by Lindsay Francis Brambles
Review by KM
Alternate Universes has to be one of my favorite tropes and I so rarely see it in published fiction. The idea behind this book, mixing fantasy, alternative universes, and I guess a bit of historical fiction together presents a great new story. The only comparison I can even use to describe it would be the better parts of Twilight mashed with the BioShock video games.
Like everyone else living in Haven, seventeen-year-old Sophie Harkness is an Immune–a carrier of the genetic mutation that protects her from the virus Hitler unleashed upon the world more than half a century ago. A virus that wiped out most of humanity and turned two-hundred million people into vamps. But after her best friend is brutally murdered and several attempts are made on her own life, Sophie becomes determined to find answers to what seems to be a conspiracy running generations deep. And when she questions the peace treaty that keeps her small community protected, Sophie begins to discover terrible truths about herself and what it means to be human in a world ruled by darkness.
I’m being completely honest here; the first twenty pages are tough to get through. I kept having to put the book down and text SM about my worries: was this going to be another version of Twilight? I didn’t want to repeat that experience. I swore to her that if it ended up being a double, I was going to post this review under “Not Another Vampire Love Story.” It’s not posted under that, so relax. Becoming Darkness is so much better.
The plot was so meaty and full of turns that I could really choose to ignore the romance if it bothered me. In some parts it did; in some parts it didn’t. I will say, I do have a problem with the whole vampires-dating-teens trope. It presents a power struggle of age and that was more than present in this. I want to clarify that I’m not saying there isn’t a problematic relationship in the text, but that I enjoyed the book despite it.
The other characters more than made up for it, though. I think motives of side characters is something that often gets left out of a plot, but Becoming Darkness felt like all of the characters had their own moralities and motivations. It definitely makes for more rounded people.
There were more than a few loose ends left in this novel. I can only hope that it means there is an intended sequel. With this first installment being nearly five hundred pages of packed action, I hope the story continues to hold up to that standard.
Hitler unleashed a virus that turned people in vamps? I’m intrigued.
Glad to hear that on the whole you liked the book. I think your views on the whole decades old vampire and young paramour (vampires-dating-teens, as you put it) issue are salient, and I did try to address this to some extent in the novel — not only in the relationship between two of the central characters, but also in Sophie’s encounter with her aunt and her reactions to some of the revelations about her mother and grandmother. However, the book was never really so much about that as it was about many other things. The nature of such a relationship could be an entire novel in and of itself (but not one I’m particularly interested in pursuing at this time).
When writing BECOMING DARKNESS, I tried to craft the story so that readers would not reach the end and feel that everything was left up in the air. I completely understand the frustration of getting to the end of a book and having nothing resolved. However, in between rewrites for my agent, I realized I had a great idea for a sequel. As a consequence, I rejigged BECOMING DARKNESS ever so slightly so as to sow the seeds for the succeeding novel(s). I didn’t want readers picking up a follow-up and feeling cheated because elements of the story came out of nowhere. There needed to be some foreshadowing. But I hope readers will feel satisfied when they reach the end of BECOMING DARKNESS. There is some ambiguity, if you will, but I don’t feel it’s of the cliffhanger variety that inevitably robs the readers of the enjoyment of all they’ve read up until that point.
The sequel to BECOMING DARKNESS is written and awaiting a decision by the publisher (Switch Press) as to whether they exercise their option to buy it. That will largely depend upon the response to BECOMING DARKNESS, which thus far has been good, and whether or not they like the direction in which I’ve taken the story. Sales are also a key part of the equation (perhaps the most essential part), so the future of the sequel will likely have to await the October release of the first book. Writers like to think that they are creating art, but for publishers it is a business. We may not like it, but the fact is that money plays a crucial role in the industry — as it does in so much of our lives.
Presently I’m working on the third and final book, which will bring the story full circle and wrap everything up. That’s as much story as I think there needs to be, and I would have no desire to try and force any more out of the concept — even if it meant making more money.
I have another book with my agent, which has nothing to do with alternate history or vampires or dystopia. This one also has the potential for sequels (in fact the first rough draft of the second book is complete), but I have written this novel to be more of a standalone, with just a few questions unanswered. I’m also working toward writing a topical YA contemporary novel, but that’s still some months away.
I’m truly happy you got a chance to read an advance copy of my book and I very much enjoyed reading your review. (Of course, had you trashed my book I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the experience nearly so much 😉 ) As a writer, I’m sure you understand the pleasure of knowing that the words you have written have had an impact on your readership — whether to entertain, illuminate, or provoke thoughtful discussion.
Keep up the good work!
Sincerely and with warmest regards,