By Scott Reardon
I can see the appeal of this book, but in this instance it just wasn’t for me. I’m very much a character person. To me, the greatest plot in the world won’t do much for my enjoyment if I can’t connect to the characters. I found there to be little character development in The Dark Continent, and for a fairly long book it moved fast, barely giving time to characters before we were racing off to the next setting.
The Dark Continent is the follow-up to Reardon’s Prometheus Man, but can be read as a standalone. On an oil rig off the coast of Alaska, government researchers experiment on death row inmates, trying to ‘enhance’ them. When these men escape, they cause havoc in the United States, bringing it to its knees. Karl, a CIA agent, gets roped into the plan to stop these men, and he brings with him Tom Reese, the only man who has successfully been enhanced until now.
The book moves like an action film. The first part is essentially setting things up, but the set-up drags on a little too long. There are three POVs here. Karl is on a mission in China, Tom is on the run in Canada, and Doctor Azamor works on an oil rig off the coast of Alaska. Azamor is the only female character we get to really know anything about, and even then it’s mainly about her relation to men in her life. She is defined by them, whether it is her family and the death of her son, or the inmates she ends up with when they escape. Despite her presence in the novel, she doesn’t even get a mention in the blurbs.
Doctor Azamor also feels very much like she was copied from Silence of the Lamb’s Clarice Starling, with the man leading the escapee’s reminiscent of Hannibal Lector, minus (I think) the cannibalism.
For the first part of the book, all we get from Tom is him running away from the police with his girlfriend, who again, we find out little about. This part I found really repetitive, a series of car chases which don’t always translate well to paper. They run, the police catch up, they run again, police catch up, etc.
Karl, meanwhile, is stuck in China, in a prison apparently right by a Disney park. Some of his experiences are related to the main plot, but again a lot of it felt a little unnecessary, and there’s no real consequences to what happens here.
Once the inmates escape, the real action picks up as they set out to destroy America. The book is titled The Dark Continent, but in reality, it’s a number of North American states that have their power turned off. And what follows is a post-apocalyptic scenario, as people flee, riot, and loot, and the escapees cause more mayhem.
Thing is, this all happens within days of the power going out. The world turns to shit almost instantly, which with the current situation, feels really out of line with what humans actually do when faced with something unprecedented. And that is totally not the author’s fault. But these kinds of instant violent scenarios feel more and more like demonstrations of masculine toxicity taken to the extreme. And it is all men who partake in the novel, with women once again placed as victims.
Like I said at the start of the review, I feel strongly that this book just wasn’t for me. Others who prefer action thriller type novels would likely get a kick out of The Dark Continent, but for me it was a little shallow and too long for the story it was trying to tell.
Review by Elle Turpitt
I received this e-book from Aspen Press via NetGalley for review consideration.