I’m honestly still trying to figure out where to start with this one.
Let’s try here: Dark and Day is a post/pre apocalyptic story of a cold war between magic and technology. It is exactly as weird as that sounds, and pretty much you can judge whether you want to take on this book by your knee-jerk reactions to that sentence.
We’re on an alien world. This world apparently rotates around its sun in a geosynchronous fashion, such that the same side of the world is always pointed toward the sun. In other words, there’s one side of the world that’s always daytime, and one side that’s always night. hence the title of the book. It gets weirder, though, as everyone on the Dark side has been raised in a propagandist world of hatred for “Day-Enders,” and (you guessed it) everyone on the Day side has similar issues with the Dark. The Day views technology as evil, and practices exclusively magic. The Dark sees magic as dangerous and corrupting, and instead focuses on technology, with crews of people piloting mechs into battle (because, of course mechs).
I did some writer’s workshops with Jerry Nordley this spring, and when I did I noticed his evaluation style was different than mine. The first thing Jerry does when he reads a story is evaluate the believability of the speculative elements in the tale. He really wants an internally consistent world, one that makes sense on an instinctive level. So I recognize that people like this exist, and to them I say walk away from Dark and Day. The setting elements of Dark and Day make about as much sense as the setting of any of the Final Fantasy game series – they are there, and the reader is asked to accept them and move on.
That said, I love me some Final Fantasy, and I had no problem hand-waving at all the stuff that doesn’t make sense (like, say, how does anything grow on Dark side).
The book is really about propaganda, religion, and the depths to which humanity can sink if it places faith over humanity. Our hero Jonothan (or Jono) discovers that “good and evil” have been all too categorically defined, and he’s in a race to stop the annihilation of basically everyone on this world. The devout self-destruction of the cultures on Dark and Day side reminded me of nothing so much as the portrayal of the two major superpowers in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.
So far, I’ve compared this book to Final Fantasy and Dr. Strangelove. For those who know me, you’re starting to realize that I actually enjoyed the heck out of this book. It was really a fun read.
Jono is a great character. He starts the book as a weak, broken child. Everyone makes fun of him in his Dark-side home, because when he first came to town he was mistaken for a marauding wizard. He’s basically been kicked around his whole life, and he’s looking to start doing some kicking himself. Fortunately, he’s brilliant. In the technology-driven Dark side, academics is the path to success, and Jono can get what’s coming to him by essentially drinking the Kool-aid. Of course, his beliefs are challenged, and his intelligence starts to put together a comprehensive picture of the world. That, in turn, sends him off on this journey to try to reconcile the two sides of this Cold War at what would be the equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The book is also littered with small pieces of art, which showed up quite nicely on my Kindle. It was certainly a nice touch.
OK, to the problems with the book. This thing needs to see a line editor. About once every other page, there’s an error that jolts you out of the flow of the words. It’s not so bad that I couldn’t read the book, but it is noticeable and frequent that one has to pause and deal with a problem. That’s not the sort of thing I want to see in a work that’s priced at $7.00 on Amazon.
In addition, there’s a tendency on the part of Grey to call a rabbit a smeerp. Some portions of his world require new terminology; the idea of “day” is replaced with “wake,” which makes sense as there is no diurnal rotation of the sun. But there’s these things called “muscows” that are large, milk-producing, herd animals. I get that he needed a new lexicon in places, but it feels as though Grey simply got a little carried away with it.
In short, this isn’t a perfect book. But it is a hell of a lot of fun. Some people are going to screen themselves away based on this review, but if you’re not turned off by the flaws I’ve listed then you’re going to have yourself a good old time running around this weird freakin’ world with Jono.