How Dark the World Becomes by Frank Chadwick.
Sasha is mid-level gangster involved in the usual smattering of criminal activities: drug dealing, protection and numbers. He seems like a nice guy, so far as thugs go. He funds a clinic, is good to his girlfriend and is apparently respected by his peers, except for the one who’d like to see him dead. To complicate matters, he has been asked to smuggle two high value targets off-planet. There is a thread of connection between matters, but everything in the squashed and squalid depths of Crack City seems related. That’s how slums operate. Simplest solution to all current problems seems to be to accompany his alien cargo off-planet. Trouble does what trouble does and follows.
There are two plots here, the one involving Sasha and the one involving the two alien children he is trying to protect. They’re somewhat related, in that the galaxy isn’t as big as it thinks it is sort of way. But it seems that the more Sasha tries to convince everyone he’s just a thug, the more he has to stand up and do the right thing, to save his own neck, the children, their minder — a woman who seems less objectionable as time wears on, various hangers-on, an entire platoon of marines, a planet and, just maybe, the fate of the human race. The bigger his problems get, the more determined Sasha becomes.
How Dark The World Becomes fits neatly into one of my favourite Science Fiction sub-sets: the thrilling adventure in space. Take a hero who doesn’t really want to be a hero, strip away the things he cares about and then set him an impossible task. He’ll either fail miserably or succeed against all odds. In the best stories, he does a bit of both. While reading Frank Chadwick’s book, I was reminded of Jack McDevitt’s ‘Alex Benedict’ novels and Mark L Van Name’s ‘Jon & Lobo’ adventures. Sasha, as a character, had the same self-deprecating attitude and the tenacity to get things done, even as events messed with his carefully ordered life.
I really enjoyed the world building, too. Crack City, as a concept, both amused and horrified. Humanity rests at the bottom of the pecking order, their labour supporting the rest of the galaxy. I loved how fascinated aliens were with human culture and the way they imitated imperfectly certain aspects. These scenes only served to highlight some of our own more absurd behaviour in a sometimes darkly humorous manner. I got the sense Chadwick has a lot to say about some of our more oddball quirks as a species.
I think Frank Chadwick’s universe and characters have a lot of potential. Given he is a multiple-award-winning game designer, I’m not surprised. I’m looking forward to reading more!
Written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.
A note on the cover art: One of the things that usually attracts me to Baen Books is the covers. This piece is by one of my favourite cover artists, Dave Seeley. Click through to visit his gallery.
3 thoughts on “Review: How Dark the World Becomes”
I’ve been wondering about this book and it is nice to come across a review of it. I too really like adventure in space science fiction and the way you describe the book makes me anxious to add it to my to-read list. I’ve not read the author’s work.
I too am a fan of Dave Seeley and this is a really nice cover. I had a nice email conversation with him recently about the cover he did for Lois McMaster Bujold’s book Falling Free for the NESFA Press edition. It did not come out great, transfer-wise, on the book, a fact I discovered when I went to his site and saw the original painting. I so want that painting.
It was a good read! I recommend it. I’m hoping Frank Chadwick picks the story back up.
I spent quite a bit of time at Dave Seeley’s website when grabbing the link to this cover. There are some gorgeous pieces there. I really loved his depiction of the Brazil Space Elevator for Popular Science Magazine. And Unincoporated Man. I love science fiction cityscapes.
Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed your post about cover art, btw. 🙂
Oh, thank you! I really enjoy doing them.
Yes, SF cityscapes are amazing, aren’t they? I enjoy the way that Martiniere and Sparth and Dociu do SF city and landscapes. The Brazil Space Elevator image is amazing. I’d love to go to Illuxcon some year as that is one he does annually.