Darkness Rises is the third story in what is an essentially a trilogy of novellas of how Madison, her parents, and her friends cope with the sudden loss of electric power in California. They have left their home outside of Sacramento and are heading to the home of Brianna’s parents, long-time doomsday preppers. The end of book two has the group seriously considering a stop at a college campus to help a woman and her friends who claimed to be trapped in a radio station.
“One of us might die. We could lose all that we have.” Madison knew the danger. But she couldn’t leave someone to die. Not when she was pleading for help. “I know what we’re risking, but we have to try. If we don’t, what kind of people are we?”
That’s a bit eye-rolling, don’t you think? But I don’t know; I’m a long ways from twenty. Still, you’d think the parents would have more sense. While I enjoyed this installment, it didn’t impress as much as the first two books in the trilogy. It gets bogged down in the viewpoint of Walter, who becomes less self-reliant Army guy and more family man who is faced with role conflict. It could be, of course, that Tate just envisions this as Walter’s character, except he’s an airline pilot and is used to leaving his wife and college-age daughter to take care of themselves on a weekly basis. This desire to protect and shelter seems more than a bit inconsistent.
Meanwhile, his daughter Madison is continuing to struggle with the ethical problems of a likely apocalypse: who do you help and why in a time of extremely limited resources? She’s been over this material in book one and two, so it feels a little more tiresome to be repeating it in three. But on the other side of things, it’s probably a lesson that will take a while to sink in. In one of the more useless and stupid moments of the book, both Madison and Tracy appear to be keeping the fact that they each killed someone from Walter.
That said, I did appreciate that Tate doesn’t just hand survival to characters. Sometimes, despite best intentions–or best actions–bad luck or direct attacks just happen. I think many stories like to go with a formula, and if the characters do all the ‘right’ things, survival is guaranteed, but not here.
Every now and then there’s a line that sounds more authorial than character-specific, particularly in relation to the government riding to the rescue and private gun ownership. At first it annoyed me, but it wasn’t frequent enough to be a serious detractor:
“Every drug dealer and petty criminal in this town has a gun, but none of the good people do.”
A potentially intriguing point, except that we’ve already learned from books one and two that some of the ‘good people’ with guns were equally dangerous for Madison and the family. It highlights one of the major weaknesses of Tate’s style so far, that the writing is very straightforward and misses nuances. The benefit is that the story goes quickly. The downside, of course, is that it’s not always enough to carry the subtleties of thought and ethics that I think Tate is going for. But occasionally it’s redeemed through insightful observations:
“She knew hard work, but it was in the confines of plenty and abundance. There was never a time she went to bed hungry or risked her life to listen to the radio.”
It is an interesting point, and one survival tales rarely dive into: the main characters are almost always people from privileged backgrounds, and might therefore be less likely to deal with the real challenge of an apocalypse–the end of comfort and ease. Perhaps that’s shown here with the discomfort the group has with breaking and entering, and the false assurances they give themselves that the owner will not make it back. Does it matter? I was a bit impatient that this was even a discussion after all they had been through.
As a simple Aesop’s Survival Tales, it’s definitely an adequate read. I feel like Tate is walking the reader through various mental and physical preparations. As a complex philosophical discussion, I think the ‘After the EMP’ trilogy occasionally misses the mark. Still, a solid wrap-up to a diverting group of novellas. I admit that I am very curious to see what Tate does with the next trilogy in this world–that of a Navy SEAL and a young woman from a very challenged upbringing.