Wednesday Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars
- Published on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 12:00
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For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
For Darkness Shows the Stars is a beautiful blending of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and a futuristic world where genetic engineering and technology are forbidden and society looks back to a time when things were simpler.
Elliot North (aka Anne Elliot) is determined to save her family’s estate and the people living on it, despite her father’s extravagance and neglect. She works in the fields and the house everyday beside the Posts and the Reduced. The Reduced are a result of genetic engineering generations in the past: humans built themselves better and stronger and wiser, until one day it was all stripped away and now the Reduced are barely more than animals with low IQ and almost no speech. The Posts are children born to Reduced no longer cursed with these hindrances, yet still with no place in the upper levels of society. Elliot loved her childhood friend Kai, a Post, but he left her to seek better fortunes away from his slave-life on the North estate. Then one day he unexpectedly returns to her life, a decorated ship’s captain and famous explorer. Years of regret, anger, and repressed emotions boil into tension as the two are forced into socializing. But a childhood love isn’t the only thing on the line: the lives of everyone on the North estate, perhaps even everyone left in the world, could hang in the balance.
The way Diana weaved the premise and characters of Persuasion into this story was at times near seamless. As fans of Austen’s work, I recognized immediately that Elliot is named for the last name of Austen’s heroine, that Kai’s adopted name (Wentforth) is a play on the brooding ship’s captain in Persuasion, Wentworth, and so many other little details. But Diana wove her story well enough that you don’t have to have read Persuasion to understand what’s going on, or feel the emotional ups and downs of the characters. She took a classic tale of love lost then found again and spun it into a new world, one where the stakes are far higher than a spinster girl finally getting married.
Elliot was at times a frustrating heroine, but then she is a girl with a broken heart. She chose her family’s estate and the people living there under her protection over the boy she loved, and when he returns to her life his anger at her choice is apparent. They are united by years of friendship and love, but divided by one choice and the four years that followed. They were fourteen when they parted, and now at eighteen each have grown into their own, no longer dreaming children, but adults. The emotional heart of For Darkness Shows the Stars is about how these two can find their way back to friendship and love even when they have grown so far apart as to seem they are on opposite ends of the world.
The heart of the action of For Darkness Shows the Stars is very similar to Persuasion. Yet this world and Austen’s world are separated by a apocalyptic disaster: Elliot and Kai live in a world that was brought to its knees by science and had to turn to the past to survive. But now the Reduction is generations past and hope blooms in the hearts of the Posts, who are immune to the genetic disease that crippled their ancestors. Elliot now finds herself caught with a difficult choice: does she stay true to her past and her ancestor’s beliefs, or does she move forward into a frightening, but hopeful future.
A beautifully written story, and a true testament to Jane Austen, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a wonderful read.