A giant blue skull in the stars of outer space

About the Book

Title: Pitch Dark
Published: 2018
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Spooky Space
BFF Charm: Eventually and Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Familiar Future
Bonus Factors: Pop Culture, Diversity
Factor: Creatures
Relationship Status: Ready for a Second Date

Trigger Warning: There’s a plot element in Pitch Dark in which a character is physically controlled by other characters through a piece of technology. It’s physical gaslighting, and the general idea of such violation might be triggering for some readers.

Cover Story: Spooky Space

It’s funny—I’m not really a horror fan, but I love skulls and I love space. So even though this cover screams (heh) horror, I totally dig it.

The Deal:

In the future, giant ships housing elements of Earth’s natural resources are sent off into space … and lost, thanks in part to a group who call themselves Pitch Dark. Members of the group believe strongly, to the point of terrorism, that humans shouldn’t get any other opportunities to ruin the galaxy more than they already have.

400 years later, Tuck, a crewmember of one such ship, wakes from stasis to find himself in a nightmare; the USS John Muir is falling apart, and overrun by unnatural creatures that can kill with sound.

Laura Cruz, a young archeologist dedicated to keeping humanity alive, doesn’t know that when she and her family discover the Muir floating in deep space. She also doesn’t know that Pitch Dark has survived the centuries, and they’re even more hell-bent on the extinction of the species.

BFF Charm: Eventually and Heck Yes

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

After waking up into a horrible situation, Tuck closed himself off. He doesn’t want to get too close to anyone, only to chance losing them to the horrors aboard the Muir. He likes being alone, avoiding human contact, and living one day at a time. He’d be a tough egg to crack, but I’m pretty sure it would be worth the effort in the end.

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Laura is almost too amazing for her own good. She’s brilliant and dedicated, loyal to her family and friends, willing to take risks for the greater good, and pretty to boot. Some might see her as a total Mary Sue, but I found her to be a realistic character who just happened to be extraordinary; she’s not without her faults, and they make her human. Her curiosity is palpable, and I’d want her on my team, both in life-threatening situations and for pub trivia.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Tuck and Laura have chemistry from the very start, even if they don’t realize it. It’s a little instaslove-y, but more sweet than saccharine.

Talky Talk: Familiar Future

Although Pitch Dark is set in the far future, the characters and their reactions to the situations they’re placed are familiar—which is both a pro and a con. On the pro side, it was easy to follow the story and relate to the characters; on the con side, I often forgot that the story was set on a spaceship nearly 500 years from now, and the science fiction aspect of the novel was pushed to the background.

Although, now that I think about it, Alameda might have done this on purpose. HIstory does repeat itself, and humanity’s notorious for repeating its mistakes. It’s both nice to think that we don’t lose the good things about ourselves in the future—our curiosity, our tenaciousness, our ability to see the good in people, regardless—and terrible to think that we’ll still be acting like messy idiots centuries from now.

The book also features the mix of strong, likeable (or not, as the case might be) characters and horrific thriller plot that I loved from Alameda’s Shutter. I don’t think they’re in the same universe, but they certainly could be.

Bonus Factor: Pop Culture

Tuck is a fan of “old” movies and pop culture, and refers to them often throughout the book, even when most of the people around him have no idea what he’s talking about. (One example: He calls Laura “Dr. Jones” more than once, referencing the Indiana Jones movies.) For me, this personality quirk helped me connect with him and look past his “mo’ attachments, mo’ problems” mentality.

Additionally, Laura Cruz was the original name of the main character in the Tomb Raider video games.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

In Pitch Dark’s future, the American continents have merged into a supergroup called Panamerica. There aren’t as many differences between people’s skin color (with a few exceptions that Alameda calls out nicely), but culture and traditions still remain important. Laura’s family is predominantly Latinx, and Alameda uses a lot of hispanic slang and mentions cultural items (like food) that helps ground the far-future plot in the now.

Factor: Creatures

Bonus Factor Werewolves Monsters Creatures

If you read Shutter, you know how good she is at creating super disturbing creatures out of familiar ones. The creatures in Pitch Dark are equally disturbing. I dig ‘em, and they add the right amount of visceral horror to the story, but I know some people definitely won’t enjoy their inclusion.

Relationship Status: Ready for a Second Date

I’m not usually one for scary adventures, Book, but you won me over with your other, less gruesome elements. I’d love to get together again, but let’s meet up in the middle of a sunny day, OK?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Feiwel & Friends, and got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Pitch Dark is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband and their dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.