It’s not like I want the world to end; it’s more like I can’t stand the suspense. In Tate’s series, civilization was profoundly interrupted when a solar flare and a geomagnetic storm hit the earth at the same time, frying much of the California’s, and presumably the U.S.’s electrical grid. The discovery that this is occurring and the subsequent efforts to protect themselves by a small group of college kids and one of their parents was explored in book one. Book two begins about day four after the power goes out, with the kids and the mom, Tracy, reunited at Tracy’s small house.
Darkness Grows explores the reaction in the small gated community that Tracy and Walter live in as the college kids catch their breath. Madison is Tracy’s daughter, and her dad, Walter, is still missing, so both Madison and Tracy would like to give him a chance to return before moving on. One of the kids, Brianna, comes from a family of ‘preppers,’ so they’re all focused on making their way to Brianna’s family cabin. Meanwhile, the current neighborhood is organized enough to have had an informational meeting, but only a small number of people out of 120 homes attended, and not everyone welcomes the idea that things aren’t going to improve. Other people, recognizing Tracy and Madison’s friends have stockpiled supplies, start pressuring the group to “share.” Meanwhile, Madison and friends are trying to ensure they have items likely needed for survival.
The narrative in this book also includes Walter’s story of trying to make his way back home from Northern California, where he and his copilot made an emergency landing, to Sacremento, where Tracy is. Walter was in the Marines and feels at least semi-competent to make the journey, but his much younger co-pilot Drew is clueless when it comes to survival skills. It’s an interesting contrast and does a lot to illustrate the challenges many people will face.
I think one of Tate’s strengths is in capturing some of the psychology of disaster. For any crisis, there will be some that want to ‘shelter in place’ in an attempt to be self-reliant and to protect their homes and belongings. That approach dovetails with the more passive response of ‘holding on’ until the powers-that-be provide information and a plan. I enjoyed the dynamics, but occasionally it comes with awkward dialogue that feels more didactic than genuine, acting as a mouthpiece for Tate more than the character.
Along those lines, it’s worth noting that Tate’s writing seems to bring up issues of gun ownership and government reliance that strongly support the first and are dismissive of the latter. I was able to mostly ignore it, and it does seem that people would be frustrated in absence of official communication.
One of the main arcs is satisfactorily resolved, but then a new opportunity is opened up at the end. I appreciate that there was a clear ending to each book, while paying attention to a larger picture. It means you can certainly stop reading at any one book for the night. Direct writing, a mild delving into the social and ethical issues, a plot that has both small and larger focus means that overall, you could do much worse with these types of books.