Much as an original document that has been photocopied over and over until the latest copy is barely legible, what we have with Dark Days is a dystopian where the logic, life, sense, interest, originality, and plot of much better books have been distilled into a simplistic mess. Characters are flat, worldbuilding nonexistent, actions illogical, and the read ultimately unsatisfying. It’s the type of book written by a really nice person for whom no one in her writing circles wanted to hurt with true criticisms. And so ultimately they fail her and she fails the readers when released. Dark Days is not a good book. It’s not even a decent book.
The story follows Sia, a girl who lives in a vaguely described dystopian society with walled ‘sectors’ being destroyed by cyborgs. Her sector is next and her family has 15 days to live before the cyborgs come to kill everyone. Cue mysterious boy, rebellion, Evil (with a capital E) government, insta-luv,and enough plot holes and logic leaps to fill the Atlantic.
I really had a hard time with a lot of this book. Undemanding readers (read: unsophisticated 13 year olds?) could probably fly through the quick chapters and not ask any relevant questions, taking everything at face value. But everyone else with a lick a sense can’t help but wonder at the simplicity of Sia’s actions, the government, and how anyone that stupid survived.
Worldbuilding: If you are an evil government who controls media and all food in a walled city, is it really a good idea to a) broadcast on television well in advance that you are going to kill everyone off (e.g., just do it quietly and it’s easier!); b) Spend all the time and trouble creating cyborgs who can only kill by the very inefficient method of squeezing every person to death (why not just poison the food supply or give them guns?) c) Have a system so laughably infiltrated as to wonder why anyone bothers locking a door (even an idiot like Sia gets into the “New World” on the stupidest of pretenses)….
Characters: How to make characters seem really stupid: A) have a rebel girl give the government her full real name, then escape and return to her house and never wonder if the government will come after her at the house (let’s not even discuss the government switching off water and power first just to let her know they are coming); B) have not one but two boys in full insta luv claiming the main character is unique and special but spending most of the story saving her and cooing over her (often!); Have a girl make the stupidest and most over simplified decisions and they succeed – through one heck of a lot of deus ex machina (“I have to go see the cyborgs to help the rebels so I’m going to slip away and pretend to be someone and no one in the evil government will figure it out!” And ‘seeing’ the cyborgs will help HOW?)…
Plot: James Fennimore Cooper wrote a character in Last of the Mohicans who is able to pass through dangerous woods unharmed because all the creatures sensed she was a simple girl and wouldn’t harm her. Similarly implausibily, in Dark Days, Sia never manages to get killed because she’s a simple creature who needs/gets rescued often (perhaps all male creatures sense she’s simple?), despite every idiotic thing she does. Neither make for great stories but at least Cooper had romanticism of a lost frontier America going for him. Dark Days has NO setting at all.
I slogged through to the unsatisfying end of this Twinkie of a novel. Is it the worst YA/dystopian I’ve read this year? Sadly, no, the Aberrant series managed to edge this one out. But yes, it is a very poorly written book in every sense and should not have been released as is. I can only hope the author’s next book is given better criticism, in depth logic analysis, and impartial assistance before release. If the author is indeed a sweet person, she deserves better than to have another book of this quality on her author resume.
Reviewed from an ARC.