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Rip Tide Paperback – 2013
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"As with its predecessor, there's no shortage of action, intrigue, or daring exploits in this aquatic thriller. Atmospheric and tense, built around an expertly used postapocalyptic-meets-Wild West setting, this story's a whole lot of fun and won't disappoint fans of the first book." - PW
Praise for DARK LIFE:
"Nifty premise, solid characterization, and tense moments . . . contribute to a cinematic reading experience. Falls's undersea world warrants further exploration." - Publishers Weekly
"A definite must-read for SF fans." - Voice of Youth Advocates
"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." - Booklist
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Ty is a fifteen-year-old boy living in the pioneer undersea colony of Benthic Territory, which is located on the ocean floor somewhere off the east coast of the US. Or rather, what was the east coast until a big chunk of it ended up under water due to rising sea levels. His parents were among the first generation to leave the surface world and settle homesteads in the territory, but Ty has lived there almost his entire life. For him and his younger sister Zoe, the undersea world of the territory is _home_.
For the most part, life in the territory is good. Or was until Ty comes across a derelict sub on the edge of the territory, a prospector's sub that was apparently attacked by an outlaw band called the Seablite Gang. As Ty investigates the sub, the situation immediately becomes further complicated when he unexpectedly runs into a "Topsider" (someone from the surface world) on the sub, a girl his own age named Gemma who's come down into his world looking for her missing older brother.
The author, Falls, is very good at immediately immersing you in the world of Dark Life, bringing it vividly into reality around the reader from the very beginning:
"I peered into the deep-sea canyon, hoping to spot a toppled skyscraper. Maybe even the Statue of Liberty. But there was no sign of the old East Coast, just a sheer drop into darkness.
--A ball of light shot past me - a vampire squid, trailing neon blue. The glowing cloud swirled around my helmet. Careful not to break it up, I drifted onto my knees, mesmerized. But my trance was cut short by a series of green sparks bursting out of the gorge. I fell back, every muscle in my body tense. Only one fish glittered like an emerald and traveled in a pack: the green lantern shark. Twelve inches long and deadly as piranhas, they could rip apart something twenty times their size. Forget what they could do to a human.
--I should have seen them coming, even this deep. I should have known the squid had squirted its radiant goo to divert a predator. And now my helmet's crown lights served as an even brighter beacon. With a jab to my wrist screen, I snapped them off, but it was too late - I couldn't unring that dinner bell.
--I pried a flare gun from my belt and fired into the midst of the electric green frenzy. Two heartbeats later, light exploded over the canyon, shocking the sharks into stillness, eyes and teeth glittering. Quickly, I scooped the anchor of my mantaboard out of the muck and hauled myself onto it. Lying on my stomach with my legs dangling, I twisted the handgrips and took off, making serious wake. If my lungs hadn't been filled with Liquigen, I would've whooped aloud.
--Not that I was in the clear. As soon as the flare died, the sharks would be on me like suckerfish on a whale. I thought about burying myself in the thick ooze of the sea floor. Bedding down with the boulder-sized clams had worked before. I chanced a look over my shoulder. Sure enough, the darkness twinkled with stars - vicious little stars, shooting my way."
Falls is also very good at giving depth to her younger characters, capturing the feel of both what it is like to be that age and what it would be like to be living in the very different world of Dark Life, with Ty who has grown up in his undersea pioneer settlement and Gemma who grew up in her over-crowded Topsider world. And I absolutely adored Ty's younger sister Zoe who insists on keeping dangerous sea creatures as pets and who everyone who knows her tries to avoid making angry. In truth the only reason I rated this book 4 stars instead of 5 was that I felt the characterizations of the adults were not on the same level or depth as that of the younger characters. That said, I definitely want to read the sequel, Rip Tide, that's already been published.
Highly recommended not only for young adults but for anyone who likes well-written science fiction with engaging characters in a different setting.
In the near-future world of Dark Life, we were introduced to Ty Townson, a fifteen-year-old boy living in the pioneer undersea colony of Benthic Territory, which is located on the ocean floor somewhere off the east coast of the US. Or rather, what was the east coast until a big chunk of it ended up under water due to rising sea levels. His parents were among the first generation to leave the surface world and settle homesteads in the territory, but Ty has lived there almost his entire life. For him and his younger sister Zoe, the undersea world of the territory is _home_. We also met Gemma, a "Topsider" (someone from the surface world) girl Ty's age who came undersea to look for her missing older brother, Richard, whom she discovered now goes by the name of Shade and is the head of a band of outlaws called the Seablite Gang. And we learned about how the children who grow up undersea seem to acquire Dark Gifts - special abilities like Ty's bio-sonar and Zoe's ability to deliver electric shocks - that they don't want people to know about for fear of ending up being treated like lab rats.
Rip Tide begins just a few months after where Dark Life ended, with the story once again being told from Ty's point of view. Ty's parents are in the process of opening a new market for Benthic Territory settlers' crops. But it's not as simple as it sounds as the potential buyers are the "surfs", a group of sea dwellers who live in enormous globe-shaped floating vessels called townships (literally town-ships) and are viewed with wary suspicion at best by most settlers. And who in turn view most settlers with equal suspicion and often with open hostility, not, as it turns out, without reason. Things quickly go downhill when Ty discovers a sunken township that has been sabotaged and chained to the sea floor, and later when his parents are kidnapped by the very surfs they were meeting with to negotiate the trade deal. And on top of finding his parents and solving the mystery of who's been attacking the surfers' towhships, Ty also has to figure out what's going on with Gemma who seems to have developed sudden but intense panic attacks while deep sea diving. Which is a real problem for an undersea boy like Ty since he's also having typical fifteen-year-old boy problems figuring out how he feels about Gemma and just what he should do about it.
What I particularly liked about Rip Tide was how Falls brings out YA issues like learning to see the world differently as new experiences give you new perspectives, even when those perspectives are things you don't want to believe. And like having to make decisions even when you're not sure of the outcome, trying to figure out who you can trust and how much, and learning that even people whom you think you know can still end up surprising you.
Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good scifi novel with engaging characters and particularly for anyone who likes a story set in the other great frontier, the world under the sea..
Here's hoping for a Dark Life 3 which never leaves the underwater world, in which our heroes are only dry if they visit an undersea colony, and in which the surface world is mentioned only in passing, certainly never traveled to.
This futuristic Western YA comes with a great male narrator, shifty characters, claustrophobic setting, some genuinely creepy moments, and the first steps of a realistic romance. Towards the end it gets more paranormal, which doesn't work for me (I've read enough teens-with-strange-abilities books), but I'll stick with this trilogy for the futuristic elements.