Written By: Eileen Sholomicky
“Love might be the only way to survive,” reads the final line of the book’s summary, and it is the thing I chanted to myself through my tears as I read the final pages.
I picked up The Darkness Outside Us on a whim. The book had been casually added to my to-be-read pile months before I saw it sitting on a promotional table in Barnes & Noble in June, and it wasn’t very high on my priority list. Still, I didn’t have a lot of pink books, and its pastel cover was nice to look at. So I purchased it, and it sat unread on my shelf for six months until this past January.
I finally got around to reading it in the middle of a sci-fi marathon, and it promptly gave me hope for humanity and also an existential crisis.
Ambrose Cusk and Kodiak Celius, teenage boys from rival nations locked in a cold war, are the only two crew members of the Coordinated Endeavor, a ship that has been dispatched to answer a distress signal on Jupiter’s moon Titan by its first settler: Ambrose’s sister, Minerva. However, Ambrose has begun noticing oddities aboard the ship, such as dried blood in a room no one has entered before, or the operating system being voiced by his mother. As things begin to get stranger, Ambrose must learn to work with and trust the brooding Kodiak if either of them want any hope of making it to Titan. Love might be the only way to survive.
Between the book synopsis, its cutesy cover design, and the marketing, I was prepared for a romantic survival story: fast pacing, fluff, and some dramatic but still lighthearted moments. Instead, I was greeted with the most heart-pounding read I had experienced in months and a gut-wrenching love story that made me bawl my eyes out at three in the afternoon.
This book was mismarketed. That was one of my first thoughts upon finishing, as it was for many other readers on book-reviewing platforms like Goodreads and Storygraph. The Darkness Outside Us is not merely a romance or a space opera. It takes a philosophical look at what it means to be human and explores the mental strength it takes to survive against insurmountable odds. Most of all, this book brings to the forefront of the narrative the power of human connection, the power of love, in the face of existential horror.
Love wins is this book’s thesis. It is a philosophical treatise on survival. It is a plea to the humanity of now. The politics of this book mirror the past and the present, while outlining the answer to the future: love. Compassion. Shared resources. Connection and community. Although the book gets quite dark, it is, above all things, filled with resilience and hope for a better future. Though 2022 has only begun, this may well be my favorite book of the year, and I hope that it might be yours, too.