Author: Josin L. McQuein
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
I still remember when I first discovered that this book existed. Or would exist, at any rate. And then I saw the cover, and I was in love. I knew that this book and I were destined for a long and happy life together.
Arclight is a creepy science fiction thriller that keeps the suspense building and building until the bottom drops out and you're left with your mouth hanging wide open and your constitution severely shaken. Creatures lurking in the shadows -- or blending into the walls altogether, as the case may be -- these are the things that elicit the most visceral of reactions in me and end up haunting my dreams until I move on to something warm and fluffy. (Just thinking about that click-clack again gives me the chills!) This book is equal parts eerie and scientific speculation, with most of the crazy scary stuff occurring in the first half of the book. If you were under the impression that this story held a tale of dystopian woe, you are looking in the wrong place. This is a community formed after the fall of the world as we know it, but that is a lesser focus of the book, much to my delight.
This narrative focuses on Marina, a girl who mysteriously survived the Fade (more on them in a bit) but has no recollection of who she was prior to arriving at the Arclight. That in itself is frightening, but add to it the fact that the Fade want her back, and the situation becomes pretty bleak. Marina takes everything in stride, all things considered, but she finds it hard to fit in and even harder to make friends. In truth, I found it hard to identify with Marina myself, most especially because she had nothing to identify herself with, not even her real name. Even though this story is narrated by Marina, it's hard to connect with her, though I eventually overcame that. Her lack of memory means there's a distinct lack of introspective reflection, meaning the only way to get to know her better is through her interactions with others.
There's a boy -- isn't there always? -- who remains just as much of a mystery to Marina as she does to the rest of the Arclight. Through a series of events (the aforementioned creepy), they are forced together, and despite an awkward start, something kind of awesome develops between them. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a triangle, but it never really plunges into that cringe-worthy territory, mostly because Marina is able to leave the past in the past, even if she is unsure of who she is in the present.
Those Fade...they're a part of the past, present, and future. There's no avoiding it. And once we learn what they are and where they came from -- and that they've evolved since their first incarnation -- they become a little less frightening. I think it was always a fear of the unknown, of that big, dark void beyond the Arclight, that truly plagued its residents. Sure, the fear of the Fade, not knowing their motivations or their intentions, was real, especially after losing loved ones to the darkness outside the Arclight, but I think it also stems from the perceived protection of the Arclight. Taking down those barricades and seeing how each side reacted was exhilarating, to say the least.
The only really negative thing I have to say about Arclight is with regards to how predictable a certain plot development was and the protagonist's refusal to acknowledge it, even though most readers will see the big twist coming from a mile away. And honestly, the predictability didn't bother me all that much because the story as a whole was so entertaining, so well-written. Arclight is a really great mix of horror and sci-fi, and I had a hard time putting it down. This was such a great book about loss and finding oneself, and I can't wait to see what the author does with similar themes in the more contemporary novel she has due out later this year. I don't want to call her a master of suspense quite yet, but I have a feeling I won't be disappointed with her future endeavors either.