone's eyes. At first a stomach full f comb jellyfish or seaweed green eyes doesn't sound very attractive, but they are representative of his life underwater and add a neat element to the story. I also really liked one of the younger boys, Hewitt. He hated living underwater and had this idealized version of life topside, he was a nice contrast to Gemma who had been equally ignorant of life underwater.
Suffice it to say that there's action, mysteries, daring does, villains, strange abilities, crooked politicians, secret prisons, and budding relationship - this book pretty much had it all.
Set in a dystopian future where settlers live and farm under the ocean, there are outlaws, conspiracies, and special powers (nothing paranormal, more of the genetic mutation variety).
Tiny bit of romance, mostly just flirting, and that is not the crux of the book.
I enjoyed it and will be looking for more from Kat Falls