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Literature / The Boy and the Darkness

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Cover of one of the editions
The Boy and the Darkness (Мальчик и тьма, Mal'chik i t'ma) is a fantasy novel written by the popular Russian science fiction author Sergey Lukyanenko. The book is about a young boy named Danny who encounters a strange creature calling itself the Sunny Kitten. The Kitten opens a doorway to another world, a world covered in eternal darkness because its people sold their light to merchants from yet another world for amenities of modern civilization (they appear to have been stuck in Medieval Stasis). The humans are in an undeclared war with creatures of the Darkness known as the Flyings, many of whom are former humans who have made a Deal with the Devil to be able to fly in return for their souls. The only ones who can fight them are teenagers known as Wingers who are wearing symbiotic wings that allow them to take to the skies and fly on air currents. Adults are too heavy to be lifted by the wings. There is an understanding of sorts between the Flyings and the Wingers: the Wingers do not conduct massed attacks on the Dark towers, and the Flyings do not raze human cities with a napalm-like substance. It is up to Danny to change the status quo in this world, but he will have to pay the price of growing up to do that.

The book was originally written in 1993-94, but the publisher refused to publish it. Lukyanenko could not do anything but wait for his four-year contract to expire before taking the book to another publisher in 1997, allowing his fans to finally read it. The novel is currently undergoing Animated Adaptation with Lukyanenko's likeness used for one of the characters.

One of Lukyanenko's gimmicks is putting references to other novels in his book. Some subtle, others not so much. The protagonist of The Boy and the Darkness is a significant character in The Planet that Doesn't Exist, the second novels in Lukyanenko's A Lord from Planet Earth trilogy who loses his memory of the events due to brain damage. Additionally, an armorer offers Danny one of the Absurdly Sharp Swords prominent in the trilogy. Danny and his partner Lan are also briefly mentioned in Wrong Time for Dragons. In Autumn Visits, one of the characters is a science-fiction writer who appears to be Lukyanenko's Author Avatar, his works including Sunny Kitten and Shadows of Dreams.


The novel contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Beneath the Mask: Danny is able to look inside people and becomes a Living Lie Detector after his eyesight is restored with the True Light.
  • Blind Seer: After Danny's eyes are cut out, the Sunny Kitten returns his eyes with the True Light, allowing Danny to see things in much more detail, as well as giving him limited X-Ray Vision and allows him to see inside people.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Flyings are adults or kids who are close to adulthood who agree to be transformed into creatures of the Darkness in order to be able to fly. These adults are usually former Wingers, who hate being confined to the ground.
  • Eye Scream: When Danny lets a Flying go, he faces the punishment of execution. In vindication he says that his vision becomes poor at times. However, he should have probably actually read the Codex, which says that, if your arm doesn't let you hunt properly, it is chopped off, and so on. You can probably see where this is going.
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  • Evil Overlord: The Wingers believe the Flyings are being controlled by a creature they simply call the Dark Lord. Surverted, as there is no Dark Lord. The Flyings choose a leader based on need and ability.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Danny realizes that he is his own True Enemy after looking through a mirror and seeing himself as an adult. He vanquishes his adult self with the True Sword.
  • The Movie: Averted. There was an attempt to make an animated film, but, after being stuck in Development Hell for 2 years, Lukyanenko announced on his blog that "the patient is more dead than alive".
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Danny
  • The Symbiote: The Wingers actually feel their wings as parts of themselves.
  • Screwed by the Network: The publisher refused to print this book, forcing the author to wait four years until his contract with them expired.
  • Selfless Wish: Danny chooses to save Lan instead of returning home, so he uses up his one wish.
  • Trapped in Another World: A trip to the world of Darkness results in this after the doorway is destroyed.
  • Weakened by the Light: Light kills Flyings and destroys their towers.
  • X-Ray Vision: After his eyesight is restored with the True Light, Danny becomes able to see through low-density objects (e.g. wood but not stone).
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Shortly after Danny arrives to the other world, the doorway to our world is destroyed. Fortunately, according to the Kitten, there are always three doorways between worlds. The other two get destroyed as well, forcing them to try to find another door to our Earth on yet another world.


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