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Not Dark Yet

Fiction | Novel
216 pages
5½” x 7½” Perfect-Bound Trade Paperback
Also available in ebook format
ISBN 978-1-937512-35-4
First Edition
Review Copy: Paperback ARC
Two Dollar Radio
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Available HERE
Review by Eric Shonkwiler

Not Dark Yet is hazy. Its protagonist, Brandon Minamoto, is a nebulous, enigmatic, young man living in a remote mountain cabin in a not-exactly-disclosed location. He is there for solitude, at less of a crossroads in his life than having reached the point where the pavement ends. It is an unspecified number of years in the future—though one wouldn’t necessarily firmly state it’s “our” future at all; it could as easily be an alternate present—and global warming has wreaked a havoc just a few shades shy of apocalyptic. This haziness is double-edged, wielded well in some ways but sometimes causing the book to lag a little. Shifting early from Brandon’s present to key points in his past, it’s difficult to place just where the novel is headed, where Brandon is headed, and what exactly is important. However, this does not appear to be unintentional. Instead, the shifting, and eventually the triggered flashbacks, lend to the reader experiencing the same sort of malaise and subtle disorientation that we can assume Brandon is experiencing. The trouble is just one of calibration—which is off a pinch.

With this premise, it is a mite difficult to describe the plot of the novel. It is about Brandon, a former soldier turned photographer, who has an affair with a professor for whom he is working. This tryst ends with Brandon killing a research animal in defense of his lover, an event which sends him away from the job, and, eventually, his former life. As much as these things, though, it is about Brandon’s mental state—fragile, but resilient. It is about the climate. It’s about owls, monks, and winter wheat. It’s about what we risk by standing aside, inactive, and what we risk by taking action. Not Dark Yet is not exactly a novel of ideas; it’s a novel of impermanence.

While the book is slow to start, once it gains speed it also begins to gain cohesion, and the reader learns what he ought to be paying attention to. And though Ellingsen disregards convention at most turns—and the movement toward a climax sometimes feels odd in the face of that—it nevertheless settles into a fitting, unique end. It’s easy to read this book briskly, lightly, due to its size and the proliferation of dystopias as entertainment fodder—and one can find reviews reflecting such readings online—but it is, in truth, a deeply philosophical book that will take on dimension and weight the longer you consider it.

Eric Shonkwiler is the author of the novel, Above All Men, chosen as a Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, and the Luminaire Award for Best Prose-winning short story and novella collection, Moon Up, Past Full. His second novel, 8th Street Power & Light, is forthcoming from MG Press in fall 2016.

• This book was sent to the reviewer from the publisher at the request of the reviewer, who expressed interest in reviewing the book after having brief online interactions with the author over social media. • Permalink • Tag: The Volt •

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