Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Review of Dark Universe by Daniel Galouye
Jared is one of the most daring members of his underground group of survivors. Enjoying his time alone in the pitch black caves and caverns they call home, he is experienced in echo reading and killing soo-bats. Click-stones constantly in hand sounding the way ahead, he tells no one that his real quest in life is not mere survival, but also to find light and darkness—concepts his group discuss only in religious tones. Believing demons of radiation haunt the under and overworld, the elders chastise Jared upon discovering the extent of his explorations, warning him of inhuman monsters in the depths and the dangers of another group of mutant humans called zivvers roaming the caverns. But Jared’s biggest problem may be the social pressure to unify. A girl named Della proposed for him, Jared initially feels the relationship will be unhelpful, a burden hindering his quest. That is, until he discovers more to Della than meets the ear.
The metaphor of Dark Universe is anything but hidden. But through living in the dark and searching for light, Galouye develops his Platonic ideal (wink wink) in consistent, mysterious fashion. The storyline is never clouded with details of worldbuilding, which allows the symbolism to complement storyline, proportionally. A tight bond formed, the reader is perpetually experiencing Dark Universe from two perspectives.
Nearly anyone can predict the ending of Dark Universe in some general sense. But it’s in plot movement Galouye maintains interest, not to mention in Jared’s surprise at what form light actually takes when he finds it; the storyline is entirely unpredictable. The halfway point forms the end of most novel arcs, meaning that every step Jared takes beyond is ambiguous. Sure, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but what is its source, and what does it mean are questions the reader must read to find out.
In the end, Dark Universe is a straight-forward story built on a scant frame, but a frame that serves a dual purpose, thereby strengthening impact. About a young man trying to find enlightenment in the dark, his quest for light is both real and metaphorical, and thus a stand in for a lot of potential meaning. Religion to belief in general, Galouye never openly states an agenda, instead choosing to leave his metaphor open ended. Setting perhaps the strongest aspect of the novel, Dark Universe does not shake the verisimilitude blues so common to science fiction, but like Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop it leaves images etched in the reader’s mind long after the last page is turned. And that, may be its greatest success.
Posted by Jesse at 6:34 PM