I honestly don’t know what to say about this book.
Make no mistake: A Country of Eternal Light is a masterpiece. A literary marvel and the truest example of Darby Harn’s prose expertise. As great as his Eververse series is (and it really is one of the best in the superhero genre), this book is his magnum opus to date.
But as great as this book is, A Country of Eternal Light is a difficult read. It’s raw. It’s emotional. It hits you in ways you least expect, and the book I thought I was getting into was nothing like the book I ended up getting (and I mean this in a good way). This is the sort of book you’ll probably have to put down a few times, get some space away from it. Whether i’s because a line made you think or punched you in the gut, you’re going to have to take breaks.
This is not a page-turner, the sort of book where you lose hours at a time.
Because this book will gut you. Several times over. It will hollow you out. From the first page, hope is but a distant memory, and the result is a story that seems to get bleaker than you think possible. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is the point. The world is, quite literally, ending, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
There’s no last-minute save. There’s no miracle or story-driven contrivance to save the day. There’s despair and there’s death and there’s anguish and you have to sit with that reality just the same as the characters. In the hands of another author, this story would probably focus on the black hole, the how and the why–and it would probably still be good and epic and enjoyable.
But Harn focuses on the people living out the rest of their days, even when they don’t know why. He doesn’t dump exposition on us, explaining away the black hole or even one of the biggest emotional beats of the protagonist. They’re just there, and they’re to be dealt with regardless of what anyone actually wants to do. More than once, this book makes you question why Mairead and others continue to push through and live life when, from our perspective, everything is so pointless and hopeless and useless…and yet.
That dichotmoy, that emotion, is is what makes A Country of Eternal Light the masterstroke it is. It’s spec fic that doesn’t feel like spec fic. It’s the human experience, stripped to its hopeless yet stubborn core, and it will break you several different ways.
And you’ll love it. I know I did. Even if I’m not sure I can handle another read-through.
This book is an early contender for Best Book of 2021, and I wholeheartedly give this five enthusiastic (if slightly teary-eyed) stars. Let’s just make sure the stars stay in the sky, where they belong.
A Country of Eternal Light is available on Kindle and in paperback.