Genre: YA Science Fiction/Thriller
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: April 23 2013
Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
In a word: terrifying, amazingly inventive, heartbreaking and a world like nothing you’ve ever seen.
Like many readers, I was initially drawn to this book because of the amazing cover. I am a sucker for a colorful book cover design, and this is still one of my favorites so far this year. I was hoping for an equally amazing reading experience, and I was not disappointed. Arclight has got to be one of the most unusual and surprising books I’ve read in quite some time. It was nothing like I thought it would be, and it was much more than I expected. And because of my reading experience, I am doing something in this review that I’ve never done before: including images! I’ve always felt that reading is a personal experience, and that each reader should use their own imaginations when they read, but for Arclight, I feel compelled to add some visual aids. Although McQuein is an amazing writer and uses gorgeous imagery, I was left confused by the actual setting of the Arclight, a problem other bloggers have talked about in their reviews. I’m using these images to enhance my review and help others understand how I interpret this amazingly constructed world.
Here’s the setup of the story: a teen named Marina lives in a protected compound with a group of survivors who do everything in their power to keep their enemy out, creatures called the Fade who want to infect and take over the bodies of humans. They live behind a wall of lights called the Arclight, lights that blaze all night long and scare away the Fade. But Marina is different from the others in the compound. She has no memories of where she came from, who her family is, or what she was doing outside in the Grey when she was found and brought back to the compound. All Marina knows is that everyone seems to hate her, and blames her for several deaths that happened during her rescue.
A boy named Tobin, whose father was lost to the Dark that day, is drawn to Marina and befriends her. One night, Marina and Tobin discover that a Fade is in the room with them, and during a struggle he is caught and taken to a place called the White Room, a hidden laboratory with a cell built to hold a Fade. When Marina realizes she can communicate with this Fade and that he might have answers to her questions about her forgotten past, Marina sets out on a journey that will change everyone’s lives forever.
Let’s start with the world-building. I loved this world so much, but at times I was confused about how all these elements came together in space, if you know what I mean. After reading the book, and re-reading a few passages, here’s what I came up with:
Now, this is a very rough sketch. This drawing by no means includes everything in the world of Arclight. I’m just not that talented, LOL! But I believe this gives you a pretty good idea of what human existence was like. Humans are confined to a group of buildings that are surrounded by bright lights, and crossing over the lights is not allowed. It’s dangerous. The Fade will get you! The Grey is the area between the Arclight and the Dark, and this is where Marina was found. The Dark is a seemingly impenetrable wall of twisted tree branches and vines, beyond which dwell the Fade. The Fade sometimes cross over at night and try to breach the Arc, in order to try to take back Marina. (Or so the humans believe). McQuein’s gorgeous gothic-style writing describes Marina’s reaction when she first sees the Dark:
The amorphous swath of no-man’s-land called the Dark is literally the stuff of nightmares. When the Arclght’s citizens put heads to pillows at dawn and close their eyes, it’s the Dark that lies behind them. Phantoms and ghosts of fears that have compounded on top of each other for generations churn in a new primordial soup that gives birth to the end of the world. It creeps like the misty fog beyond our boundaries, and it’s into that void I’ve now traveled.
By far my favorite part of Arclight were the Fade, a truly amazing creation that, once again, is hard to describe. So I’ve found a visual of what the Fade look like to me:
The Fade are able to blend into their surroundings and hide in plain sight. They have long, sharp claws that allow them to climb walls and hover near ceilings. They seem to be shrouded in a black cloak, and their eyes glow silver. They communicate with images and single words rather than familiar speech patterns. But they are so much more than this, and I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you more than that.
The story was surprisingly emotional, because each character is driven by a desire to search for something they’ve lost. Marina is looking for her true home and family; Rue (the Fade that is captured) is looking for his lost love, a Fade named Cherish; and Tobin is convinced that his father is still alive somewhere out in the Dark, and he will do anything to find him. These three characters form a love triangle of sorts, which I can’t explain without giving away a very cool plot twist. Each character broke my heart when they finally found what they were looking for, especially Rue. His love for Cherish was told in simple but heartbreaking prose.
Arclight has many horror elements in addition to the science fiction ones, reminding me of both Alien and the TV series Torchwood at different times while I was reading. McQuein adds some stomach-turning scenes that had me gasping. The Fade spread by attacking the human body, and the only way to stop them from taking over is to burn them out. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination (or better yet, just read the book for yourself!)
The romantic element in the story is very subtle, and I applaud the author for keeping it that way. Arclight has so much depth that a heavy romantic storyline just wasn’t needed. The budding romance between Marina and Tobin is not much more than a few quick kisses, although you can tell that their emotional involvement runs deep. What interested me more was the love between Rue and Cherish. So few words are said, since the Fade have such a different way of communicating, but the agony of lost love shines through nonetheless.
It’s hard to stop writing about Arclight, but alas, this review is already too long! If you are looking for an original and emotional tale that goes beyond the borders of genre and cuts to the heart of the human condition, Arclight is a book that should not be missed.
**Stop back next week when I’ll be giving away a finished copy of Arclight during the Spring Fling Giveaway Hop!
Please note: the quote above was taken from an uncorrected proof and may be different in the finished book.