I Should Have Known Better

The End Begins: Sudden Darkness - Margot Hovley

I was told that if I liked the TV show Revolution, I might like Sudden Darkness because they have a similar premise. The people who told me that are lucky they live on a different continent. Otherwise they'd be subjected to a lengthy but non-lethal beating with a pool noodle. The two are similar in that the power goes out, people have to do a lot of walking, and vital world-building details are withheld from the audience, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. I was expecting this:



Instead I got a modern-day version of this, minus the practical wagons and handcarts and the heart-wrenching emotional and physical hardships:



The disappointment. It burns.


Sudden Darkness follows the "adventures" of Amélie Hatch, our first-person narrator who is so busy calling herself Cripple Girl and generally being bitter and self-centered and crap that she hasn't got time to describe anything interesting to the reader. Generic unnamed terrorists bomb the US capital, killing the president and half of Congress. They also detonate an EMP device in the upper atmosphere, knocking out the power grid and electronic stuff in an unspecified radius. The government is in disarray and society in general devolves more or less overnight, none of which the reader gets to experience because we're stuck in Amélie's head and Amélie doesn't experience much of anything. Church leaders put out the call to gather at Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since no cars with electronic components are working (because screw science!) and almost everyone gets their fuel stolen to prove to the reader that society is already devolving, they have to walk to Utah while all the remaining fuel is used for their supply trucks.


What follows is a rather uninspiring, detail-lacking account of Amélie's trek. Huge swaths of time and what might have been interesting hardships are glossed over. This book could have been twice as long, and I think it might've actually been better for it, provided Amélie could pull her head out of her ass long enough to see what was going on and tell us about it. Despite some super cliched run-ins with devolved society examples and a painfully contrived incident involving the generic terrorists, I didn't get any sense that walking from Zillah, Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah was that difficult at all. In retrospect, the low page count and the route map that looked like a Google Maps screencap should have tipped me off that not a whole lot of effort had gone into crafting this tale.


The religious aspects of the story are very cookie cutter, with the requisite miracles and literal deus ex machina. The end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it aspects of the story are so tragically underdeveloped that there's almost no point to them. Amélie experiences hardly any character growth, and I found her so unlikable that I wanted bad things to happen to her so she would be forced to grow up and stop with the stupid pride and self-pity. She didn't get sufficient redemption in my eyes, and I would much rather the whole story had been told by another character. Zack would have been a good choice. The story of a Catholic boy in an end-of-days situation, traveling with a huge group of Mormons and observing their faith and customs from an outsider's perspective, would've been accessible to a much larger audience. And he has to be more interesting and likable than the self-styled Cripple Girl. Missed opportunity there. Oh well.


I have a strong and abiding dislike for the kind of LDS fiction that Sudden Darkness represents.This is very much a book written by a Mormon for other Mormons. If you aren't a member of the LDS church and/or don't have a good understanding of its doctrine, structure, and culture, most of this book will make no sense to you. Aside from that, it's just a mediocre work of fiction. I should have read the back cover more carefully instead of giving it the TL;DR skim treatment. If I had, I would have known to ignore friend and family recommendations and steer clear.




I've ranted on much longer than I intended to. Oopsie. Needless to say, I won't be reading the rest of the series.