Complete Darkness by Matt Adcock

Burton Press, HB, £12.68

Reviewed by Heidi Ranger

Set in the dark, cyber-dependant future, something demonic lurks in the government, manipulating humanity further away from repenting and therefore being saved. Their plans hinge on creating the perfect woman, INT. But INT meets Cleric20, a washed-out middle-aged man who regularly indulges in multiple sins, and who might just be Mankind’s last hope for redemption.

There are two strands to the story. The first is Cleric20, who is a flawed character trying to make his way in a broken world. The other is an all-seeing narration that moves from nameless beings watching and betting on the outcome of certain events, to a white mouse, to you. This second strand is in italics, making it easy to distinguish between the two and yet the inconsistent scenes presents its own challenges.

The first section of the book is filled with lots of footnotes, sometimes so long they went on the other page, which left me wondering why they weren’t included as part of the main text. If something is that important, it needs that amount of space to explain, I feel it should be. It also meant that my flow of reading was slow and broken because when the footnotes were very long, I had to reread the main narrative to get back on track. A caveat to this observation is I was reading an advanced review PDF, and this issue may not have the same impact in the published ebook or paperback.

Another element which I struggled with was the portrayal of women. This is a very male-heavy book, and a lot of the women are reduced to sexual objects, some are nameless and expendable. More than the lengthy footnotes, that aspect of the story disrupted my reading and made for uncomfortable reading at times. There are some exceptions, JJ, Cleric20’s lost love, for example. She suggests that the negative portrayal of women is due to the satanic influences within the society and that in future works based in this world, this might change. Also, it is within keeping with the noir genre, so if this is your first foray into this style, just be warned.

The cyber noir genre is a fantastic mix of a detective story with futuristic elements, think BladeRunner. However, Complete Darkness is much faster-paced and with much more sex and violence. I didn’t feel it was gratuitous, as it was within keeping of the overall message and genre. However, by having such a fast pace, a trade-off was made with the characters. I was told how the characters felt, I didn’t see it, so I didn’t grow attached to any of them.

Strip away the sex and violence, and there are religious elements covering the nature of Man and their relationship with God. I’m not an expert, so I can’t comment on how it stands up theologically, but it is an interesting element of the story. This religious element, combined with the genre, makes for an unusual read, whether it works or not is a matter of personal choice. Definitely a step away from the norm, Complete Darkness will stand out in my memory for a long time to come.