Jeyn Roberts, Dark Inside

Jeyn Roberts' Dark Inside was a Christmas gift this year from a colleague and friend, so immediately its gift status had me questioning all sorts of things about what sort of image I'm presenting. The book's video trailer should give some clues about the basis for my self-doubts:

A mammoth 9.5-scale earthquake strikes the West Coast of North America. At the same time, individual humans all over the world turn into "Baggers" -- like zombies, but with important differences related to communications and planning -- and start killing everyone else. The carnage is atrocious, the violence is graphic, and the survival rate of the novel's main characters approaches zero. (I found this especially interesting for the first book of a series, since you kind of need someone to keep the story going.) There isn't much more to Dark Inside, apart from mostly doomed attempts at survival and a certain amount of speculation and crumb-dropping about the roots and trajectory of the crisis. It's an awful, gripping book: "I can't go on, I'll go on," as Beckett wrote in another context, and its fans are seriously fans.

To some extent, it's just another YA apocalypse novel anchored in the North American west, especially British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, but frankly this descriptor makes it exactly the kind of book I'm going to read and review: I'm fascinated by the coming together of these cultural strands.

Plus, if you can inure yourself to all the slaughtering and whatnot, there's some seriously interesting pondering going on here. Jeyn Roberts studied at Bath Spa University, and while I don't know that she had anything to do there with ecocritics Greg Garrard or Richard Kerridge, I did find the connection helpful when I thought about the comments by one character about this particular apocalypse being a judgment about humanity's failings towards the earth. (Roberts raises the same ideas herself, too, in the "Questions for Readers" section at the novel's end, so it's not purely an intellectual exercise to make one of the characters Deep.)

If every other hyper-consuming empire/society or hyper-successful species has collapsed catastrophically, and not always for obvious or even scrutable reasons, and if our current society is essentially globalized, then a coming corrective apocalypse -- assuming (which is an enormous reach, clearly) that past apocalypses have been corrective -- would likely be globalized as well. Hell, feel free to take Roberts' zombies as metaphoric or symbolic, but I find that even scarier. We're all individually destroying our chances for individual and species survival, without thinking about our individual actions and decisions.

We are already zombies, in other words, and Roberts' fictional world has judged us already.

Should you read it? I'm not sure the question makes sense: you should've figured out by now whether you're going to give this book a try.


theresa said…
This book sounds like it would be a good companion to Joe Denham's marvelous "Year of Broken Glass" -- many similar elements: an earthquake, a speculative angle, etc.

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