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Way Down Dark ~ Book Review

Way Down Dark by James Smythe wdd

Illustrated by: N/A

Series: The Australia Trilogy (Book #1)

Published: July 2nd 2016, Hodder & Stoughton

Edition: Kindle

Length: 288 pages

Narrated By: N/A

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Thriller, Mystery

Where Did I Get It? I bought a copy off the Kindle Store.


Imagine a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one.

This is a hell where no one can hide.

The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

This is a ship of death, of murderers and cults and gangs.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.

This is Australia.

Seventeen-year-old Chan, fiercely independent and self-sufficient, keeps her head down and lives quietly, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery – a way to return the Australia to Earth. But doing so would bring her to the attention of the fanatics and the murderers who control life aboard the ship, putting her and everyone she loves in terrible danger.

And a safe return to Earth is by no means certain.

Opening Line(s):

The story goes Earth was much older than the scientists thought. We had assumed that we had billions of years left; that we would be totally prepared if the worst happened.

My Review: I had my eye on this for a long time before I read it – Twitter went mad over it and it sounded awesome. Then I saw James Smythe was in the line up for YALC and Amazon Kindle had it on a one-day 99p sale so I snapped it up with every intention to read it before YALC.

Life got in the way of meeting that target but after hearing James Smythe talk on a panel at YALC, I bumped it straight up my reading list again. If he wrote like he spoke, it was definitely going to be my kind of book.

Way Down Dark lived up to what I hoped for it. A dystopian future, humans in space scraping a living as best they can, surviving in a place with no sunlight or windows, endlessly waiting for the day the Australia could return to Earth and they could start again.

It was dark and gritty. Life on the Australia was terrifying – endless engine noise, limited food, no natural light, the best and the worst of humanity trapped together with no escape but death. Symbolised by The Pit at the bottom of the ship where everything unwanted got dumped and everything dropped over the gantry barrier ended up. It didn’t take too much imagination to bring up the horror of The Pit – the smell, the darkness of indistinct shapes, the fear this brought with it.

The whole ship, Australia, was beautifully described and was practically a character in the book itself. Constantly changing whilst staying the same, full of violence and love in equal measure, a place of death and a place of life and peace. Smythe’s writing captured the spirit of the ship in the same way he captured the spirit of the characters and this world building was one of my favourite things about the whole story.

The best thing about Way Down Dark was the sudden twist – I didn’t see it coming at all. I thought I had it all figured out and was settled in for the ride and then suddenly Smythe whipped the floor out from under me and changed the goalposts. It was brilliant. And horrifying.

If you like a book that is dark, has a main character full of passion and ferocity, is full of twists and turns and delves into all the things that make people human – the good and the bad – then Way Down Dark is for you.

I have book two, Long Dark Dusk, firmly on my wish list for when I have read enough books to allow myself to buy new ones!

My Rating: 5/5*

Way Down Dark can be bought here.

Long Dark Dusk can be bought here.

Follow James Smythe on Twitter here.

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5 thoughts on “Way Down Dark ~ Book Review

  1. Wow, this sounds really good! Although I’m not good with anything claustrophobic in books – the thought of The Pit sounds terrifying enough just from reading your review, I can’t imagine how bad it would be too read the book!


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