All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: In The Dark Spaces by Cally Black

on October 29, 2018

In The Dark Spaces 
Cally Black
Hardie Grant Egmont
2017, 319p
Purchased personal copy

“What will happen when you don’t come back?”

A genre-smashing kidnapping drama about Tamara, who’s faced with an impossible choice when she falls for her captors.

Yet this is no ordinary kidnapping. Tamara has been living on a freighter in deep space, and her kidnappers are terrifying Crowpeople – the only aliens humanity has ever encountered. No-one has ever survived a Crowpeople attack, until now – and Tamara must use everything she has just to stay alive.

But survival always comes at a price, and there’s no handbook for this hostage crisis. As Tamara comes to know the Crowpeople’s way of life, and the threats they face from humanity’s exploration into deep space, she realises she has an impossible choice to make. Should she stay as the only human among the Crows, knowing she’ll never see her family again … or inevitably betray her new community if she wants to escape?

This ground-breaking thriller is the latest YA novel to win the Ampersand Prize, a stand-out entry with a blindingly original voice: raw, strange and deeply sympathetic. With its vivid and immersive world-building, this electrifying debut is The Knife of Never Letting Go meets Homeland, for the next generation of sci-fi readers.

I’ve been hearing a lot about this book since it was published last year – perhaps even before that because it was the winner of the Ampersand Prize for an unpublished writer by Hardie Grant Egmont. Since its publication it’s been nominated for a slew of awards and was the winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel. I bought it months ago, to be honest I can’t even remember when. Something reminded me of it recently so I ended up finally picking it up to read and got through it in an afternoon.

It starts on a spaceship with Tamara, who has been keeping herself hidden for as long as she can remember. And now she helps keep her aunt’s baby hidden on the ship, hidden and quiet. Because of this stealth, when the terrifying Crowpeople invade the ship, Tamara and the baby are the only ones that survive. The baby (Gub) because she hides him and herself because she manages to mimic their way of speaking, which intrigues them enough to take her hostage, back to where they live which they call the Hive.

Tamara is thrown into a terrifying situation – although she can mimic the sounds the Crowpeople make, which seems to sort of amuse and intrigue them, she cannot actually understand what they are saying. She’s seen everyone on the ship she was on ruthlessly murdered with weapons far superior to what she knows humans possess and because they’ve taken her with them, Gub has been left alone on the ship. She’s made sure he’ll be safe and has food and someone will come to pick up the damaged and attacked ship but she’s frantic to get back to him. They’re all each other have left in the world now but in order to do that, Tamara has to learn the language of her mysterious captors and understand their motives for attacking the spaceships and brutally killing everyone on board. She needs to understand how they see humans and why they feel as though this is the best option.

Tamara is only fourteen or fifteen but she’s used to fitting in where she’s not supposed to be. Children aren’t allowed on the ships so she’s always been hiding, listening and learning. The language she has to learn is an entirely different array of sounds, whistles and clicks and it’s not easy but Tamara has powerful motivation. The longer she spends there, the more she learns about their community, their relationships with each other and why they are doing what they are doing. In return she tries to explain elements of human society to them – the conversation she has about trying to explain money highlights the sheer sort of ridiculous that comes with elements of a paid society where no one does anything for free, or for the sake of it. The Crowpeople live a completely different way to that and the more Tamara experiences it, the more she wants to stop the bloodshed and find a way that the two societies might be able to coexist. But humans are a stubborn lot and it won’t be easy.

This started off creepy as heck – the author does a great job of placing the reader right in Tamara’s mind as she crawls around the hidden spaces on the ship and her visuals as she watches the ship employees cut down by the invading Crowpeople. Some sort of self-preservation kicks in that spurs her to imitate their speech and sounds and it saves her life but it means that she is taken away from everything she knows to a place where she could be killed at any moment. It’s clear that killing her is what some of the Crowpeople want (they call themselves Garuwa) and it seems they have little reason to like or trust humans either, although they do have the superior weapons. Through Tamara they learn too, that you need not always fear that which is different and communication and compromise are important. This feels like a book with Life Lessons To Learn – the Garuwa feel quite a bit similar to like an indigenous community, who all work together and don’t conform to the sort of societal structure that the humans do and the humans in their spaceships are kind of riding roughshod through the Garuwa ‘habitat’ for want of a better word, taking their resources and destroying their homes. I liked the way it played out, especially the relationship that Tamara forged with the captain that is also taken hostage and the way that she connects with some of the Garuwa themselves.

This was an interesting and unique story that worked for me. I don’t read a lot of ‘space’ books but I enjoyed this.

8/10

Book #183 of 2018

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