the dark side book coverReviewed by Marcus Hammond

Fletcher Brass has created a reserve for the dregs of Earth’s society. Located on the moon the aptly named Sin is home to criminals, murders, and deviants of all kinds. Not everyone in Sin is there for himself or herself, however. Damien Justus, an exiled cop, becomes embedded in a twisted assassination plot and finds that the high ideals he holds fast to make him an outcast.

The Dark Side is a noir crime story that calls upon classic hard boiled detectives like Mike Hammer and Sam Spade set in a gritty and dark science fiction setting. Damien’s stoic adherence to a system of rules that failed him and have been entirely forgotten in Sin make him a very intriguing character.

The plot runs in two directions. The first follows Damien as he adjusts to life on the moon and becomes entrenched in investigating a series of brutal assassinations that link directly to Fletcher Brass and his daughter. The second plot follows a malfunctioning android that is programmed with Brass’ own code of living. This code of living is in direct contrast to Damien’s own code and provides significant depth to the two plot threads and the various interactions used in their development. The two plot threads don’t meet up for quite a while, instead run parallel leaving the reader wondering how the Damien and the android will eventually meet at the climax of the story.

Every moment of action throughout the story is gritty and dark. From Sin’s elite being blown up and murdered, to the android’s bludgeoned, stabbed and dismembered path of victims, Anthony O’ Neill creates a strong sense of terror to emphasize Damien’s cynicism. Alongside the grittiness, O’ Neill grabs onto stereotypes—Damien’s cold demeanor, Brass’ ego, the carelessness and selfishness of the host of exiles that make up the minor characters, and general misogyny—to complete the noir tone of the story.

One aspect that I struggled with was the tense used to write the story. It’s all in present tense, which emphasizes the action instead of the development. This pretty much feels like a fast-paced movie more than a novel. On a side note, Fox has picked up the rights to the book for film development. The present tense focuses the reader on the events instead of the people, which is too bad because O’ Neill’s plot creates a lot of potential for strong character development. The reader may come out at the end wanting for more when it comes to Damien.

Overall, the book was fun. It created strong connections to noir fiction of the past like the Maltese Falcon, while employing a science fiction spin, which is very original. The violence, stereotyping, and writing style, however, may detract some readers from finishing the tale.

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After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.