Dark Life Summary

Kat Falls

Dark Life

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Dark Life Summary

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Dark Life (2010), a futuristic science fiction novel by American author Kat Falls, is the first in a three-part series that is followed by Rip Tide and Inhuman. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where water has overrun the cities, it centers on a teenage boy named Ty who is the first child born underwater. He has spent his entire life under the sea. When he meets a teenage girl, Gemma, who still lives on the land and is searching for her brother, they team up against an evil group of bandits, the Seablite Gang, and discover the truth lurking behind the mask of the villains. At the same time, Ty discovers his own unique gift, part of his legacy as a child of the sea. Exploring themes of culture clashes, environmentalism, and the courage it takes to venture away from the only thing one knows, critics praised Dark Life for its original concept and well-developed characters. It won multiple awards for young adult books in 2011, most prestigiously the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award. The film rights were sold to the Gotham Group and a film adaptation is currently in development.

As Dark Life begins, Ty is living in the Benthic Settlement, the sea base established by the first pioneers to move underwater once rising sea levels swallowed the world. Ty is the first child ever born under the sea, and like all children born below, he has what is known as a Dark Gift. These are special abilities caused by the water pressure on developing brains. Ty has biosonar ability, which allows him to see in the dark underwater and to communicate with dolphins and whales. However, when he was young, he was experimented on by topside doctors and pretended his ability had gone away so they would let him go. Now, he keeps it secret and tells the other children with Dark Gifts to do the same. However, his life changes when he sees a derelict submarine near the base and finds that it is piloted by Gemma, a teenage girl from the surface. She tells him she is looking for her brother. They are soon attacked by the Seablite gang, a group of scavenging outlaws. Ty brings Gemma home to the settlement, but the gang follows them. The Seablite gang is led by Shade, a ruthless albino warlord. While searching for Gemma’s brother, Ty observes Shade without the villain knowing and observes his skin change color. He realizes that Shade has a Dark Gift like him. He warns the other settlers of this, despite his fear of Shade.

On their way to Ty’s home, they are attacked again but manage to escape. They learn that the Seablite Gang did not escape from prison, but from a reformatory for “troubled youths” where they were abused and forced to work mining expensive black pearls for the government. Ty and Gemma also learn that her brother was supposedly murdered by the gang. Gemma is determined to destroy the Seablites. That night, the Seablites attack Ty’s home, and Shade attempts to capture Gemma. Ty’s younger sister, Zoe, manifests her Dark Gift and electrocutes him, allowing them to capture him. However, Shade changes his appearance before Ranger Grimes, the law in the settlement, can see him. Shade grabs Gemma and races off with her; Ty pursues them. When he gets to the saloon, he sees them talking. Shade reveals that he is actually Gemma’s brother.

However, before Ty can ask Shade and Gemma for details, a group of settlers burst into the saloon to try to capture Shade to execute him. Ty is able to stop them by revealing that Dark Gifts are real. He asks the settlers not to be afraid of them and warns that the authorities are experimenting on the kids. The leader of the settlement’s scientists, the sinister Doc Kunze, attempts to kill Shade, but Shade dodges and Kunze escapes before he can be captured. Shade prepares to leave with the gang, but before he goes, he signs Gemma’s emancipation papers, freeing her from government control. However, the shot fired by Kunze before he fled pierced the wall, and the settlement starts flooding. It looks as though the settlers are going to drown, but Ty saves them by calling a pod of dolphins to rescue them. As the dolphins try to take them to safety, Kunze ambushes Gemma and steals her dolphin. Gemma is injured and nearly dies, but on deck, Zoe uses her electricity abilities to restart her heart. Having seen Ty save them all, the settlers realize those with Dark Gifts can help them. They decide to try to free Benthic Territory from the cruel grasp of the Commonwealth government.

Kat Falls is an American novelist who specializes in young adult and science fiction novels. She is best known for the Dark Life trilogy, which was critically acclaimed and has been optioned for a motion picture series. She is married to theater director Robert Falls and teaches screenwriting at Northwestern University.