The Dark Intercept

The Dark Intercept

by Julia Keller
The Dark Intercept

The Dark Intercept

by Julia Keller


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The Dark Intercept by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Julia Keller is the beginning of a "riveting"* science fiction adventure that challenges the voluntary surrender of liberties for the perception of safety.

When the state controls your emotions, how hard will you fight to feel free?

In a radiant world of endless summer, the Intercept keeps the peace. Violet Crowley, the sixteen-year-old daughter of New Earth's Founding Father, has spent her life in comfort and safety. Her days are easy thanks to the Intercept, a crime-prevention device that monitors emotion. But when her long-time crush, Danny Mayhew, gets into a dangerous altercation on Old Earth, Violet launches a secret investigation to find out what he's hiding. An investigation that will lead her to question everything she's ever known about Danny, her father, and the power of the Intercept.

Much like the device itself, The Dark Intercept will get under your skin.

"A rare, literary feat." --Gennifer Albin, New York Times bestselling author of the Crewel World trilogy

"The Dark Intercept grabbed me from the first page and shook me until the last." --*Emmy Laybourne, author of Berserker

The Dark Intercept is a Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Excellence in Children's and Young Adult Science Fiction Notable List selection!

The Dark Intercept
#1 The Dark Intercept
#2 Dark Mind Rising
#3 Dark Star Calling
The Tablet of Scaptur (novella)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765387639
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 11/13/2018
Series: The Dark Intercept , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 911,518
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

JULIA KELLER, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and former cultural critic at the Chicago Tribune, is the author of many books for adults and young readers, including A Killing in the Hills, the first book in the Bell Elkins series and winner of the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and The Dark Intercept. Keller has a Ph.D. in English literature from Ohio State and was awarded Harvard University's Nieman Fellowship. She was born in West Virginia and lives in Ohio.

Reading Group Guide

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& Writing Skills

Throughout the novel, Violet wrestles with her feelings for Danny and her lack of feelings for Reznik. From the perspective of Danny or Rez, write a journal entry describing your feelings for Violet, how you believe she feels about you, and your hopes for your future relationship.

Each denizen of Earth, Old or New, is implanted with an Intercept chip. Using details from the novel, sketch a picture of the chip and write a one-paragraph “information card,” that you imagine might be given to people when they receive their chips.

Imagine you are a citizen of New Earth. Write a journal entry that begins, “I wish I didn’t have that chip today because I was feeling…”

Readers discover that Callahan and Stark have betrayed each other, Lucretia Crowley has secretly defied Ogden Crowley’s leadership, and Danny Mayhew has been deceiving Violet. Writing from the viewpoint of one of the characters above, write an apology and/or explanation for your betrayal, being sure to include your perceptions about the Intercept.
Genre & Setting

Go to the library or online to find definitions for the science fiction sub-genres “post-apocalyptic fiction” and “space western.” Make a brainstorm list of novels you have read that fit into each of these, and other science fiction sub-genres. Into which subcategory do you feel The Dark Intercept best fits? Write a one-page essay making your case.

Go to the library or online to research the origins of the names of New Earth’s six cities: Higgsville, Franklinton, Mendeleev Crossing, L’Engletown, Farraday, and Hawking. With friends or classmates, discuss the reasons you think the author chose to include such names in the novel. Then, name your own seventh city inspired by a historical figure in a similar vein. Write a paragraph explaining your selection.

The Dark Intercept depicts two worlds: New Earth and Old Earth. Using PowerPoint or other multimedia presentation tools, create a report describing the landscape, citizens, risks and benefits of each place, and the restrictions and rules involved in moving from one Earth to the other.

Go online to read author Julia Keller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning feature series for the Chicago Tribune: Write a short essay reflecting on the contents of the story and the reporting style. With friends or classmates, compare Keller’s reporting style to her fictional depictions of a damaged future Earth. How might both written works speak to the author’s worldview?
Plot & Themes

In the character of Ogden Crowley, Callahan, or Reznik, write a speech explaining the need for and/or justification of the Intercept. Present your speech to friends or classmates. Or, in the character of Paul Stark, write and present the “Dark Intercept Manifesto.”

Do you think people in today’s world are angry or uncertain about the Internet and the way data about them is collected and used? Role-play a meeting of the Rebels of Light, during which each of the secretive rebels shares a thought or insight about the Intercept, Ogden Crowley, or their dreams for the future of Earth, Old and New.

If you completed “Before Reading” Activity 2, write a short essay describing ways in which The Dark Intercept supports or refutes your argument for your selected quote. Or, select a new quote from the list and, in the voice of one of the characters from The Dark Intercept, argue in favor or against its thesis.

Divide friends or classmates into two groups to debate the following resolutions: (1) Safety is a terrible goal on which to base a government or society; and (2) Seeking safety above all else is ultimately dangerous.

