Dark Light is the second volume in the Engines of Light series by Ken Mcleod.
This is the first time that I've had any kind of doubt as to what I should write about a MacLeod book. Normally I would just heap words of praise upon other words of praise, until it hit a fitting length for a book review. I'm afraid that it isn't quite that easy with Dark Light. The last quarter of the book is absolutely perfect, but the first three quarters lacked that special something that I've come to expect from MacLeod. Most of the first part of the story is taken up with describing the setting of Dark Light, the planet Croatan, and putting the story of the gods and the Second Sphere into perspective. Which is very welcome information, but the presentation didn't work for me. I'm not totally sure as to what's wrong with it, but I suspect that a large part of it can be attributed to the fact that, I didn't really care about the people of Croatan. Either the technologically advanced people of Rawliston nor the low-tech "Sky People" and they carry a large part of the story. And when you take them out of the equation Dark Light is a rather thin book (at 280 pages).
I've am having a hard time putting in to words, why I don't care about the people of Croatan, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that Rawliston seems so much like the USA of the late fifties both technologically and politically that it's seems a bit to easy to point fingers at. It's all a bit to convenient and MacLeod never really gives their society a chance. Your are never in doubt that the powers of Rawliston are going to get what they deserve and that the "Sky People" are going to get trampled like so many American Indians. Well, it's a bit more complicated that that, but that's the core of it. There's no doubt that MacLeod has a point to make and that this point is important to the story, but that doesn't make it any less uninteresting.
The last quarter nearly makes up for it and I'm still looking forward to the next instalment in the Engines of Light series. We do get some interesting information in this book about the gods and on what they are trying to do. Matt and the other Cosmonauts are getting in to some really interesting and deep waters, which could be really promising.
This book is very much to do with the theme of the "gods", which Macleod introduces in Cosmonaut Keep, as well as the story of the Second Sphere.
Character Development - 10/10
What is there to say? Macleod's development continues to be imaculate and does so through-out the trilogy, not to mention his other work.
(See my review of Cosmonaut Keep for more detail)
Story - 08/10
The planet, Croaton, that Matt and others arrive on is seperated between two peoples. First of all, the "Sky People", who are almost like American Indians - extremely low-tech and almost tribe-like. On the other side of the scale, however, is the peoples of "Rawlistone", who are very high-tech, with things such as "Garvity Skiffs" (flying saucers) and Trade Ships. Now, the two races don't get on and from the beginning it's obvious what's going to happen.
Some aspects of this book can be somewhat slow, in the sense that it's much to do with the two races, who you don't find yourself overly-interested with. It does show, however, human nature, and how the strong kill-off the weak, which isn't necessarily nice but nevertheless true. By Macleod creating a kind of "American Indian" vrs. "White Man" scenario it helps us see human ignorance. If it weren't for the "Sky People" then Matt and others wouldn't have been able to contact the Gods and learn key information that allows their story to go on. This brings me to the over-lying theme - the consequemces of actions, right down to an individual level - which is especially brought through in the Final Volume (Engines of Light).
The last third of the book is a complete turn-around, and extremely quick paced that keeps you turning pages for hours. It makes-up for any boredom that may have been present during the fist part and then gives something extra. Don't give up on this book.
The ending is pretty much perfect. It leaves you breathless for a few seconds whilst you come to terms with everything that's happened. It also gets you hyped for the remaining volume, which is my personal favourite.
Written on 1st October 2001 by TC.
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