British Fiction Focus

Covering Long Dark Dusk by JP Smythe

“I AM A SPOILER-FREE ZONE,” JP Smythe said to me—repeatedly, even—when I talked him into answering a couple of questions about Long Dark Dusk on the back the book’s big reveal last week, and he has every reason to be reticent: Way Down Dark, the first third of the Australia trilogy, ends with a twist that changes the name of the game completely. To talk about it would be to rob readers of one of the year’s most memorable moments, so I’ll hold off as long as possible.

What I will say, here in the header, is that Long Dark Dusk is destined to be a dramatically different text than its predecessor. Its narrative, in fact, is apt to be still more sinister than Way Down Dark’s, as Smythe explained when I asked him what lessons he’d learned writing for younger readers.

Don’t make any distinctions between audiences when writing and you’ll be absolutely fine. Some really ignorant readers—and other writers!—suggest that writing a book that is super-readable by a younger audience means “dumbing down”—and that phrase is actually used. What a ludicrous suggestion. This is, if anything, my darkest book. Certainly it’s my scariest, and most violent.

And that’s saying something, coming as it does from the author of The Explorer and, especially, The Echo, which featured—and featured—and featured—a death scene so excruciating that I still shiver to think of it.

Now let’s take a good, long look at that cover. It’s by 12 Orchards, aka Aaron Munday, and it retains many of the elements that made Way Down Dark’s art so remarkable at the same time as introducing a couple of new components as neat as they are natural:


Smythe is into it, too:

I love it. I think the art is beautifully weird, I think the font is awesome, and I adore the colours.

As for who is riding the motorbike, and where the bike comes from—or, indeed, where it is riding to? I can’t say a word. […] Like I said: I AM A SPOILER-FREE ZONE.

Alas, I can’t be for a whole lot longer. As Hodder & Stoughton’s failed vampire slayer Fleur Clarke advised in the course of introducing the sequel’s synopsis, there are, unavoidably, some stonking spoilers ahoy, so “AVERT YOUR EYES (preferably towards a copy of Way Down Dark) if you’ve not read it already.”

You’ve been well and truly warned!

The moment she learned the horrible truth about her life on Australia, the derelict ship overrun with violent gangs, Chan Aitch made it her mission to save everyone she could from their fate worse than death. But her efforts were in vain. Now, everyone she cares about is dead or in prison, and Chan is more alone than ever before.

As the only person to have escaped Australia’s terrible crash-landing back to Earth, Chan is now living in poverty on the fringes of a huge city. She believes Mae, the little girl she once rescued on the Australia, is still alive—but she has no idea where Mae is, or how to find her. Everything on Earth is strange and new, and Chan has never felt more lost.

But she’ll do whatever it takes to find Mae, even if it means going to prison herself. She’s broken out of prison before. How hard could it be to do it again?

Long Dark Dusk is due out in the UK early next April, and I’m reliably informed that the final volume of the Australia trilogy will be released in 2016, too—in October.

After that? Well, suffice it to say Smythe has plenty on his plate, including “a standalone that is SERIOUSLY burning a hole in [his] pocket” and a return to the awesome Anomaly Quartet, the third iteration of which is “pretty much done,” with the fourth set to “follow it pretty swiftly.” Keep your fingers crossed, folks!

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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