Supports Common Core State Standards:
RL.8.1-2; RL.9-10.1-3; RL.11-12.1-2; W.8.1-3, W.8.7; W.9-10.1-3,
W.9-10.7; W.11-12.1-3, W.11-12.7; and SL.8.1, SL.8.4; SL.9-10.1;
SL.9-10.4; SL.11-12.1, SL.11-12.4.

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The novel is set in 2294, almost three hundred years in the future. With friends or classmates, discuss some of the greatest problems you feel Earth faces today. Informed by your discussion, make a brainstorm list of the landscape, technology, politics, and culture you imagine might exist on such a future Earth (or wherever humans may live).

The Dark Intercept
explores the complexity and value of emotions. What makes you happy, sad, angry, or afraid? How do you behave when you have such feelings? Are emotions exclusively a human quality? How are emotions defined, felt, or measured? After considering these questions, select one of the following quotes and write a short essay supporting or refuting its premise:

“Reason is the first victim of strong emotion.” —Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah

“Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.” —Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses

“Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.” —Sabaa Tahir, A Torch Against the Night

“The idea that a pile of metal could experience emotion is insulting.” —Marissa Meyer, Cinder

“You can’t just hide your feelings. You have to destroy them. Kill them before they kill you.” —Elizabeth Eulberg, The Lonely Hearts Club

“Hatred and anger are not the opposites of love…. They are backsides of the same playing card.” —Kathleen Baldwin, Exile for Dreamers

Supports Common Core State Standards:
SL.8.1, SL.9-10.1, SL.11-12.1, and W.8.1, W.9-10.1, W.11-12.1

Discussion Questions

Describe the Intercept. Did the author choose the word “Intercept” for its similarity to the word “Internet”? Explain your answer.

On page 23, Violet reflects on the smell of New Earth. What is the smell? How was it created? What smells like home to you?

What talent does Violet admire in Shura? Why might her talent be impractical on New Earth or even unsafe?

Who is Violet’s father? How does her father’s identity affect Violet’s lifestyle and relationships? How do the other residents of New Earth feel about Ogden Crowley?

Who is Reznik (Rez)? What is his relationship to Violet, to the Intercept, and to code? How do these relationships cause Rez conflict throughout the story?

What is comforting about “imperfections,” such as dilapidated buildings and rain? How does imperfection relate to the idea of “careful randomness” as it is described in Chapter 7? Is darkness an imperfection?

Given the way newcomers from Old Earth are viewed on New Earth, why isn’t Danny Mayhew ashamed to be an immigrant?

How were the original citizens of New Earth selected? Do you think any individual or government has the right to choose who is “worthy” to move from a place of disease and treachery to a place of relative safety? Do such kinds of divisions and judgments exist in our world today?

In Chapter 8, does the Intercept really “beat” Violet? What memory does it bring up during her intervention? How, after reading this chapter, might you explain the difference between “reality” and “simulation” in terms of a person’s emotional experience?

Compare life on Old Earth and on New Earth. List at least three ways the people of Old Earth, experience discrimination.

How does Shura explain the relationship between art and emotion in Chapter 12, “The Color of Love”? Do you agree or disagree with her insights?

Who are the “Rebels of Light”? Do you think this group is aptly named? Why or why not?

After reading Chapter 19, describe which you might find scarier: A “new world” or a familiar but bad or corrupted “old world.”

Who is Anna Lu? What is her job? How does the attack on Anna Lu set off a complex chain of events on New Earth?

Early in the novel, the Intercept prevents violence by debilitating potential instigators with sad memories. How do the selected memories change later in the story, as they are applied to Ogden Crowley and Paul Stark? Is this an indication of a change happening to the Intercept?

What is the “Dark Intercept Manifesto”? How or why does it posit that the Intercept is “barbaric”?

Why is Chapter 30 titled “After and Before”? What is important about this sequence of words? What happens when Callahan confronts her husband, Stark, in this chapter?

As the story draws to a close, describe the relationships Violet discovers between Delia, Tin Man, her mother, her father, Callahan and Stark.

How does Violet feel when she learns Danny Mayhew’s true identity? Could you have forgiven Danny for his deception? What advice might you give to Violet about the future of this relationship?

Explain why Ogden Crowley chose to have the Intercept become part of New Earth society. Do you think he realized that he was, in fact, weaponizing human emotion?

Why do you think Violet and Kendall save part of the Intercept code at the story’s end? Do you think artificial intelligence, such as the Intercept, is fundamentally helpful or dangerous to humankind? Had you been with Violet and Kendall on that fateful day, would you have helped saved the code?

On her website, Julia Keller writes, “In 2005, I won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for a three-part narrative series that ostensibly was about the aftermath of a deadly tornado, but in truth was an exploration of how we reckon with the randomness of fate.” ( How might this statement be viewed as the central motif of this novel?

Are the most beautiful memories also the most painful? Explain your answer.

Supports Common Core State Standards:
RL.8.1-4, 9-10.1-5, 11-12.1-6; and SL.8.1, 3, 4; SL.9-10.1, 3, 4; SL.11-12.1, 3, 4.

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