The time is finally upon us. The SPSFC has reached the finals, and we have a finalist review here for you today. This one is of K T Belt’s Monster in the Dark. This book has an SPSFC rating of 4.75 out of 10. Today’s review comes to you courtesy of my fellow judge Ryan.
Carmen is just a little girl when she’s taken away from her family on her sixth birthday. There are hints from the get-go that things aren’t quite right, a sense of fear not just for their child, but fear of their child. The parents are passive about the whole scenario, sad but not willing to do anything to try to stop it. It’s made explicit that there’s no place they could hide or escape to in order to keep their daughter, but they don’t really try, either.
Carmen is a clairvoyant, and as such, she has to be trained by handlers in a specialized facility. She’s stripped of her name and called 111724 for the first part of the book. It’s pretty clear (and even spelled out in an early villainous monologue) that the goal is to forge them into something stronger and more useful, no matter what it takes.
When she finally gets a name at the facility, it’s Edge. Luckily, despite all the attempts of her handlers she always views herself as Carmen in her internal monologue or with people outside the facility.
She’s sent into battle repeatedly against Constructs, and manipulated by her handler. We watch her age from six year old to a young adult, and deal with a violent bully at the facility named Artemis.
There are references to spaceships and of course the protagonist is a clairvoyant, telekinetic and telepathic, but the book has little else in the way of science fiction tropes. The settings we see don’t contain much in the way of neat tech gizmos or big ideas. The book is very focused around the facility and the people in there, without much description of what this future looks like to people outside the facility.
The book reads very quickly. The book is part of a series, but I kept expecting either Carmen to fully rebel against the facility or end up working for it in a serialized manner, going on adventures and being led by the handler, and really, neither ended up happening. What we get is a bit more low-key, and maybe a bit more true to life than those action-hero plot-lines.