This review WILL contain spoilers for previous books in the series, so if you haven’t yet begun this series I urge you not to continue.
It MAY/WILL contain spoilers for LIGHT.
BEWARE OF EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS, TOO.
‘Turn out the light, Sam.’
Sam reached for the switch and turned out the light.
Title: Light, Gone #6
Author: Michael Grant
Publication: April 1st, 2013 by Egmont Books
Format, pages: Hardcover, 576
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic
IT’S THE END OF ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SERIES!
It’s been more than a year since every person over the age of fifteen disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach, California. In that time, countless battles have been fought: Battles against hunger and lies and plagues and worse, battles of good against evil, and kid against kid. Allegiances have been won, lost, betrayed, and won again; ideologies have been shattered and created anew, and the kids of the FAYZ have begun to believe that their new society is the only life they’ll ever know. But now that the Darkness has found a way to be reborn, the tenuous existence they‘ve established is likely to be shattered for good. Will the kids of Perdido Beach even survive?
Light, the sixth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Gone series (which has spanned more than 3,000 pages!) asks as many profound and provocative questions as it answers, while bestselling mastermind and author Michael Grant creates an unforgettable, arresting conclusion that readers won’t able to stop talking about.
For the past four years I’ve followed Michael Grant’s Gone series. I’ll admit I came to this party almost three years late. One day browsing Borders I stumbled upon this book with blue-edged pages. That book was, of course, the UK hardcover of Lies, the third book in the series, which had just been released. On impulse, and being ignorant of the fact that it was the third in a series, I bought it. I liked the blue. But I had no idea that that impulse buy, sheerly on the colour and design of the book, would introduce me to a series of impressively written teenage characters, many whom to fall in love with, a series to follow and be apart of until the end in years to come (e.g., now), and a series to call one of my favourites.
This series also made me a fan of Michael Grant, an author who consistently pushes the boundaries of reality, of fiction for teens and young adult, producing a world such as the FAYZ that could very well happen, and a diverse range of characters, of young people, that could very well attend your school, or even be in your class, with crippling secrets and haunting pasts, with feelings and fears and desires that you would otherwise never had known they possessed if you did not take the chance to meet them, follow their stories, experience what they experienced, how they changed, for the better or for the worst. For the past six years, six books, three thousand pages, from Gone all the way to Light, that is exactly what we, the readers, did. We took a chance and met Michael Grant’s characters – Sam, Caine, Astrid, Diana, Pete, Quinn, Edilio, Lana, Brianna, Jack and all those others. Even Drake and Brittany and the gaiaphage/Gaia. We took the plunge into Michael Grant’s story, followed it from beginning to end, because we found something special within it, grew an attachment to it – whatever ‘it’ was. For me it definitely was the characters, their struggles and triumphs, their fears and doubts, their beginnings and ends, that made me keep returning. After reading the conclusion, the finale, the endgame, it was sad to say goodbye. It truly was.
So thank you Michael Grant. For this series. For these characters. For a story and message(s) that will linger, forever, deep within, and whenever I look upon my shelf and see those books I will remember what they hold: the power to choose – the power to choose good, be good, wield good. To not be afraid. To be someone that chooses wisely, someone who uses their power – whatever that power may be – for good in changing and making the world a much better place to live in. Every teenager that reads these books will understand, despite whatever they’re battling – depression, illness, failure, suicide, heartbreak, loss, addiction, sexuality, among others – that the power lies in their hands, and we can only hope that they discover that power and use it to emit light, guidance, strength – a future to look forward to. And just like what I deduced from Fear, it’s up to ourselves to transcend our deepest and darkest fears.
Michael Grant understands his readers, the modern teenager, and enhances his stories with this understanding. After all, we need to battle through darkness to discover a world of light. Adults censoring or banning such works like Michael Grant’s from their children could learn a thing or two, with the adults doing much more harm to those their “protecting” than these books could ever do: none and quite the opposite.
It’s not easy ending a series and Michael Grant ended it with integrity and intrepidity, both of those things I love to see in what I read. There was a lot of horror and pain, torment and loss in Light – all of that belongs to be in the book, rightfully, dutifully. Because, after all, we are human; there’s good and evil in each and every one of us, chances for redemption and atonement if we allow ourselves change in our lives, a chance to love and respect, a chance to live and survive. We have that right if we choose to accept it. There are other times when we are far beyond being given the right to choose, clouded too heavily in darkness. That the choice, if there ever was one, was made without us even knowing, subconsciously, predetermined. This was the case with Drake. He was predetermined to take on a dark role within the FAYZ, and there really was no change in him since the first book other than physically and in his thirst for more power.
