My son (who is 9) is almost debilitatingly afraid of the dark. At first I thought this was a result of mine (and his fathers) relentless need to torture him with stories about Bloody Mary when he was only 7. (Yes, we deserve awards for being fantastic parents.) But recently I realized something. He’s not necessarily afraid of the “dark” it’s the “unknown” that actually troubles him. With the lights ON he can assess. Formulate. Internally plan his next move (whether it be get a glass of water, or tie his shoes.) But when the lights go out? His surroundings become instantly less familiar…unknown. Without the knowledge of what is directly in front of him, he panics.
As we get older, our fear of the dark itself usually (not always) dissipates, but not the fear of the unknown. It’s there, and much like our childhood fear of the dark it finds a way to manifest itself.
In McQuein’s novel Arclight, light, dark, and the inability to accept change (or the unknown) is what drives the characters in their journey. Hinders or helps their general existence. Yes, it is a YA novel, but sometimes it takes fresh unbiased minds (like those of a teenager) to make the biggest impact. Tell the most relevant story. Teach the most important lesson.
Arclight’s lesson: things are not always as they appear.
As a self-admitted dystopian whore, you’d be surprised by my excitement when I realized (a few chapters in) that Arclight is NOT a dystopian novel. Despite its bones being set in a destructed world, and the characters civilization being based (or formed) around a strict precedence of “never ever get caught in the dark” McQuein’s very first leap into the wide world of literature is actually a science-fiction thriller with a creepy horror kick. A science-fiction thriller that I read in 1 sitting. (All 403 pages of it.)
Because it was incredibly original, which…is slightly hard to come by these days. Especially when it comes to young female protagonists trying to “find themselves.” So what set this one apart from all of the other attempts currently out there for your reading pleasure? Simple…the intensity.
McQuein chose to leave her characters blind. Not in the literal sense (though it wouldn’t have made much of difference through-out the majority of the plot.) but instinctually. Marina (the lead in this little story) has zero idea who she is. She can see, hear and adapt to things others can’t, but she has no recollection of a past. Her appearance is sudden, and soiled by death. So she becomes an outcast. Not by choice, but by situation. Tobin (her counterpart) knows who he is instinctually, but not emotionally. He rages against his circumstances without really understanding them, and makes choices based entirely on gut feelings. Separately they are rather bland. Almost predictable, but together they range from toxic to intoxicating. Pushing and pulling at each-other like magnets. Which is quite perfect for the situation they find themselves in, which happens to be face to face with the dark, or more accurately…a Fade, who is the villain in this story. (Or is he…?)
With the introduction of the Fade comes both the creepy and the science that drives this story into “unknown” territory. Forcing the characters to explore, question and doubt everything they have ever been taught. This is also the point when the readers skin will begin to crawl.
Now, while I’d like go on to explain the science, or at the very least how completely, beautifully, screwed up the plot gets with the introduction of the Fade, I’m going to refrain. Not because I’m feeling inadequate at the tasks (though that may be at least 1% of the problem) but because of the way in which McQuein lays out her plot (and explains the intricacies of nano-bots.) McQuein is very detailed. She is also very sneaky. I didn’t realize until the last 30% (when I was lying on the floor in a puddle of snot and saltwater) just how taken in I actually was. This is entirely due to plotting techniques. Revealing secrets at certain times, throwing curve balls at others. Though the ending wasn’t all that big of a surprise, the slightest spoiler will likely ruin a spectacular experience. Which I’m not a big fan of.
So I leave you with this…
Arclight is one of a kind. Blending science, spook and heart it is bound to mesmerize you from the very first chapter. Well worth your hard-earned money.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: a name does not make you…your heart does.