The Never Dawn

The Never Dawn was written by R.E. Palmer and first published in 2016. It’s a dystopian science fiction story that follows a young worker who lives in an underground commune. The book is the first part of a planned trilogy and is followed by Cloud Cuckoo (2016). At the time of writing, the final instalment has yet to be announced.

It has been over a hundred years since Noah’s people were forced to flee from the surface – from the toxic rain, polluted skies and enemies that would see them destroyed. Under Mother’s guidance, they retreated to the Ark and were divided into four classes – workers, farmers, researchers and prefects. Only by working together could they prepare for a time when it would be safe to return.

Noah has lived his life wanting nothing more than to please Mother. He works hard to build more components than anyone else, determined to one day be remembered like his hero, Moses. He never questions what he is making or where it goes next. He merely performs his role in society because it is what is expected of him. After all, Mother knows best.

However, Noah’s attitude begins to change as he starts to notice Rebekah. Thoughts of the beautiful researcher fill his mind and distract him from his duty, yet he can’t understand why. He finds himself even more confused when his team mate Seth is found guilty of being an agent of their enemies and taken away. Noah finds it hard to believe that someone as sweet as Seth could be corrupt. Yet it must be the truth. It couldn’t be that Mother is lying to them, could it?

Before I begin, it’s time for a word of warning. While The Never Dawn is completely non-graphic, it does still contain some scenes that readers may find disturbing. There are a few scenes of implied violence against women that did make me feel rather uncomfortable. If you’re sensitive to such things, you might be best giving this one a miss.

There are two kinds of dystopian story. The first is a world like Panem in The Hunger Games – one that is immediately threatening with its downtrodden proletariat, oppressive police force and elevated ruling class. The other sort is more subtle. It presents a world which, at a glance, seems safe and desirable. This is the dystopia of The Never Dawn.

At first, the Ark seems fairly harmless. Sure, it’s a world that’s all work and no play but Noah and his fellows at least seem happy, safe and well. The book is slow burning, following Noah in his monotonous daily grind, but in doing though it allows the horror of his situation to slowly dawn on the reader. The thing that makes The Never Dawn scary is that the people in the Ark don’t realise that anything is wrong. Mother’s society revolves around a kind of cult mentality. The language that she uses is manipulative and the truth of her intentions is usually veiled in niceties.

Noah and the other inhabitants of the Ark are prisoners, yet they can’t see that. It becomes readily apparent in the novel that they have been brainwashed since birth, specifically groomed to be obedient to Mother. After all, they are like her valued children and those that misbehave and don’t conform to her ideals are sentenced to be sent lower into the ground to work in the mines – a fate that nobody would ever want.

Yet scarier still is the fact that this kind of society doesn’t seem to be that absurd in today’s climate. We live in a world where people don’t question those in power, one where people will blindly believe facts that they are fed by the media. Mother’s language is the language of fear – the carefully picked words of someone who doesn’t want to make it obvious that the people she takes away are never heard from again. The novel puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of doing you duty, no matter how distasteful. This reaches peak horror when the reader realises (way before Noah does) what it means to be a third-timer.

It’s a really compelling read and I can’t stress enough how quickly the novel drew me in. While it’s a bit repetitive at times, every day Noah’s world changed the tiniest bit. It gradually shook him from Mother’s control and caused him to start to see their situation in a new light. The final twist of the novel is particularly intriguing and I admit that it took me entirely by surprise.

However, there are a lot of questions raised by this story that are left unanswered. We don’t learn what it means to be Chosen, or what became of Moses. We don’t even learn how Mother came to be in control. Personally, I would have liked a little more closure. As I reached the end of the novel I was left with a lot of ideas as to what was really going on, but little was set in stone. I suppose the saving grace is that the sequel book has already been released so at least I don’t have to wait long to find out what happens next.

In terms of character, Noah is particularly well developed. Through the monotony of his day, we see how his attitude slowly starts to change. It’s rare to read a dystopian novel where the protagonist is so brainwashed and loyal to the regime. For me, this made Noah feel more realistic. He’s not a rebel or a fighter. He’s just an ordinary factory worker, and this made his gradual discontent all the more interesting to read. I also liked the way that Palmer portrayed his naivety. I won’t say much here because I don’t want to spoil things, but this is particularly interesting at one particular moment when Noah seems to instinctively know that he’s doing something wrong even when he is following Mother’s instructions.

While the other characters are less developed, this is mainly because they’re all viewed from Noah’s limited perspective. While he knows his all-male work team very well, he’s not really allowed to mingle with any other workers (especially girls). His obsession with Rebekah is more than a little creepy to begin with, but becomes kind of understandable as it becomes increasingly apparent just how emotionally stunted he is. Rebekah only really starts to receive development in the second half of the story and I hope that this continues into the next book as I’d like to see more of her.

Anyhow, I think I’ve said enough. I haven’t reviewed any dystopian novels for a while because, to be honest, I was getting sick of them. However, The Never Dawn has caused me to reassess this position. While it leaves a lot of loose ends hanging, it builds a frightening world and left me wanting to read more. It’s definitely a novel that I’d recommend and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

The Never Dawn can be purchased as an eBook on

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Cloud Cuckoo | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: The Sobeks 2017 – Part 3 | Arkham Reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog Stats

  • 105,363 awesome people have visited this blog
%d bloggers like this: