One way to describe T. A. Miles’ brilliantly constructed Darkside: Children of Bhast is to look towards where the author has quite possibly drawn some of their inspiration- it’s Star Wars meets Farscape mixed with a little bit of TRON: Uprising. There’s even some possible likening to the computer game turned film franchise Resident Evil, but with a unique take on its themes.
Beginning in the future, which is later re-introduced to the reader as the present, this wonderfully sci-fi cross-genre novel is proof of outstanding work that could easily be transferred to the big screen- anyone know Danny Boyle’s or Michael Bay’s number? Although this structure can often be confusing in a novel, Miles carries it off with an authoritive tone which is not only commanding of the reader’s attention, but is also supportive in that it leans; in order to allow the reader to grasp the events as they unfold.
Miles has evidently put a lot of effort into this novel- the level of character development, although slow to begin with, is so high that as a reader; you’re consistently learning something new. But not only do you learn about those select few main characters, you also discover the pasts of loving and identifiable supporting characters such as Taj and Auguste.
Initially the heavy focus on the sport, which is not dissimilar to the pod-racing of Star Wars or the cycles of TRON, put me off a little. But as you continue to read the sport becomes part of the background, an anchor for location, time and date setting. With the anchor firmly set the reader can fully focus on the fast-paced emotional development, which rockets through the equally fast but well-paced events throughout the novel.
Miles’ work is fluent, consistent, well-written and overall an enjoyable read. Darkside: Children of Bhast is a startling and vivid exploration of a young man’s experiences of not only sport, but politics, drugs, sexual exploits and relationships too- making it a far more mature read than one would expect. There are several accurate parallels drawn between Calen’s world and the social and cultural issues of the reader’s own world. This isn’t off-putting but rather enlightening and even liberating, as Miles’ allows the reader to form their own opinions on Calen’s world (and subsequently their own), without fear of judgement or punishment.
The adopted style of gently shifting the novel’s perspective between several key characters, allows the reader to get comfortable with the events, in relation to the individual journey of each character. A word of caution to the reader- the detail in Darkside: Children of Bhast alternates between slow and progressive to thick and fast in the turn of a page. Although this makes the book more exciting to read and far less predictable a narrative, it is easy to miss some of the details; combined with the perspective changes this is a novel which requires the reader to pay close attention. That being said Miles’ leaves very little room for the reader to get bored or loose focus too often.
For those who prefer light reading this novel may present some issues, in that for some readers the blending of events featuring different characters may cause the reader to feel that the novel is too crowded and therefore confusing. But, it is in my opinion that if the reader gives every sentence and paragraph the focus and attention which it not only demands, but also deserves, then even an easily confused person or a person who usually prefers lighter reading, would be able to enjoy this brilliant piece of fiction.
Within Darkside there are some impeccable plot twists, my favourites being the mysterious Yoshiro’s true heritage and the revealing of Calen Liese’s evolved biology. These plot twists are heightened by the general structure and flow of the narrative, meaning that newly revealed information is always unforgettable. The characterisation throughout is mostly very strong, and the subtle but complete layering of all the elements and themes of the story make it over all a thoroughly intoxicating read.
Miles’ has given readers an interesting backdrop (Bhast), I suspect greater detail will follow in subsequent titles, but for now the reader is given enough to achieve context without being overly descriptive or running into tangents- key to maintaining the structure and flow of the novel. I certainly look forward to the next installment or even the next novel from T. A. Miles.
© Gemma Feltham 2nd July 2013