Berit Ellingsen’s Not Dark Yet is a beguiling, ethereal book with so much to unpack and so much left unsolved. It’s a dream lived in real life, a real life that feels like a dream. It’s a love story, perhaps a triangle, where the relationships just can’t work. It’s a treatise on the looming effects of climate change where we see the devastating effects of future calamities, not so much apocalyptic, but just at the point where the world is in dire straits, past the point of no return. It’s a meditation on the military and terrorism, perhaps even PTSD. It’s about family and roots and customs. It’s about the borders of a future world that seem to be blurred, along with language and provinciality. It’s about the viability of a fledgling space program in an age where the planet needs more attention than the cosmos around us. As the protagonist Brandon, an ex-military sniper, abandons his life in the city with his boyfriend after an affair and a tragedy coincide for a cabin in the mountains, alone, where mysterious neighbors are attempting to plant wheat in the newly warm climate, he becomes entangled against his own better judgment in a secret terror plan while keeping everyone around him at arm’s length, from family to partners, all while dreaming of being an astronaut and subsequently applying and testing for a space program. As I said, it’s a lot. But through all the strange and random plot points, Brandon—referred to as he for the bulk of the story—never truly connects with anyone around him. He’s haunted, maybe touched—birds take on strange behaviors around him, for instance—and tormented by what can best be described as light seizures. Though I found the book to be mesmerizing in its atmosphere, its sense of dislocation, and its aloof tone—in places I felt it even had a Murakami-like quality—ultimately it was Brandon’s detachment and that same sense of dislocation, of time and place, that led to my own disconnect to the story. There’s much more to recommend here than not, and there is certainly beauty and magic in the prose, but it can also be as cold and vast as the cover suggests and much of the narrative is never resolved. Yet Not Dark Yet often weaves a spell and it’s enough to give this book an enthusiastic endorsement.
Not Dark Yet available now.