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 June 2, 2004

Review: The Darkness Below
Mark: Greg Farshtey's tales of Metru Nui continue in BIONICLE™ Adventures #3: The Darkness Below. We have our usual prologue and epilogue on Mata Nui as the Matoran prepare to return to Mata Nui, but the main tale takes place uninterrupted, a long time ago back on Metru Nui.

Like Tales of the Masks before it, The Darkness Below presents us with a tale that does not really move the story forward, even though the events take place immediately after those in Trial By Fire, the previous Adventures novel. After defeating the Morbuzakh, the TOA METRU are diverted from their triumphant return to the Coliseum to tend to a bit of a plumbing problem: leaking protodermis threatens Metru Nui's Archives.

This bit of news is brought to the TOA METRU in an entertaining cameo by a well-known Matoran. As pleasing as this short passage is, it begs these important unanswered questions: Why did the Matoran have to leave Metru Nui? Since they were there, why don't the Matoran remember anything about Metru Nui? Like the TOA METRU, we the readers are diverted from our ultimate destination by this tale to explore the Archives and the dangerous network of tunnels below it.

The TOA METRU are weakened from their encounter with the Morbuzakh, but their greatest weakness is their lack of teamwork. Interpersonal conflict and introspection abound as they make their way to the leak. Despite this, there is plenty of action as the TOA METRU encounter a veritable zoo of new creatures along the way, including a shape-shifting Rahi called "the Krahka".

I have to admit, the TOA METRU encounter with the Krahka was a bit unsettling for me. What at first seems to be a black-and-white good-versus-evil conflict ultimately ends up being something a little bit more gray. This ambiguity carries over through the sudden, anticlimactic conclusion of the story.

And speaking of black-and-white, that is just what you get for your "Build an exclusive BIONICLE model" instructions: eight dark black-and-white photographs at the back of the book to use "as inspiration". These are not your usual work-of-art LEGO instructions. There is one picture of the completed model and seven pictures of various large sub-assemblies used to make it.

Nitpicking aside, overall The Darkness Below is an enjoyable diversion. But it is a diversion. Bring on the VAHKI!

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BIONICLE Adventures #3: The Darkness Below Novel

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