I love Jane Austen. And I love reading Austen retellings. So needless to say, when I found out about For Darkness Shows the Stars I had to give it a try. Even if it went against my best judgment.
General Summary: Apparently, progress has caused humanity to lose a hundred IQ points except for those who don’t know an iPhone from a Android. Those individuals are safe and become Luddites. They think they are “helping” those who have lost their smarts by allowing them to work on their farms (though they don’t use the term work, rather care). Eventually those who lost the IQ points start reproducing spawn who have regained the missing points and this gets all the Luddites panties in a twist because they’re losing their slave labor. One of these spawns happens to fall in love with a Luddite and what do we get, a Jane Austen redux of Persuasion.
Honestly, I don’t know where to start. I was excited about this book if a bit weary. When I first saw it it was almost an instant buy me for me because I love Jane Austen retellings. However, the reviews for the book were less than stellar. Still, I was interested in reading it and finally I relented and bought the book. And now, and now I have buyer’s remorse.
Okay, so the book isn’t downright terrible. It has some good points. However, you had to squint to see the good within the bad. And maybe it’s partially my own taste that kept me from enjoying the book. I’m tired of dystopias. Despite forcing myself to read them for my Trend Spotlight series I still don’t get them. And while I admit I can occasionally enjoy a good dystopia or two, for the most part I don’t usually read them.
I think one of the reasons For Darkness Shows the Stars failed for me was that there were so many things about it that failed in the dystopia cliche train. As per usual an apocalypse event has happened-this time the majority of humanity losing a hundred or so IQ points- and now there is great social unrest. It gets better apparently everyone losses all these points in intelligence because of technology. Yep, God doesn’t approve of technology at least according to a Luddite. At this point I thought that surely this is going to be something Perfreund explores more like make the Luddiates aren’t being 100% honest with what they’re saying. But nope, there is no hidden story behind how the Reduction. What’s even worse is there’s no real sense of resolution either. Sure, things are solved at the end of the book. But everything is solved ridiculously fast with no fall out. It just kind of unnerved me how things were constantly being described as being sucky and then out of nowhere they’re fixed.
I guess it would’ve helped if the character development would’ve been better. But the characters for the most part were as weak as the plot. Okay, I will give credit do to Peterfreund for developing the character Elliot. Even though I could not personally care for her, Elliot was a well formed character. An annoying character, but a realistic character. As for Kai though I really couldn’t get Elliot or his attraction for each other, even with the letters that were provided between chapters. BTW, the letters in my opinion read very false. I didn’t really get a sense that there were two distinct characters writing to each other. Sigh….
Despite my problems with the book, I will say for the most part the writing itself was clean and easy to follow despite the pacing issues. Also, despite my issues with the world Peterfreund created I really was able to have an understanding of it by the time I finished the book. Despite the fact that the execution of this book was fine technically, I didn’t love it. I didn’t get the love story that I thought I get with a Persuasion retelling or for that matter any Austen like charm.
Best Feature: Jane Austen retelling: I love a good Austen retelling. Persuasion is one of those books I feel gets neglected when it comes to these retellings-usually they’re Pride and Prejudice and Emma-retellings. That being said, I thought this book was a piss poor retelling. While the bare bone plot structure was there, the book lacked the charm and social wit that the original version had.
Worst Feature: Pacing: Dear lord, it took to page two hundred and something for the plot to actually move. It was that slow. I honestly, thought I was on some sort of weird merry-go-round where Elliot would see Kai, he’d insult her, she’d have a memory into the past, and the cycle would begin again. And okay, I get that that happened a lot in the original. But the original had charm. It was more than the romance. Austen gave brilliant social commentary and there are a lot of social issues in Persuasion. I suppose you could say the same for For Darkness Shows the Stars. I mean, it’s a dystopia. There are social issues. But the issues in Peterfreund’s dystopia world felt flat and honestly at times I felt icky reading the book. It wasn’t that the book was terribly outwardly offensive, it was just the fact I found the whole basis on the society repugnant. As I said before, a large group of the population suffers from low intelligence and how are they treated….like slaves. Even their offsprings who have hire IQs are expected to live lives like slaves. And okay, I sort of knew this going into the book that there would be classism issues, but honestly I didn’t expect this plot point to be this grating. And for that matter I didn’t understand why the Posts weren’t like screw you Luddites. All they’d have to do is invent some weaponry that would’ve been off limits to the anti-technology luddites and it would be bye-bye sanctimonious Luddites. But no, that doesn’t happen in this novel. Instead, most of these people are okay with being oppressed. So yeah, the social message in this book didn’t work for me.
Blockbuster Worthy: Meh. I’d rather see another adaption of the actual Persuasion. At least then I’d have Regency clothes and Austen wit. Be that as it may here’s who I’d cast: Elliot: Shay Mitchell. I think she has an Elliot look about her. Kai: Ben Barnes because I need someone hot as Wentworth.
Overall Rating: Five out of ten Janneties. It wasn’t terrible the book itself was readable, but for a Jane Austen adaption it honestly sort of sucked. I think what could’ve been a great idea sort of failed miserably in its execution.