Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Ryan Casey is fast becoming a respectable voice in the world of science-fiction, having written numerous bestselling series over the last few years. Survive the Darkness is perhaps his most renowned work, telling the story of three people during a sudden EMP attack. Two of them are caught in the mayhem of it all and are trying to survive, and the third one is a prisoner who just stepped out of his cell with his sights set on vengeance.
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Ryan Casey Shuts the Lights Out
With the last couple of years the world has been having, I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise that dystopian and post-apocalyptic disaster fiction have seen a rise in popularity. Now that we ourselves have some form of experience with worldwide cataclysm, the topic has become a lot more interesting, and more worryingly, relevant. In Survive the Darkness, Ryan Casey takes us in the midst of a catastrophe many are not only anticipating one day, but some are actually preparing for: an EMP attack.
The novel which kicks off the series by the same name opens as most EMP attack novels do, transporting us right in the thick of the action. The lights have gone out across the entire country, and people from coast to coast are finding themselves completely in the dark, both physically and metaphorically.
Though the number of people suffering through the event is in the hundreds of millions, we follow the stories of three individuals who find themselves in exceptionally different circumstances. To begin with, there is Max, a security guard working in downtown when the lights go out. The countryside appears as the sole potential promise of safety, but he’s got a hell of a gauntlet to run through before getting there.
The second individual we’re following is Aoife, a regular woman riding the bus on her way home, until it crashes and leaves her unconscious. She wakes up injured (quite obviously) in a world plunged into darkness, surrounded by the flames of the accident. Her plan is to reach her friends and family, but she’ll have to fight with tooth and nail for the mere chance to see them again.
The third person in this story isn’t quite like the other two, having spent a good deal of his life behind bars. However, the power outage has allowed him to finally escape from his cell, and he has a murderous agenda on his mind, vengeance his guiding light. Survival might not be a priority for him, but if anyone can get acclimated to the new national conditions, it’s certainly him.
The Ceaseless Movement of Survive the Darkness
When I said at the start of the review that the book takes us right into the thick of the action, I was being as literal as possible. Ryan Casey doesn’t give us much of an opportunity to get acquainted with anything or anyone before the EMP attack happens, throwing us into the chaos along with the characters we’re primed to meet on the way.
There is one thing I have to mention in regards to the beginning of Survive the Darkness, and it’s that it seemed to me as if the events were a little too accelerated, at least if we’re taking realism into account. The country seems plunged into panic the second the lights go out, and while I do understand the author’s desire to move things along to the parts which he feels actually matter, I still think it would have been beneficial to take things a little more slowly at the start.
In any case, the gripe didn’t persist for very long in my mind because pretty soon the pacing starts to feel a little hectic, especially since we’re following three different protagonists on their own journeys. Their storylines are structured in a way making them quite easy to follow and remember, the events surrounding them detailed in poignant fashion.
There is plenty of action and conflict along the way, with Casey putting his imagination to good use as to the various situations which could arise in this scenario and breed hostility between strangers. While I don’t think he quite managed to camouflage the plot armour he adorned his protagonists with, I think overall he did a good enough job to where I did find myself concerned for their fates from time to time.
Naturally, with this being the first instalment in a series spanning seven books (at the moment the review is being written, at the very least), we’re not exactly treated to an explosive conclusion which neatly wraps everything up, nor was I expecting one. However, I will admit the author managed to surprise me with the amount of closure he gives the reader, all while successfully setting the stage for the next entry. In my opinion, if you choose to stop reading at the end of this book, you’ll have enough material not to feel like you were left hanging from a cliff.
Engulfed by Human Instinct
EMP stories are so numerous I think it’s fair to say they’ve become a genre in their own right, one whose relevance to the modern world cannot be overstated; our over-reliance on technology certainly opens the door to a sudden electric doom. There are plenty of angles from which such an event can be explored, and in Survive the Darkness, Ryan Casey prioritizes the one focusing on individuals.
For starters, I found he did an excellent job at providing us with a realistic framework to examine the actions various types of individuals might undertake in an EMP scenario. He tries to show us how different people are trying to deal with the situation, taking us through the entire gamut between tragedy and comedy. Even the moments which felt a little less realistic were redeemed by their entertainment factor.
If there is one aspect where I think the author is a little weaker than the others, it’s, in my humble opinion, the amount of development for his three main characters he tries to cram into a single novel. Some of their changes in perception happen a little too quickly or suddenly for my taste, and I think the book would have benefited from the author taking more time to make the changes gradual. With this being said, I’ll take this any day over what’s on the other end of the spectrum.
Apart from exploring the way in which the event would affect regular people like you and I, he also takes some glimpses here and there as to its repercussions on society at large, though they are limited due to the nature of the narration, not to mention the length of the novel. While these ruminations never go far, they are certainly welcome and provide tangible contributions to the world-building, and open the door for some personal reflections on the subject.
Ultimately, I think that for an EMP story to be effective and memorable for the reader, for it to have an actual impact, it needs to be plausible in the way it tackles the subject. For the most part, I would say Survive the Darkness does feel like it could actually happen, and in my opinion this elevates it a few steps above many of its peers.
|242||Independently published||Aug. 24 2021||979-8463623416|
The Final Verdict
Survive the Darkness by Ryan Casey is an exciting and absorbing EMP thriller, thrusting the reader into the heart of a modern apocalypse told through the stories of three very different people going through their own particular trials, with both action and social examination in equal quantities.
Ryan Casey is a British author living in the United Kingdom with a BA degree in English with Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham. He has already written over a dozen novels, including a highly successful series sharing its name with the first entry, Survive the Darkness. Some of his other bestsellers include Outbreak, Contamination, and Dead Days.