I feel like I really could have enjoyed this book if it weren't a romance novel. Which, you know, is a funny and probably telling thing to say about a romance novel, but there it is. Dark Future has an interesting concept, some nice snark, and an amusingly awkward heroine who flails rather realistically in her new setting. Unfortunately it's also got her relationship with ConRad Smith, and that just sort of ruins everything.
I actually kind of liked our heroine, Kris Davenport - quite a bit for about the first half of the book, and then on and off for the rest. I think the her character was intended, at least partially, to be a subversion of the action girl trope, and Klein does this very well. At the start of the story, after she's been thrown out of her house and into a post-apocalyptic future by her future self, Kris is a mess and a bit of failure. No spontaneous action hero here: when the going gets rough, Kris gets paralyzed with fear, nearly pisses herself in terror, and generally acts like any other normal person would if put into this kind of awful situation.
It probably sounds a bit strange coming from me, but I really liked this. I didn't expect Kris to be Sarah Conner right off the bat, and she wasn't billed as such. She doesn't have to be a fearless action chick to be bad-ass - I liked that she made mistakes, that she had to overcome her terror and self-doubt to function in this new reality. Grace under pressure didn't come naturally, and being a surgery intern didn't magically make her a competent field medic, but she did her best, she got through it, and she was allowed to save some lives a couple of times.
I also thought it was kind of funny that she was genre-savvy enough to recognize that she was living through a cliche-ridden sci-fi story, but utterly failed to navigate it very well because she "hates sci-fi".
On the other hand, I found most of her behavior regarding obligatory love interest ConRad troubling and contrived. The romance follows the usual Alpha male relationship dynamic: the guy is totally overbearing, possessive, territorial, condescending, bossy, and just generally dickish, while the woman gets in some spunky one-liners and puts up some lip-service resistance here and there while being inordinately sexually attracted to him the entire time, so that she can come into the relationship with the illusion of agency and integrity and COMMON SENSE, without it getting in the way of the SEX. Sex which is totally NOT AT ALL rape-y, because no matter how much she protests, she's actually totally into him and wants it bad.
I'm not kidding, either, that's how nearly EVERY SINGLE sexual encounter between Kris and ConRad goes during the "courting" period, and it put me off the romantic aspect almost immediately. The first time they get physical, they've known each other for all of two minutes, during which ConRad has has thrown Kris in lock-up, verbally abused her, and accused her of being an alien replicant spy or some shit. His terrorizing interrogation is used to build the sexual tension between them - he physically menaces her, pins her against the wall, sniffs and licks her to test for "human", and when that doesn't satisfy him, slits her throat.
No really, he slits her throat. And it's TOTALLY SEXY, YO.
Of course, it's not fatal. He cuts just deep enough to draw blood, which apparently proves she's human, and then lets her go. But seriously. Guy slits her throat, and then before the blood is even dry, they're going at it, and she's writing up against him, letting him finger-bang her, and this is how our romance kicks off...
Read full review at You're Killing.Us