Arclight is... #11

Thursday, April 11, 2013

** Arclight is About Fear **

The people inside the Arclight are afraid. They know the Fade are trying to break in, and that they'll eventually succeed. They know the Fade have decimated the human population, snatching victims away into a world of perpetual darkness. And they know that the biggest piece of Fade-bait on the planet has been brought inside their compound, in the form of a teenage girl named Marina.

Marina's afraid, too, and not just of the Fade. She wants her memories back, but she's also terrified of what she'll see when she gets them because they were so awful her brain decided she should forget them. One day, she's certain she's going to wake screaming from a nightmare where she's drowning in the blood of her family and friends when she reclaims the knowledge of how they died.

Tobin, the son of Marina's late rescuer, has similar ghosts to deal with. Locked inside Marina's head are his father's last moments, maybe even his last words, and he's afraid of what they might have been. Until he hears her confirm his father's death, he can believe the man's alive, and in absence of that possibility, he can at least believe he died bravely. He's afraid of being alone.

Anne-Marie, Marina's best friend, is claustrophobic, making it difficult for her to tolerate the safe rooms where the kids are sent during raids. She puts on a smile, and chatters ninety-miles a minute, but inside, she's suffocating.


This is my favorite passage from the novel:



The amorphous swath of no-man's land called the Dark is literally the stuff of nightmares. When the Arclight's citizens put heads to pillows at dawn and close their eyes, it's the Dark that lays behind them. Phantoms and ghosts of fears which have compounded on top of each other for generations churn in a new primordial soup that gives birth to the worst. It creeps like the misty fog beyond our boundaries, and it's into that void I've now traveled.

^^ This is a peek at more than setting; it's how the world itself operates.

There are a few "natural" fears that are so common, science will tell you they're hard-wired into our brains for the sake of survival. Fire is one of them, though for the sake of the novel, fire's a good thing. The other two are darkness and the unknown, though I think the former is simply part of the latter.

Darkness is the playground of "what if." It takes the familiar and turns it into something alien. 

If you're in your house at 2pm and something runs across your roof, you probably assume it's a squirrel and don't give it a second thought. Fast forward 12 hours and hear the same noise, and suddenly that squirrel *might* be rabid, nine-feet tall and hungry for human flesh. In fact, it's probably not a squirrel at all - it's a zombie, and the apocalypse is starting in your backyard.

Now, imagine a world where there's never a sunrise to be seen because there's a black curtain between you and the sky. 

That's the Dark. It's an abyss, slowly stretching outward toward the last inhabitable places on the planet. Every day, no matter what window or door you look out, that's what you see. You don't know what's in it, but you're certain that it wants to kill you, and the only way to keep it back is with artificial lights that make sure night never falls.

Since no one ever goes into the Dark, it becomes every fear simultaneously, and that's a hard thing to face. But, if the potential pay off is high enough, people can convince themselves to endure a lot more than they believe they're capable of handling. Finding that line, determining what you're willing to risk everything for, is a big part of the novel, and I wonder what that threshold would be for some of you.

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