Drake barked out a laugh. ‘Do you have any idea how many shrinks have tried their words on me? You think you can do better? It has to be some sickness, some syndrome, right? Put a label on it and everything will be better.’ He laughed at the idea. ‘Are you as clueless as the rest of them, Astrid? It’s simple. Here it is, here’s the answer, Astrid the Genius: it’s fun to hurt people. It’s such… it’s such joy, Astrid. Such joy realising that all that power is yours, and all the fear and pain is right there, in your victim. Come on, smart girl, you know what it’s called. You know the word for it. Come on, say it.’ He cupped his hand to his ear, waiting for the word.
‘Evil,’ Astrid said.
Draked laughed, threw up his hand wide, and nodded his head. ‘Evil! There you go. Good for you. Evil. It’s in all of us. You know that, too. It was in you. I saw it in your eyes as you looked down in that cooler. Evil, hah. We all want to have someone powerless beneath us while we stand over them.’ His voice had grown husky. ‘We all want that. We all want that.’
Interspersed throughout the goings-on within the dome is a few scenes of Connie Temple attempting to communicate with the kids inside the FAYZ in order to reach Sam. During that she encounters Drake’s grandfather, and their conversation ends with Grandfather Merwin talking about Drake. He says that Drake was always a troubled kid after the death of his father, and although it is not said or even glimpsed at, Drake’s “young” stepfather may have further shaped Drake to be who he became to be, before and even during the FAYZ. But that’s not stated and instead has Merwin saying he doesn’t know what has happened to Drake.
‘What happens when we do know?’ she asked in a small voice.
‘I suppose we’ll behave like a bunch of holier-than-thou hypocrites. Because the alternative is to look at ourselves in the mirror and know that we are capable of dark and terrible things.’
The conversation ends with Merwin saying, ‘Dark and terrible things. And the joys they bring.’ Merwin shares a story of his time during the Vietnam War and it presents Merwin as someone that reflects directly in Drake. Merwin said that he would pull the trigger again on a helpless Vietnamese prisoner if it needed to be done again because he took pleasure in the revenge. Drake has exactly the same principles. And throughout Light we see Drake consistently trying to get revenge on those that have annoyed him, tried to kill him, witnessing his psychopathic tendencies and the pleasure he gets out of what he does.
Where one fails, another succeeds. Drake was always one of the bad guys since the beginning; he had no intention to do good whatsoever. Then you have Caine who although was seen as a bad guy for most of the series, he never truly was (depending on how you decide to see him). We understood Caine and why he has always had the urge to control, to be on the top. He never really did anything as evil as what Drake did. But he still progressed and changed slowly as the series progressed. It is in Light where Caine truly shines. Fear forced Caine into a vulnerable state after what Penny did, but he still had his dignity and the objective to rise above everyone despite being stripped of the control he worked so hard to get. Light is where he learns that he was doing it wrong all along, and decides to atone for everything he has done in the FAYZ. And I won’t spoil it because that was one of the major twists of this book that had me speechless, at how much a character could change in my eyes in six books. Diana wants Caine to say that he loves her but Caine believes there’s no point in saying that as it’s all going to end, and the following quote has not a person such as Penny making him vulnerable, but rather the realisation of powerlessness when the FAYZ barrier comes down, as well as losing the love he has with Diana after not having such a sense of devotion in his life at all.
‘What’s the point?’ he pleaded. ‘I’m running away. I’m saving myself and leaving you behind. I’m a rat deserting the sinking ship. I’m a coward holding on to his pathetic life for and extra hour or two. I’m scared to death; I can’t stand up to it any more. I’m done. Why do you want me to say it?’
Where Caine is an example of atonement, Howard – or more widely known as Orc – is a fine example of redemption. Redemption not only within the people around him, from a bully to a near hero, but redemption in himself for overcoming his excessive alcohol drinking and addiction. His transformation internally reflects in his transformation externally from back in Gone, from when he turned into some being composed of rocks and stone and gravel. He went from being in a weak state to someone strong, a rock for other people if I may say. Orc deserved his ending. But did Caine deserve his?
