Saturday, July 21, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is -- wait for it -- a post-apocalyptic Jane Austen retelling. This was bound to happen eventually, right? But actually, it's not as bad as it sounds.

Elliott North is a member of the post-apocalyptic society's ruling class, the Luddites. Not so many generations ago, the human race was nearly wiped out by scientific advances involving tampering with human DNA. The Luddites refused to participate in this trend for religious reasons, and so when the scientific experimentation went horribly wrong, the Luddites were the ones who survived with all of their faculties, while children of the genetically-enhanced became known as the Reduced because of their extremely limited mental capacities. These Reduced generally ended up as servants on the estates of wealthy Luddites, who control society and severely limit scientific experimentation in order to avoid falling into the trap of earlier generations. Now, in Elliott's time, some of the children born to the Reduced are known as Posts (Post-Reduction), with full mental capacities, but they are still part of the servant class. One of those Posts, Kai, grew up alongside Elliott on her estate. The two formed a friendship that eventually turned into something more -- but when Kai fled the estate, Elliott remained behind. Since her mother's death, Elliott had become the only person capable of managing the estate, while her father and sister cared only for fashion and pleasure. Then, four years after leaving the North estate, Kai returns in a company known as the Cloud Fleet. This group of Posts, lead by a man known as Captain Innovation, travel to nearby islands in search of pre-Reduction technology that the Luddites will purchase and use, and they are renting Elliott's grandfather's defunct shipyard in order to build a larger sailing vessel. Kai, now known as Malakai Wentforth, is still just as attractive to Elliott -- but he's still just as angry with her for her refusal to leave her estate. Can the two move past their misunderstanding, or is their shared history enough to keep them apart forever?

Austen fans, no doubt, have already recognized the framework of Persuasion underneath this story's post-apocalyptic trappings. I'm going to admit that, while I count myself an Austen fan, I'm not one of those fans who rereads the canon every year or so and can bring to mind every minute detail. It's been more than ten years since I read Persuasion, so my knowledge of the original story did not stand in the way of my enjoyment of this book. I found it generally enjoyable, with a few minor details to quibble about. I never thought Kai's resentment of Elliott for staying behind made much sense -- he knew that she was the one holding everything together, and if she had left all of the people he grew up around would probably have starved. I also thought there were a few more loose ends at the end of the book than I would have liked -- not enough that I feel a sequel is inevitable (or even warranted), but enough to leave me a little bit unsatisfied. Still, I liked the book on the whole, and would recommend it if the premise intrigues you. Fans of Austen retellings will enjoy this if they don't mind a little added sci-fi, and those who have not read Austen's original will still be able to enjoy both the well-described dystopia and the sweet romance.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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