The Darkness Within: Final Cut
Author: Sam Stone
Publisher: Telos Publishing Ltd
Size: 136 pp
Release Date: 27th Jan 14
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
First published as an audio book, this 2014 is an extended edition, which, according to author Sam Stone contains more gruesome and graphic elements. In the introduction to this edition, Stone relays how the concept of ‘Zombies on a spaceship’ grew into this short novel an expanded version of the novella The Darkness within.
Madison Whitehawk is Chief Engineer on board the ship freedom bound for New Earth and has Native American heritage. Looking out at the planets thinking about the fact that Earth would die soon and humanity had played a big part in making it happen, Madison is reflective. The colonists on board had all been chosen for their DNA, intelligence and ability to breed. First Officer Simon Chrichton calls Madison to his office to talk about the problems with equipment, but can’t help the simmering tension he feels when he sees her at the memory of a kiss they’ve once shared. But will it lead anywhere? For all of the colonists and crew on board, the expectation is that they will form a pairing and mate to ensure the future of the colony. For Syra Connor, her pairing with Ben Walsh is not ideal, but compared to living in her London ghetto it’s a preferable choice. Priddy the engineer has a problem with the colonists; their higher status, nicer quarters, and for some, their arrogance. After the initial set up where quite a bit of the background and some key players are introduced, the action switches to a year later. Joe Banks is outside the ship taking rock samples to see if anything might be harmful to the colonists. The glittering piece of ore leads to unexpected danger for the ship, its crew and passengers.
Part SF, part horror, although this territory has been done before, Stone’s exploration of the male and female relationships and transference of power is interesting here. Syra is initially trapped in her pairing with a man she doesn’t like to be around and who treats her like his property, but she accepts it to begin with because it is better than the life she had. As for the zombies, they aren’t zombies in the traditional sense but are more zombie-like than anything. There is definitely a virus loose on board the ship that starts with Banks, and when things start to kick off, Stone relishes in her descriptions bringing the gross and sickening action to a head. There is a certain feeling of claustrophobia about the text. Though generally confident and a strong character, Madison wears her overalls almost like a suit of armour, or camouflage to protect her and rebuild her confidence when things start getting hairy. It’s also refreshing that the characters are not all white, middle class.
There are list of ‘eew’ moments here! I do believe this is the darkest thing Sam Stone has written. A good solid, visceral dose of SF horror.