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The Tomorrow Series, Part 2
John Marsden
Pan-Macmillan Australia

Volume 4 Darkness Be My Friend
Volume 5 Burning for Revenge
Volume 6 The Night Is for Hunting

Darkness Be My Friend
Burning for Revenge
The Night Is for Hunting
John Marsden
John Marsden was born in Melbourne, Australia. Marsden was educated at Australia's oldest and strictest school, King's School, Paramatta, and in 1969 began an Arts/Law degree at the University of Sydney. Leaving school, he held odd jobs, including working in a mortuary. In 1978, he became an English teacher at All Saint's College, Bathurst, and has continued in this capacity at several institutions in Australia. More recently he has devoted himself to his literary career and to encouraging young adults in their writing efforts.

John Marsden Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Tomorrow Series, Part 1
SF Site Review: A Killing Frost
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Tribute Site
John Marsden Bio-bibliography
Another John Marsden Bio-bibliography
Critical Essay: The Tomorrow Series
Review: The Tomorrow Series
Review: The Tomorrow Series

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

I read these three books within 10 hours of receiving them from Australia. They are as fast-paced, suspense-filled, realistic, emotionally-charged and psychologically-detailed as their predecessors in the Tomorrow series -- in a word, modern classics. I'm preparing a special little niche for them in a nook of my library, along with H. Rider Haggard, Talbot Mundy, and E.R. Burroughs.

As near-perfect as the first three titles were, I could foresee the next three being somewhat of a letdown. Series that stretch much past 3 or 4 books tend to have their plots become formulaic while characters remain fairly static. The whole thing runs the risk of degenerating into an "only the names have been changed" exercise. Another potential problem as I saw it was that the third book in the series (The Third Day, the Frost, a.k.a. A Killing Frost in USA) ended with the physically and mentally battered teenage heroes being airlifted to New Zealand. Something on the order of bringing Sherlock Holmes back from Reichenback Falls would be necessary to get them back into the war zone in Australia. In my experience, this sort of artificial plot device tends to fall flat.

While Marsden couldn't avoid these pitfalls entirely, he certainly comes damn close to pulling it off. Things start out slowly in Darkness be my Friend. Ellie summarizes and ponders over their six months of mental and physical recuperation in New Zealand. When the Kiwi commander "volunteers" them to direct a group of commandos to their hometown's airport, now expanded by the enemy into the hub of their Air Force operations, Ellie is angry, others are terrified and some, like Homer, are anxious to return.

At this point, it would have been easy for Marsden to send them back into the war, have them blow up something, and make yet another heart-stopping escape from the enemy -- over and over again. But he doesn't -- well, O.K., they do have heart-stopping escapes, although perhaps not what you would have expected. Ellie, Fi, Homer, Kevin and Lee's guerrilla instincts are very rusty and they are a tad overconfident, leading them into several tactical mistakes.

Burning for Revenge is both a study in psychology and a fine rip-roarin' blow 'em up. Finding out that his parents have been killed by the enemy, Lee bottles up his anger and his desire for vengeance, becoming a walking time-bomb. The news of a friend's death, compounded with the constant tension they are under, leads to one character's mental breakdown and takes the others into various defensive shells. Desperation combined with coincidence brings the group right into the middle of the enemy air force base they had been aiming to destroy. Destroy it they do -- big time -- and they make another harrowing escape, before hiding out in an abandoned house in a nearby town.

Again in the next book, The Night is for Hunting, Marsden avoids getting into a tired attack-retreat plot, shifts gears, and inverts the group's role from aggressors to protectors, from hunted to hunters. Ellie and Lee save a group of feral children from an enemy raid but touch off a whole new manhunt. Nearing the group's mountain hideout, the children escape and lead Ellie and her friends on a long chase through the bush, ending in tragedy. When the group finally return to their hideout, the different members of the group take up different adult roles -- father, mother, teacher -- but the enemy lurks at the door of their lair.

Unlike what I might have expected, there was no letdown; rather, it was an elevation of adventure literature to heights that are only achieved once or twice in a generation -- Haggard's Allan Quatermain and She, Mundy's Tros and Jimgrim, Burroughs' Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, even Frederick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal all had their time -- this is Marsden's time.

This summary and commentary don't begin to address the richness of the characters, the sense of being there with them, both when the bullets are whizzing by their ears and when they are safe and pondering their situation and relationships. Better yet, the invaders are not portrayed or viewed by the heroes as inherently vicious, incompetent, or worthy of being shot on sight (typical enemy stereotypes).

Between Ellie's putting herself at risk to signal enemy soldiers to escape from an oncoming bush fire and Lee's relieving his frustrations in the arms of an invader's daughter, the group members are neither paragons of virtue nor heartless killers; they are realistically portrayed young men and women. It is this realism and the strengths and weaknesses of each individual character that elevates the Tomorrow series to the status of must-read. However, be forewarned that while this isn't a Sam Peckinpah film, as realistic as it is with locations and characters and the grim realities of war, bodies torn apart by automatic gunfire and dismembered by blasts, and with the suicide of an enemy officer about to be engulfed in a fireball -- it is not for the faint of heart.

The first of these three titles will soon be available in the United States from Houghton Mifflin. The last title in the series, as yet untitled, will be published in the fall of 1999 in Australia. I've already got a copy on reserve -- so should you.

Copyright © 1999 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

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