Sunday, August 14, 2011

Underwater Mystery

Rip Tide (Dark Life, Book 2)
Imagining life under the surface of the ocean is an interesting activity. Personally, I would love to live in a sub-surface community. My soon-to-be husband Kevin? Won't even put his little pinky toe into water! Terrified of the ocean and everything that might be lurking right under the surface. Of course, I like to tease him about this, but in reality I imagine there are many people who would be terrified to live under the water. Rip Tide, Kat Fall's sequel to Dark Life, has all those scary elements like sharks, saltwater crocodiles, giant squid, and murderous outlaws, but there is something so nice about the communities themselves, you will find yourself dreaming of the ocean!

Although Ty and his parents took Gemma in, she can't bring herself to live underwater. Something about living sub-sea terrifies her. But life in the underwater settlements has improved since Gemma first came along. The government has recognized the settlements as territories and now allows them to sell their farmed and caught food on the open market (instead of using the food as taxes and letting the government keep the profit). Ty's parents are eager to prove to the rest of the community that the trade between the underwater settlers and the "serfs" will be safe and profitable for everyone. Settlers fear the serfs who live on floating cities called townships, and serfs hate the settlers for pushing a new law that prevents them from fishing anywhere on the continental shelf. It is hard enough for them to get enough food to survive, and with government rations cut in half, the new law means they are barely surviving. Ty's parents go on their first trade, but something goes wrong. Someone interrupts the trade and kidnaps his parents, while Ty and Gemma barely get away.

Now Gemma and Ty must find a way to get his parents back, but no one seems to be able to help them. With the incompetence of the Seaguard (police), they decide to do some investigating themselves, fearing the worst for Ty's parents. As they go deeper into the world of reconditioned oil rigs, extreme boxing matches, and the horrible people who run them, they realize just how bad life is for the serfs. When they come upon a terrifying gladiator-esque game where serfs choose to battle enormous saltwater crocodiles for a little extra food for their townships, Ty and Gemma realize something has to change for the serfs. With the weight of the world's problems on their shoulders, they refuse to stop searching for his parents. But will they make it in time?

I was wondering how this sequel was going to follow-up on the previous story, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a mature but accessible route that really let the story grow up but still work for younger students. I loved the politics of the division between the serfs and the settlers, and how the government was so easily corruptible with no regard to the people it is affecting. It will open up great discussions, but isn't to abstract or mature to miss that "middle reader" crowd. The writing and content is perfect for a wide range of students from middle readers to upper high school. It dances around the fringe of science-fiction or supernatural fiction, but it isn't too far from reality. Therefore I think these two stories would really be great for a huge array of readers. I am interested to see if Kat Falls stops here, or keeps the story going!

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