Living Under A Rock And Loving It

Rck 8A few weeks ago, I came across Molly’s So You Read the Hunger Games flow chart, which suggests in a lighthearted way that, after reading The Hunger Games, those who haven’t read the next layer of similar books are “living under a rock.” Considering that I haven’t even read The Hunger Games, I must be living well below the earth’s crust, not just under a rock. As someone who typically has a low tolerance for alternate universes (just not my cup of tea), I have no inclination to read books like The Hunger Games, but one of the novels on Molly’s chart did catch my eye:

For Darkness Shows the Stars_Wrapped Up in Books Image

So, being a Jane Austen fan, I purchased the ebook version of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars and added it to my reading list. This is the third book I’ve read thanks to Molly’s reviews, and, so far, she hasn’t steered me wrong.*

For Darkness Shows the Stars is a post-apocalyptic re-telling of Austen’s Persuasion. Austen’s Anne Elliot, the daughter of a spendthrift Baronet, becomes Peterfreund’s Elliot North, the daughter of a wasteful “Luddite.” The Luddites sit at the top of the social hierarchy, where they own the estates on which the “Posts” and the “Reduced” live and work as servants. (You’ll have to read the novel to learn how the Luddites—those opposed to technological innovation—ended up on top.)

In this dystopian world, Elliot falls in love with Kai, a “Post” servant. He returns Elliot’s affection, but ends up leaving the estate with a broken heart. Years later, Kai returns with a new name, Captain Malakai Wentforth, an obvious reference to Austen’s Captain Frederick Wentworth, and a new purpose: challenging the social order.

Peterfreund’s novel invokes our own sordid history in the United States, including tensions during Reconstruction, and also contains parallels to modern issues. For example, in this Luddite–dominated world, Luddites can marry and become husbands/wives, while the rest are united as “common laws,” which is a less formal arrangement, perhaps akin to common law marriage in the few states in the U.S. that still offer it.

The contours of these unions are unclear, and free-Posts (like Felicia and Nicodemus) “do not subscribe to the restrictions the Luddites place on their servants,” but the different labels for marital statuses reminds me of the current battle over terminology in the arena of LGBTQ rights — i.e., “marriage” versus “civil union.” The legal substance of a civil marriage and a civil union is usually the same, but the message conveyed is considerably different.

The analogy to same-sex marriage applies even to the reasons Luddites give for maintaining the traditional concept of marriage. For example, Tatiana, Elliot’s sister, opposes intermarriage between Luddites and Posts. When Elliot asks Tatiana why she cares when it’s “a relationship between two people so unconnected to you,” Tatiana replies, “It’s the principle of the thing!,” sounding very much like opponents of same-sex marriage who can’t articulate why the legal status of other people’s relationships bothers them so much.

In the context of this oppressive world, it’s easy to root for the Posts and for Elliot and Kai, hoping they will rekindle their romance. The relationship between Elliot and Kai is the best part of the novel, and follows Persuasion closely. This novel borrows heavily from Austen, but its setting and additional themes render it an interesting homage to Austen’s classic novel, as opposed to yet another rip-off.

*The other books I read because of Molly’s recommendations are Marcelo in the Real World and Attachments; See Molly’s review of For Darkness Shows the Stars here.

28 thoughts on “Living Under A Rock And Loving It

  1. Miss Alexandrina

    Oh, I’d be living under a rock, too. I think I’m the only one of my friends not to have read The Hunger Games, but, like you, I don’t think it’s something I’d enjoy.

    1. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who hasn’t read THE HUNGER GAMES! Sometimes it seems like I am. My colleagues have all read it, and they’re a generation older than I am. I haven’t seen the movies either.

      1. Miss Alexandrina

        I know exactly how you feel, especially since my age is meant to be the target population. I tried reading Twilight, but that put me off quite a lot of the recent book-to-screen-to-sensation YA books.

