The year is 2019. The Watchers maintain a state of constant surveillance: guns are outlawed, media is censored, and unmanned drones patrol the skies.
Derrion Parsing is a high school senior and the son of an ex-Army Ranger. Unlike his classmates, he has access to information from the time before the Invisible War, when the government shut down the Internet, reformatting into a propaganda tool. When Derrion attempts to use this information as part of a school project, he awakens to his worst nightmare.
My Thoughts on In the Place Where There is No Darkness
The title of the book comes from a George Orwell quote, so that should give you some idea of what to expect. Orwell has some pretty tough shoes to fill, so I went in with a bit of skepticism. I came out feeling that author K.M. Douglas did Orwell proud! That’s not to say this is an Orwellian novel. In some ways, it feels a bit like one, but Douglas didn’t emulate Orwell so much as create a new bit of Orwellian fiction for a different generation, if that makes sense.
The first chapter of the book was quite touching. It takes place in the past (a little before our current present). Derrion is a child at the time, listening to his father talk about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. His father doesn’t know Derrion is listening, and he is recounting the moment when he realized that he was fighting a war he didn’t really believe in. The moment he realized how easily the roles could be reversed and how his child could be torn from his home in the middle of the night- or much worse, killed- by soldiers following orders. Sadly, that was the last thing Derrion ever heard his father talk about, as he died the same night.
Chapter two starts in the year 2019. This is important, because it’s not exactly that far into the future, now is it? See, most dystopian novels take place well into the future, making them seem like something that we’d never have to worry about! In the Place Where There is no Darkness takes place a mere 5 years from now. Plus, everything was so familiar, no normal that at first I thought maybe I was reading the wrong book! I was expecting a totally different environment, not one in which kids still date like normal kids, trick or treat on Halloween and so on. Sure, Derrion’s school has moved completely to tablets instead of text books, but that’s not too far out of the realm of possibility for our near future.
Then it happens- the moment you realize that things in this future have changed. Derrion reads an amazing political essay in which he expresses some concerns with the way things are going in the US. His teacher repeats a mantra in his head about reporting students like this, but not confronting them. Words are exchanged, and the reader realizes “oh crap, this is NOT the world I want to live in come 5 years from now!” That is where the short novella shines. Douglas has taken a normal world and added a twist to it, making it completely realistic. To me, there is nothing more disturbing than a realistic dystopian story.
I don’t really want to tell you more about the book because doing so will give away key plot points. Just know that it is incredibly thought-provoking and disturbing in a very good way literary-speaking.
About the Author
K. M. Douglas grew up in Northeast Ohio and studied creative writing at The Ohio State University. He lives in Rainier, Washington with his wife, cat and two dogs.
In the Place Where There is No Darkness is his first novel.
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