I quite enjoyed reading Dark Space. I’ll be honest and say I read this one on a recommendation from Rain on the Roof. It has some decent world building, a pseudo interesting plot, a well-developed narrator, and a happy ending. That’s not to say it was without problems, as there were numerous issues, but on the whole I enjoyed reading this more than I thought. So much so I’ll be checking out the author’s other books. I think the whole of the story elevates the enjoyment and makes up for the individual problems. For a reader who is not as engaged with the writing, this story could be frustrating.
The sci-fi plot is very solidly set in space. Brady Garrett is a 19 y/o recruit with 7 more years of his 10-year service conscription. He’s desperate to get out of the military so he can take care of his now 6 y/o sister and he tries to get through his days by keeping his head down and being as innocuous as possible; that all changes when hero Cameron Rushton returns after his abduction four years ago. Cameron was taken by alien enemies, called Faceless, and has returned with a message. However, in the process of Cameron’s return he’s inexplicably linked with Garrett. Now the two share a heartbeat, memories, thoughts, and feelings. They live in each other’s thoughts. As if that wasn’t shocking and scary enough, the Faceless are returning, which means certain death.
The sci-fi aspects of the world building are nice, although a mixture of post-apocalyptic and typical space frontierism. Almost the entire story takes place on a space station so there’s little need to embellish on the expected world building, though the story does make a few nice additions and details that are appreciated. The enemies, the Faceless, are an especially well crafted touch and I liked any scenes that involved them or flashbacks/peeks into their technology and culture. I found myself wanting to know more of how the conflict first came about and considering the lopsided nature of it, why it was sustained as long as it was. The world building is solid and one that engaged me throughout the book.
On the flip side, the start is rocky and somewhat choppy. It takes a bit for the writing to settle and find it’s groove, but when it does the plot kicks in nicely. Here the problem soon becomes a sort of hurry up and wait. The story will throw in a lot of quick action and movement, then pause and offer a considerable amount of exposition to catch the reader up on everything they needed to know to understand all the action. This kind of fast-forward then rewind leads to a very uneven pace and can be frustrating. It’s not the best way the story could have integrated the necessary background.
Additionally for a large portion of the story, Garrett and Brady are sequestered alone together. This enforced intimacy forces the relationship to grow quickly, but at the sacrifice of plot and pacing. While the two men are falling in lust and love, the plot pretty much stops entirely and the scenes are repetitious. Although I feel the story could have achieved this goal of a deepening relationship in a much better way, the engaging narrator helps mitigate this problem.
For me the narrator, Garrett, is at once the best aspect and the worst. He is the sole voice and sole reasoning that the reader sees, while every other character feels like an ill-defined shadow at best while Garrett shines in technicolor. Garrett is desperately young and incredibly immature. His reactions to almost all events frustrated me and on several occasions I wanted to slap him, though I know it wouldn’t have helped. Yet at the same time I could appreciate the authenticity and genuine honesty of the flawed character. He is so far from perfect I wouldn’t have minded if the story had toned down his irrational rage and immaturity, but it gives a strong focus against a somewhat an inactive background.
Finally I appreciated the happy ending, which I didn’t think was possible. However, it also feels weak and tacked on; almost as if the story and writing didn’t know how to create the happy ending so with some hand waving, implausible and unexplained actions, suddenly a HEA appears. It’s not a strength of the story but like I said, I wanted there to be a HEA so I wasn’t complaining.
Overall the sum of the parts leads to a greater and more enjoyable reading experience than the elements. The writing is very engaging and the creativity helps smooth out rough spots. I found myself not wanting to put the book down even as I would get frustrated with certain characters or actions. I wanted to see what would happen and I was genuinely curious if a happy ending would occur. I’d easily recommend this to sci-fi and gay-for-you fans. While I probably wouldn’t read this particular story again, I’m glad I did and I would happily revisit this world.