Astrid smiled at him. ‘You have become one of the good guys, Charles. If there was ever an example of redemption, it’s you.’
She hesitated only a moment out of fear of touching him, but then gave him a hug. How strange he felt. How alien.
Quite a few moments in Light the characters think about life directly after and well beyond the FAYZ. Would any of them be charged with murder, sent to prison? Would any of them see each other again? That all they have gone through will mean nothing in the eyes of the people on the outside, that it was all just a game and they can all just go home and live happy and normal lives. What rights do teens really have in the real world, where their fantasies are almost non-existent? Where what they had in the FAYZ they would not have in the outside. Where what is wanted or desired is overpowered by parents’ and society’s expectations and authority. What reward will they really get for surviving the FAYZ? Was the FAYZ perfect after all? That even within a bleak and disastrous world such as the FAYZ there was still happiness and comfort to revel in. Early on in the book, at page 12 (of the uncorrected proof at least), has Astrid thinking about her relationship with Sam and what it means for them in the future.
My God: she was happy.
The very idea that she should be happy was absurd. It was almost a crime. Things were desperate, but then they had been for a long time. Desperate had long since became the new normal.
If the barrier really did come down… if this really was the endgame… They were fifteen. Out there, out in the world, they had no legal right to be together.
They’d been through hell. They’d been through a whole series of hells, and they were still together. But none of that would mean anything in the eyes of the law. Her parents, or his mother, could snap their fingers and break what Sam and Astrid had built.
It was not the first time Astrid had had the thought that maybe liberation from the FAYZ would be no such thing.
Each book has had their various villains – or not quite villains, just confused individuals. Drake/Brittney has been a force to reckon with throughout the series, never being able to be killed as their body melds itself back together again no matter how many times Brianna slices them in pieces and scatters them across Perdido Beach. But the real villain, the ultimate villain of the FAYZ, the thing that started it all fifteen years ago was the Gaiaphage, the Darkness, some entity that hit Perdido Beach’s Nuclear Power Plant riding a meteorite. At the end of Fear the Gaiaphage slips into the body of Diana’s and Caine’s baby so he can carry on with his plan of “world domination”. In Light he is now known as Gaia, a child growing with speed as every day goes by, becoming more powerful. Gaia possesses the abilities of those who are still alive in the FAYZ. So when she kills one she loses their power. But Sam’s power is something the Darkness desired from the start, so the teen who can stop Gaia is someone Gaia cannot destroy. Gaia is a vicious, demonic creature, and in Light it is pretty obvious that he/she is not of this world, something that only cares for its own succession. And in the end, Gaia truly doesn’t understand humans; you must understand humans in order to defeat them, you must know the chink in their armour.
‘I realised, when I saw the forest burning, how fascinating the firelight is. It’s beautiful, and people stare at it, don’t they? It destroys things and kills people, but humans love it. Is it because they crave their own destruction, Sam? I want to understand your kind. I am going out into the wider world, and I must learn. But first things first. First, to escape this shell, this egg in which I have gestated, all eyes will be on the fire, all eyes blinded by the smoke, and when I walk out of here, out into your large world with its billions, no one will even see. It’s the beauty of light, don’t you see, Sam? It reveals, but it also distracts and blinds. It’s even better than darkness.’
The title of this conclusion is perfect. Light. So many meanings and interpretations taken from one word. That’s what each book title had. They not only meant their literal meanings but metaphorically, too. In Light there was truth, revelations, clarity, in addition to that visual “light at the end of the tunnel” saying. Each character had their defining moments to shine. I couldn’t have expected anything less from Michael Grant, and this series was ended with perfection, a blazing heavenly fire lit across the sky to signal a well-fought victory. You can bet I’ll be going back to the beginning, where it all began to read from start to finish. And even by the time I reach the Aftermath chapters of Light the second time round, the lives of the characters will continue to prosper long after the final page, no matter how many times I return to this book, and this series.
(I may still add more onto this… just… because… I need this review to be perfect.)
A mega huge thanks to Jen at Hardie Grant Egmont for sending me an uncorrected proof to review and cry over. I pestered her for months on end and I think she deserves some hugs of thanks.
Other books in this series: