|In Darkness is the debut novel by Nike Lake. The novel is set in Haiti. In the Now, main character Shorty is trapped in the rubble of the hospital following an earthquake. Shorty has had a hard life, growing up in Site Soley. He’s a member of the Boston gang and has been involved in the selling of drugs and murder but also in feeding the people and educating the children.
While trapped he begins to dream of the past. In the Then, Shorty dreams that he is Toussaint l’Ouverture, a black slave who lead a rebellion against the white French leaders in Haiti’s past.
In Darkness switches between the Now where Shorty tells his life story and the Then which tells the tale of Toussaint l’Ouverture’s revolution.
A major issue in In Darkness was that Shorty was trapped in the rubble of the hospital for practically the entire novel. This meant that Lake told Shorty’s story to the reader, rather than showing it. It also meant that Lake could do nothing with his main character, making the character feel a bit redundant.
There was little of Shorty’s story that captivated the reader. Both Shorty and the people in his life felt two dimensional and made up.
The Then parts of the book about Toussaint l’Ouverture were interesting and mildly entertaining, but lacked any real depth.
The reader is unlikely to care about any of the underdeveloped and bogus characters. The plot has nothing to capture the reader’s imagination. The reader may well feel that reading In Darkness is like a chore. Especially as the ending was painfully dragged out.
Lake’s enthusiasm for Haiti could not be doubted, but it’s a shame he didn’t put more thought into creating strong characters and a more interesting plot.