Down There in Darkness - George Turner
Tor, May 1999, hc, 352pp, $US23.95.
Reviewed by Jonathan Strahan

Although never officially designated as such, George Turner's posthumously published final novel Down There in Darkness makes it clear that the group of novels comprising Brain Child, The Destiny Makers and Genetic Soldier were part of a developing sequence chronicling the future destruction and eventual rebirth of human civilisation.

Down There in Darkness opens six months after the death of Premier Beltane (as related in The Destiny Makers). Detective Harry Ostrov is called into his supervisor's office and asked to examine the police files on a scientific experiment that had gone awry some thirty-five years earlier. The experiment, looking for a scientific basis to the theory of morphic resonance, subjected a child molester and a famous artist to intense sensory deprivation. The experiment apparently cured the child molester, but left the artist in a coma. Through the course of the novel, the reasons for reopening the case become apparent. The scientist who conducted the original research, now funded by a religious cult established by the child molester's father and step-brother, is attempting to awaken the still slumbering artist. His ultimate awakening uncovers a plot to cull the world's excess population, and leads to Harry, and his friend Gus Kostakis from The Destiny Makers, being cryogenically frozen, and awoken a century later.

Darkness is an interesting novel and an important part of the Turner canon because it is the link between the harsh and unsympathetic world view characterised in his early science fiction novels, and Genetic Soldier, the first book to adopt a gentler, more optimistic view of humanity's future. In Genetic Soldier Turner introduced an element of mysticism for the first time, a collective "world soul" that transcends the evils found in individuals. That mysticism has its source in the second part of Darkness, where a moment of transcendence is achieved when Gus looks to men and women becoming part of the world soul, and where genetic engineering is used to bring about the pheromonally controlled world of Genetic Soldier.

Down There in Darkness is not the perfect George Turner novel - it is not as polished, for example, as either Drowning Towers or Genetic Soldier - but it is a worthwhile one. While I might quibble over details, or wonder how Turner might have changed the book had he lived to see it published, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to readers interested in uncompromising science fiction.

©1999 Jonathan Strahan.
This review originally appeared in Locus.