ARC Review: Dark Factory

Dark Factory by Kathe Koja

Author Kathe Koja takes us into the world of dance clubs and immersive events in a book that questions our perceptions of reality. Can our minds be channeled through “manufactured” experiences that allow us to access altered states of being?

To explore those ideas Koja gives us this book, and its accompanying website, which features music, displays, and snippets of writing and quotes from characters in and around the story in the book. 

The book itself is set in a near future, and follows four main characters - Ari Regon, Felix Perez, Max Caspar, and Marfa Carpenter. 

Ari is the public face of Dark Factory, a dance club specializing in providing a wholly immersive experience. Guests wear “tiaras” that allow them to blend virtual reality with lights, projections and music. Ari, a gay grown-up club kid, has a knack for finding ways to crank the guest experience up to the next level, and has made a successful career creating new experiences. He is at a new peak at Dark Factory.

As the story begins Max is attempting, though with little success, to do something different - he is trying to build shows that “manufacture” reality. He wants to provide immersive experiences too, but he relies on elements of nature and the world around us. He wants his experiences to be real

When Max finally lets Ari introduce him to the Dark Factory, something clicks that alters his perceptions about what is real. Ari sets Max on a path to putting his new perceptions into a virtual experience - initially as a game. Together they hope to turn the game into the next level immersive experience.

When Felix, a successful DJ, enters the picture he builds off of the dance club experience Ari has created. His mixing work at the Dark Factory drives guests to altered states and causes a sensation. It also causes the authorities - the “cappies” - to step in, resulting in the shuttering of the Dark Factory.

Marfa meanwhile, is a somewhat mysterious reporter who uncovers secrets of the monied interests that are trying to leverage what Max, Ari and Felix have going on.

The storyline has plenty of twists and turns, building to Felix performing a streamed live show that may just alter reality for millions. 

As for my reaction to the book, I’ll give you the good and the bad. 

Good points: Koja’s writing is excellent, very descriptive and it draws you right in. I found the concepts the book explores intriguing, and the characters for the most part interesting. Most of the chapters were followed by “bonus content” which helped provide background and fill out your understanding of the main characters. The last bonus section is Max’s “notes” on curated reality, and it’s brilliant.

Bad Points: The storyline is a bit muddled and overly long. The book is episodic, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but the episodes didn’t build on each other the way I expected. A large number of characters float through the book and it can be difficult at times remembering who is who. At points in the book the descriptions around gaming or virtual experiences rely on a lot of jargon which can make for challenging reading.

Rating: Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐

NOTE: I received an advanced copy from LibraryThing and Meerkat Press. I am voluntarily providing this review. The book will be publicly available on May 10, 2022. 

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Title: Dark Factory
Author: Kathe Koja
Publisher: Meerkat Press
Publish Date: May 10th, 2022
ISBN-13: 9781946154750
Publisher’s List Price: $17.95 (Trade Paperback as of 05/2022)