Score: 87/100 (8.7 out of 10)
This book is imaginative and disturbing.
Gryscaen Dark (stylized without capitalization) can best be described as a dystopian thriller that follows top-tier hackers living in an irradiated world that has lost almost all sense of morality and possibly all hope. In this world, clean air and water are luxuries, pedophilia and human trafficking seem normalized, pornography is everywhere and seemingly on everyone's mind, and yet loving, physical human contact presents a risk of irradiation and thus death. Even the animals show signs of being irradiated, covered in blisters and tumors. This world is so miserable that characters often comment on the radiation level instead of the weather. It's not a pleasant world in any sense of the word, and that's the point. It is sobering to think that this is what humanity could become like someday.
This book seems very inspired. We caught hints of Cowboy Bebop, Akira, Blade Runner, Tron, and other works. You feel like you're in a dystopian, futuristic society that is at the breaking point, although it never captures that serious, oppressive feel of a Hunger Games or a 1984.
The world-building is top-notch, comparable to the “Gilraen and the Prophecy” series by Dr. Joanne Reid. However, like “Dagger and Scythe” by Emilie Knight, we're not sure if we're really supposed to be cheering for these main characters or are just being pulled along for the ride, saddled with characters we can't really get behind. We've just gotta be honest about things like that, it's not meant to be hurtful or rude. Similar to how we felt about “Dagger and Scythe,” there really wasn't a time when we felt particularly good about being part of this story and following its characters. This book and its characters can simply be unpleasant much of the time, and as you've seen in our previous reviews, we don't blow smoke regarding how we feel about a book.
That's not to say that the characters aren't completely without redeemable aspects. For example, Jester and Rom are brilliant people. Jester stands out as an insane genius and Rom as a prodigy. As top-level hackers, they are adept problem solvers similar to Grissom from CSI, Walter White from Breaking Bad, or Michael Schofield from Prison Break, however without nearly the depth or charisma. The cybercrime that is committed in deliberately crashing the economy and intentionally starting riots can come across as malicious to some readers. Consider the number of suicides and homicides they indirectly cause this way. And we're left wondering if the Emperor is really that evil by comparison when we have heroes who do such things and citizens who act despicably.
The writing and art leave something to be desired. They don't seem as refined as they could be. This may be a case where hiring out an editor or an artist may have been warranted, although we know how expensive that can be. As an example, let's just go over the cover really quick. It is clearly stated in the novel that the breathing masks go over the mouth and nose. This is done to avoid the civilians from inhaling irradiated air particles in areas of high concentration. However, the cover clearly shows the character wearing a mask only over their mouth, and the breathing mask appears only large enough to cover their mouth.
The author as a writer shows a lot of room for improvement. And their art may also improve with practice over time. To the author's credit, this world is very complex and intricate. The world-building is very strong and the characters can be interesting from time to time.
Check out “Grydscaen Dark” on Amazon!