In The Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You, by Luke Smitherd

Short Take: “You got your horror in my sci-fi!”  “No, you got your sci-fi in my horror!”   “Hey, did someone order a love story?”

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You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. No, seriously, most times, covers are crap when it comes to actually showing you what’s in a book, let alone if it’ll actually be good or not, and the same thing goes for titles. C’mon, you know I’m right. Look at some of the best books ever that have absolutely garbage titles. Don’t believe me? I can give you a perfect example, in three letters or less: IT. Which is why it was surprising that when I saw “In the darkness, that’s where I’ll know you” I mentally took a step back, and really thought about the title. It’s… kind of gorgeous, you know? Evocative, yearning, and somehow poetic.

And really, it doesn’t do justice to the absolute crazy-pants insanity of this book. The plot is deceptively simple. Charlie Wilkes wakes up inside the brain of a girl with the unfortunate but hilarious name of Minnie Cooper. He is in a room that is completely black, with the exception of a screen – her eyes, through which he can see what she sees. He can hear what she hears, and when he talks to her, she can hear him. They need to work together to figure out what happened, why it happened, how to fix it, and so on, and as they do, they get to know each other better than some long-married couples.

My sugar-doped brain kept wanting to make comparisons to the 1987 Dennis Quaid comedy classic, Innerspace, but Smitherd, clever little monkey that he is, wasn’t about to let that happen. Because for all the surface humor and outlandishness of the situation, this is one seriously dark and twisted tale. Nobody is quite what they seem, and one severely screwed up individual can hurt if not destroy an infinite number of people without leaving a trace.

So here we have a combination of a really terrific title, and a ridiculous but intriguing premise and okay, FINE, even some pretty awesome cover art that actually represents the book pretty well. It’s a delicious combination. And for the most part, In the Darkness follows through on that early promise. The story winds through some twists that I would never have seen coming, and a lot of the dialogue is pretty sharp as well. Minnie is a lovely character, so vulnerable and human, and Charlie is… complicated.

I can’t really go into what I loved about this one without getting all spoilery. Suffice it to say, that everything comes together in a beautifully satisfying way. That is not to say that it’s necessarily a happy ending, or a predictable one, but it is a fairly perfect one.

But somehow, Darkness didn’t quite fully click with me. I’ve asked myself repeatedly why, if I loved pretty much everything about it, I can’t just start throwing happy neurons at it like Mardi Gras beads.

I think that the answer lies in the pacing. I feel like too many parts of this book got dragged down in speculation about what is happening/why it’s happening/who are you/who am I/why am I here/what is happening/why is this happening and so on. Don’t get me wrong, a fair amount of all that was necessary, especially in the end, when it all came together and was fully explained. But I don’t tend to have a lot patience with sci-fi-type world-building, and I think that some of that could have been trimmed down in ways that would have made Darkness even better.

The Nerd’s Rating:  FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and a flashlight. Because damn the darkness can be scary.)

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