Way Down Dark – JP Smythe

‘The story goes that Earth was much older than the scientists thought. We had assumed we had billions of years left, that we would be totally prepared when the worst happened. maybe that made us complacent. We thought we understood what we were doing to the planet. We thought we had time to fix it.’

way down dark

Imagine a nightmare from which there is no escape. Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one
This is a hell where no one can hide. The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.
This is a ship of death, of murderers and cults and gangs. But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.
This is Australia. Seventeen-year-old Chan, fiercely independent and self-sufficient, keeps her head down and lives quietly, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery – a way to return the Australia to Earth. But doing so would bring her to the attention of the fanatics and the murderers who control life aboard the ship, putting her and everyone she loves in terrible danger.
And a safe return to Earth is by no means certain.

What I thought

All books try to grab the reader’s attention from the first page, but I don’t think I’ve read one that manages quite like this one. The story opens with Chan standing over her mother’s body burning it. There’s no explanation as to why she had to do it apart from to defend herself, we never get told exactly what happened to the lead up to that point but are led to work that out ourselves.
It’s one hell of an opening as it led to me immediately understanding just how dark this society is; that burning her mother’s body is the only possible cause of action that Chan had in order to stay safe.

And as the book continues it only continues to grow in just how dark it is. Australia is an unforgiving place, with cults and gangs and every inch of space being used for something. Each gang has its own motivation and reasoning for what it does. Make no mistake they are all equally dangerous, pretty much everyone on Australia will kill you. But I thought it was well done that they weren’t all the same kind of gang just killing because they could. When every inch of space is a valuable commodity and there is only a very strict limit in and already overcrowded and compact area it makes sense that gang warfare would occur. The two main cults/gangs that Chan has to deal with are the Lows (a violent gang who will do anything to gain more and more land) and the Pale Women (a cult of women who live a few layers above Chan).

One of the things I enjoy is although this is set in the future everything has fallen apart, so there are mentions of their historically being amazing technology but it’s all been stripped for parts and are just bits of folk lore. Apart from an arboretum and river on a spaceship… It sets a beautifully dark theme that shows how low humanity get can alongside how far its technology had once reached.
A lot of stories set in space are about hope for humanity, and how we reached for the stars and met other people there. But this is not that, this isn’t a story of hope and humanity acting for the good of itself as a species. This is a dark story about violence and about being selfish to survive. We’ve gone to space but there is nothing there.

I can’t talk about this book without talking about Rex. with a change of leaders in teh Lows Rex takes over and from the beginning sets herself against Chan using her mothers death as a reason for the leadership change. Rex is bloody scary in a way that Chan isn’t. Chan isn’t as great as being selfish as she pretends to be although she will definitely hurt and kill people if the situation absolutely demands it. Not Rex though, she will do literally anything to keep herself alive and running the deadliest and most violent gang in Australia. She will do whatever it takes and will keep people even if the situation only hints at it being needed.
The two girls work brilliantly off each other, and you really cheer for Chan whilst being scared by Rex.
Side note – I LOVE that the gang leader is a 18/19 year old girl. YEY for feminism where girls can be gang leaders and kill people if they want!

Why I read it

I picked this one and the sequel at Forbidden Planet into their ‘slightly damaged so we can’t sell for full price’ box for £2.50 each. It YA Australian sci-fi, it just sounded fun and for that price I couldn’t really say no.

(Side note – Forbidden Planet is an amazing sci-fi store in London that holds anything a geek could ever want.)

Final Thought

This was a really intense, dark, claustrophobic science fiction story. For me the only reason it counted as YA was because of the age of the main characters. It was really gritty and never shied away from the violence and the blood that occurred. It was easy to understand how the spaceship had reached this point and why each gang/cult was doing what it did. Rex was a great counter/antagonist to Chan as neither one of them were willing to back down from what they believed.

Also it’s a spaceship called Australia, it’s pretty awesome by default.

Would I recommend? It’s a great dark and intense sci-fi YA and one that should be talked about more. It’s not for everyone but if you like darker novels then I would definitely suggest this one


PopSugar: About a villain/anti-hero, alteration in the title, set on a different planet (spaceship is close enough), meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get round to, an allegory,

Read Harder: First book in a YA series


This blog a day thing is really getting to me, but I’m going to keep it going for as long as I can. I’ll get there and then it will become more natural until I don’t even think about it.
But I’ve completed my first week *throws glitter everywhere* so that’s a success.

As always let me know what you think of my review and if you’re interested in reading it. Or if you have, I’d love to hear what you guys think.


P.S The next book is the second in the Australia Trilogy – Long Down Dusk, I’m going to try and be as spoiler free as possible.






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