Have you ever read a book where you are both fiercely proud and insanely protective of the main character? One moment you’re thinking, “Yeah, don’t mess with this characters! She’ll take you down. Get outta her way!”and the next thing you know you’re screaming, “NOOO! Don’t hurt her. She is a precious baby!”
I hope so. Because then I will feel less insane about my feelings towards Logan/Jack in Out of Darkness by E.B. Dawson.
I found this book because the author and I are mutual followers of each other’s social media accounts. When she told me she had a self-published book, I started reading it as soon as humanly possible. I didn’t even read the synopsis, so I didn’t really know what I was in for. All I knew was that Amazon categorized it as sci-fi, so I was on board.
As it turns out, categorizing Out of Darkness as sci-fi is a massive understatement. It’s sci-fi, sure. But it’s also futuristic, a thriller, and very slightly dystopian. And it has some of the most interesting characters I’ve read this year.
Logan Bailey and her family are Ex-pats in a future America where Ex-pat is almost a dirty word. When the Bailey’s return to America, they find themselves unwelcome and untrusted. With strained international ties, a food shortage, and population control problems, Ex-pats are on the bottom rung of America’s social ladder.
When Logan is given a chance to enter a prestigious leadership school, the Bailey’s have no choice but to accept.
Disliked by her classmates and discriminated against by her teachers, Logan is determined to bear her cross quietly. But soon she realizes that this discrimination has nothing to do with her being an Ex-pat. She is tangled in a net of international terrorism, forced into a life of training and testing that has nothing to do with Logan Bailey and everything to do with the ideal weapon that they believe she can become: Jack Simon.
A human weapon with special powers, Jack’s mind is as efficient as a machine but not nearly as programmable. The brutal training protocols that created her have pushed her over the edge. She is losing grip on her sanity and her only lifeline is a frail one: A jaded soldier on a suicide mission and the small hope that Logan still exists somewhere in the broken shell that is Jack.
I absolutely loved this story. E.B. Dawson has mastered the art of nonlinear narrative. Out of Darkness jumps back and forth from different parts of Logan/Jack’s life, giving the novel a disjointed feel that perfectly reflected the main character’s shaky mental state. It’s not often that I read a book that can execute a nonlinear plot with such impressive results. The writer in me is extremely awed and the reader in me is extremely happy.
One of the benefits of the nonlinear narrative was that I was kept guessing about the plot. I can’t tell you how many times I had to pause and try to piece the story together to figure out where it was headed, only to come up with about eight different possibilities. I was in suspense almost the entire time, which kept the plot both exciting and mysterious.
But, even if I had known exactly where the plot was going, my interest still would have been held by the characters. Jack’s character development was awesome to behold. She goes from a rather meek person with some pent up anger to a determined student to a scary trainee to an even scarier, broken, PTSD riddled girl.
Part of me just wanted to give her chocolate and a hug while the other part of me wanted to cheer her on as she unleashed her rage upon the antagonists.
I was excited to see how Jack’s complex personality was handled. It is apparent that Dawson put a lot effort into accurately depicting a highly-intelligent but traumatized mind. The character development was spot on, and I loved seeing Jack learn to have a friendship with a similarly broken soldier. That combined with the moral grey areas and interesting questions raised (can you destroy a few lives for the sake of the world?) gave the story a thoughtful, realistic feel.
I was fascinated by the way that the plot and the character development worked to hold my interest. The first few chapters of the book didn’t instantly connect me to the characters, but the plot and futuristic world building kept me going. Then, about half-way through the book, I realized that there had been a very subtle shift to focusing on the characters rather than the plot. By the end it was both the plot and the characters evenly holding up the story and keeping it tense and compelling.
The only unfortunate thing about this book was that it takes some warming up to. A large amount of the real action and character development takes place after the first fifty pages or so. But the development is there, so just keep at it. Not that I really need to tell you that, given that the plot will grab your interest on page one.
The nonlinear narrative and occasional point of view switches meant that this story featured some slightly different formatting. Some omniscient scenes were in bold and timeline changes were marked with paragraph breaks, which gave the book’s style an experimental feel that I very much enjoyed. However, it also led to the story having some mild formatting errors.
Did this make any difference to me? Pffft. No. A good story is a good story.
Out of Darkness book is everything I enjoy: Emotionally charged, action packed, thought provoking. It also gets major points for being both plot and character driven.
This book has a sequel, Into the Void, that will release on March 24th. I’ve already pre-ordered it because yes, I absolutely want to read more in this world with these characters. I’m actually a bit miffed that I have to way over a month to get my hands on another book by Dawson.
But I’ll wait. Why don’t you go grab yourself a copy of book one and then come and keep me company in my not-so-patient waiting? We can discuss Jack and the crazy intricate plot. Come on, now. Don’t make me sit here all alone. Leave a comment below and tell me what you think of E.B. Dawson’s series!