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The world is writhing in the depths of its own death throws. War and inequality have driven a rift between men and women to the point that women have formed an armed insurrection, to take back control, take back power. But with society crumbling around them, control only seems to come when the compromises stop…
Darkness (2016. 326 pages) is a dystopian novel from Victoria Sadler, whose previous book Banking on Burlesque detailed a time when she worked in the world of financial services during the day and as a Burlesque at night.
The book follows Laura, the sole survivor of a protected enclave. When the west fell and society split, what remained of the government confined everyone to small areas which could be protected. Age, illness and madness made for slow, but inevitable, attrition and when her father died Laura no longer had any reason to remain and so set off for the government post in St Pauls. Redirected to a settlement camp her convoy is attacked by RAZR the female only resistance group.
The book posits a world where the divide between men and women has become a solid ravine. Through Laura’s eyes we witness both sides of the argument, from the perspective of the male dominated government RAZR are little more than terrorists led by a mad women, Jane. When Laura joins RAZR she is exposed to the competing narrative that all men are rapists and should pretty much be eradicated.
This narrative is further enhanced by not having a single sympathetic or empathetic male character; they indeed do turn out to be a bunch of vicious rapists who would think nothing of taking over woman’s fertility, a working womb being a precious commodity in this brave new world which has a distinct lack of beauteous mankind.
This unfortunately means that the book feels like it has used an overlarge sledgehammer to crack this particular nut, leaving no room for subtleties or shades of grey. Only Laura’s father is mentioned with anything of a passing affection, and he dies at the beginning of the book reinforcing the idea that the only good man is a dead man.
The character of Laura is sufficiently well drawn and it’s not before long that, by asides and thoughts, we get the feeling that she is more than she appears to be with a skill set of combat and espionage not found in your average mid-thirties female. Her past continues to be alluded to as she spends time with RAZR and its leader, Jane. All is finally revealed and then the book promptly ends. The end felt like it just happened or that the author ran out of steam.
The book contains a lack of world building and it never really answers the problem of how do they avoid mutually assured destruction if the women hate men and want to kill them and the men just want to rape the women.
In the end the narrative was ok, if flawed and the premise lacked subtlety.