REVIEW SUMMARY: A thrilling science fiction tale of eco-terrorism, Darkness Falls could be ripped from the headlines.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Erin Neal is the world expert on using biotechnology to clean up a mess – especially oil. He’s also become a hermit after his ex-girlfriend and now lives entirely off the grid in a remote part of New Mexico. When the US government comes asking for help he isn’t interested, until it seems somebody has taken one of his ideas and twisted it to attack the world’s dependence on oil.
PROS: Thrilling plot; flawed characters
CONS: Not every action is believable; villain is merely pathetic and not evil
BOTTOM LINE: Fun pulp fiction that can help pass the time during the cold winter months.
There is a lot to like in Darkness Falls: a thrill-filled plot, science fiction, and unique characters. Unfortunately there are just enough flaws to keep the book from being great. Nobody would confuse Mills with Tom Clancy or Larry Bond.
Erin Neal is a genius at biology who sets his sights on ways to realistically change the world. He even publishes a bestselling book on how environmentalists should focus on getting what they want by making changes economically viable. This puts him at odds with the more zealous environmentalists and drives away his more purist girlfriend, Jenna. He goes into a funk, but finally drops off the grid and drops out of life when Jenna is killed in a accident at sea.
Suddenly he’s the man of the hour though, when former-FBI agent Mark Beamon informs him that a mysterious bacteria is found eating oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve and in Saudi Arabia. At first Erin isn’t interested in helping, but when it looks like somebody has stolen one of his ideas and turned it into a disaster, he is intrigued. When he realizes the only person who had access to his notes was Jenna, he becomes obsessed.
The characters are not stereotypical nor are they supermen. One aspect I found very appealing is that they make mistakes and have regrets about the actions they are sometimes forced to take. It helps the story seem real and makes it easier to empathize with them. The action is great as well, and the overall story and use of science fiction realistic and easy to believe.
There is a lot to like here, but there are some issues. There is a love scene between Erin and another character that is simply hollow and stretches credibility. The actions of Mark are at times out of character and hard to fathom. And the villain – the eco-terrorist who also happens to be a rival to Erin – isn’t as evil as he is pathetic, petty and sometimes bumbling. I suppose I prefer my bad guys to be truly bad in this kind of tale and this one let me down.
The biggest issue I had with the book I almost hesitate to mention. It isn’t fair to ascribe the thoughts of characters to the author. But it is hard not to see some of the statements as Mills beliefs when stated by the omniscient narrator as facts. Rather than outright criticize these ideas, let me only state that they interrupted the suspension of my disbelief.
Overall though, Mills does a fine job weaving this doomsday thriller in the grand sense. The politics of nations, the actions of the US government, and the behavior of FBI and other law enforcement all ring very true. The plot advances quickly and steadily making it a hard book to put down and fun to read.