Tuesday 7 July 2015


Book review: Way Down Dark (The Australia Trilogy #1) by James Smythe

My edition: Paperback, published on 2 July 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton, 288 pages.

Description: There's one truth on Australia: You fight or you die. Usually both.

Seventeen-year-old Chan's ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one.

The only life that Chan's ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness - a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.


Chan is a teenage girl living on a spaceship by the name of Australia, which is where generations of people have been contained since the collapse of the earth. There is not a single person in charge of the ship, but there are leaders within the various groups that stay within their claimed sections, from the religious Pale Women at the top to the Lows who literally scramble at the bottom, amid the filth and the sickening gasses that emit from the decomposing bodies. 

Power is everything aboard of Australia and when Chan's mother dies, who was a powerful person, her daughter steps into her role. However, on the same day the Lows get a new leader and a fight for the remaining sections of Australia starts. Rex, as the Lows' leader is always called no matter who it is, is cruel and relentless, and soon everyone in Chan's section is fighting for their berths, families and lives. Chan promised her dying mother to be selfish and take care only of herself, but as her neighbours are systematically attacked one by one, this is easier said than done...

In the first instance this novel reminded me of a lot of other sci-fi series, such as The 100 and Across The Universe within the young adult genre. It wasn't better or worse but because I've read quite a few similarly structured books I found it to be somewhat unimaginative and predictable. The storytelling was highly compelling though and Chan was a fascinating and complicated protagonist, so it wasn't a book I begrudgingly continued on with, but for someone who has read a lot of YA sci-fi reads I found Way Down Dark less of a stand-out than I had expected and hoped it to be from the buzz that was already gathering online in the lead up to publication.

However, this completely changed about mid-way through as this is very much a book of two halves; the first one introductory to Australia and its inhabitants, slowly building towards the inevitable ending of the unstable society that has formed within these confined walls, the other a psychological mind-fuck where Chan discovers something extra-ordinary that proves that she and everyone else within the ship has been lied to their entirely lives. It was a fantastic twist, and it was different from the one I was expecting (that they were actually imprisoned somewhere in the Outback in Australia, hence the name, and watched as some sort of sick experiment).

The sudden change in story threw up a whole lot of new questions and possible plot directions, setting up the novel perfectly for the second instalment of what is going to be a trilogy. Had you asked me within the first 100 pages whether I would be reading any consequent instalments, the answer would likely have been a negative one; while the writing was gritty and fast-paced, the story was too generic for my liking. However, the unexpected conclusion had me completely gripped and I am desperate to learn how it will continue. Anything is now possible and that makes for a very exciting starting point for the next novel.

You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with him online at:

Website: james-smythe.com

Twitter: @jpsmythe

Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel through Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

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