  2. Jaclyn

    Hmmmm, I will have to give this one a try! I’m not a huge fan of YA dystopias (although I did read the Hunger Games series) but I loved PERSUASION. I will see if my library has Something Darkness Something Something. 🙂

    1. It is a good book, and I hope you enjoy it. I had little patience for the world building stuff, but it was fun to read the parts that come directly from PERSUASION. I’m trying not to let my disgust at the author’s response to criticism of her cover cloud my feelings about her book (she fails to recognize that her novel’s cover is part of the problem of “whitewashing” in YA literature; there’s a link to her defense in my post on the cover).

      I love PERSUASION, too. It makes me feel a little old, though (with Anne losing the “bloom” of youth by 27!).

  3. Pingback: What Do We Want? Better Titles and Covers! When Do We Want It? NOW! | The Misfortune Of Knowing

  4. I would not really like this book I think, but it does have some interesting points to ponder. I did like the dialog on the relationship unconnected, and the response. We will always have a version of this I think.

    1. I think you’re right–there will always be people who oppose progress “just because”! I didn’t think I was going to like this book either, but I do trust Molly’s reviews, and I’m glad I took a chance. That it’s an homage to Austen is why this book worked for me.

  5. Lynette

    I love Austen, but Im not sure I could read a sci-fi’d version of it. I might have to see if I can download a sample first. 🙂

    1. The parts I liked were the Austen parts, not the sci-fi/fantasy parts. It took me a little while to start enjoying this novel, so I’m not sure how helpful the sample will be. I do think it was a good read in the end, though, particularly if you like Persuasion.

        1. I’d love to see the BBC version again! It’s been too long. If you like Persuasion, then this book is worth a shot. After you get past the world building stuff (which I have little patience for), it’s a worthwhile read.

  6. I read the Hunger Games before it became a movie (soon to be followed by the sequels). I enjoyed the books, though I admit to being surprised by the premise of kids killing other kids in a game. I don’t know that I would have attempted to write such a thing, and though there is some repetition in the story from book to book, Collins manages to create a compelling world set with “haves” and “have-nots.”

    Attachments was a hoot! Loved that book.

    I’ll have to give Darkness a look.

    1. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed Attachments! I really liked it. Lincoln reminded me a lot of my geeky husband. I liked Darkness (I like how you’ve abbreviated it–I can hardly remember the title!), but it took me a little while to get into it.

      1. That title is going to make it hard for people to remember. Never a good thing. I mean, it’s a beautiful title, but if I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember it.

        1. Exactly! The vague title bothered me enough to write a post about it (going up shortly). It is a good book, and it deserves a more memorable title.

  7. Ha! You know the first question was meant to be a little tongue in cheek. Since the main audience for the chart was rabid Hunger Games fans or librarians looking to put read-alikes in teens hands, I started it that way because those are the most well known and the books whose plots/style most closely capture what drew so many readers to Hunger Games. I remember asking a colleague if she thought it was inappropriate, and she said it was fine. Interestingly, the original version I made, it said “do you want a guy or girl narrator?” and directed to one of each and then one that had alternating guy/girl first person narration, but I caught some flack for being gender essentialist (which anyone who actually knows me realizes I try to work against the idea of “guy” books or “girl” books, but lots of readers ARE looking for one or the other…) So that’s the story of “living under a rock.”

    I’m so glad my recommendations haven’t steered you wrong! It’s great to hear you can tell from reviews if you will like a book based on what I say. If there was one I could specifically recommend to you based on what you’ve liked, it would be Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, which won the Printz (best YA) Stonewall (best queer) and Pura Bélpre (best Latino) awards this year.

    1. I thought it was funny and completely appropriate! Sometimes I think I must be living under a rock, especially when my colleagues (who are three decades older than I am) have all read Hunger Games and Twilight and I haven’t (I haven’t even seen the movies). Anyway, I remember your post on the guy/girl narrator issue–that’s how I found your chart.

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out.

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