Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on September 12th 2017
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Action & Adventure, Diversity, Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
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Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.
Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.
But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.
What would you do if you had to compete with other teens your age for the change of freedom, independence, and hope – all of which could be handed with money? Emmett, the main character in Nyxia, struggles with this questions as readers follow his first person POV aboard the Genesis 11, a ship set towards the planet Eden, full of hostile aliens and a mysterious, powerful element that Babel Communications will stop nothing at to take. While I thought that the world was not as expanded upon as most science fiction books set in space, the plot focuses more on the competition that Emmett aims to win and the character development that happens. I adored Emmett and many other characters, but with the inclusion of so many, I felt like at times some of them came off as more two-dimensional than others. Be it as it may, I have high hopes for the sequel in learning more about not only these particular characters, but where the mysterious setting will lead us readers.
Set in the distant future,Nyxia begins when ten participants are gathered to compete and travel to Eden, an inhabitable planet with the brilliant yet mysterious element nyxia. Their goal is to be the best of the best through a series of competition and the end result: land on Eden to smuggle the coveted element from the species that resides there, the Adamites. While negotiations turned out less than peaceful on the adult end, Adamites revere the young due to their lack thereof and with that, the teens in the group can safely land on their planet to sneak away nyxia for Babel Communications. Their reward? Lots of money. And as NASA’s motto says: failure is not an option. With this kind of set-up, the competition begins from the very first page.
When Babel recruited me, they said all of this was a game. I like playing games, but I like winning games even more.
While both enemies and friends are made, there is a steady progression in relationships that I found very down-to-earth and heartfelt. The plot is constantly focused on beating the competition and following the scoreboards, since only eight of the ten people are allowed to continue on to Eden to mine for the nyxia. However, the largest part of this book that made me feel such emotions is the character interactions. Emmett is not a perfect character: he is curious and loyal yet can be cold on the outside and cutthroat. I love the character development he had in this book so much, from his initial distrust to certain characters to the burgeoning friendships that stem despite competition and rivalry. I thought the author did a great job in demonstrating the amalgam of feelings and phases that come out of putting teens against each other during a long time: distrust and alliances, a feeling of camaraderie, and friendships that form even among competition while enemies grow and grow.
The only setback to this wonderful development was that some characters didn’t have as much page time and exploration as others. We learn a lot about certain characters’ backgrounds, but others are not expounded upon (which goes hand in hand with their personalities). Babil is the sweet and kind guy that you could never hate. Kaya is strategic and resourceful. Katsu likes to smack talk and has a jovial nature. And yet, the characters with more animosity don’t get explored as much. Readers have a definite bias of where these characters stand due to having their actions presented from Emmett’s POV, but I do see a missing exploration of certain characters. However, I don’t believe this is the last we have seen of them and will be eagerly hoping for more of them in the sequel.
I turn the key in my hands and realize I can write my own story. Not about lost dreams, but about a future bright as any golden shore.
Since the focus was a lot more on characters and the way their interactions more than anything else, the world is not expounded upon as much as I would like. We know that Babel Communications has a mission, and they can be ruthless and deadly when it comes to the participants they’ve selected, but there are things that remain not only a mystery, but not explained. The diplomatic proceedings (however un-diplomatic they seemed) between Earth and Eden is raised to a very simplistic degree. The element nyxia itself, although with its limitations, is a bit overpowered and handy to really give it a slight believability – especially with the careless way Babel Communications allows the characters to handle them with. I was unsatisfied with the way these aspects of the story were (or lack thereof), but it didn’t hinder my reading at all because there was enough action and plot and character growth to keep me interested. I also think that this lack of technical babble and simplification of political proceedings keeps this book not only quick and easy to read, but accessible to a large audience. Want a quick, action-filled sci-fi with characters from across the world? This is the book. Need a spicy sci-fi adventure with fun and relatable characters to gift to your curious nephew/niece that won’t bore them? This is the book. Honestly, the characters and their actions are written with such heart and depth in this story that the limited view of the world is a moot point for me.
The plot isn’t all competition and characters, though. There is a slow-developing mystery about the plans of Babel Communications that Emmett and others slowly discover. Of course, the corporation has hidden depths that aren’t fully explored in this particular part of the series, but the pacing of these discoveries keeps readers guessing.
Babel might have all the keys, but they don’t know what they’re keeping in the cage. Not yet, but I’ll teach them soon enough.
There is an insta-attraction bit of romance that happened very quick that I’m haven’t quite jumped on the ship with. There just wasn’t enough in-depth interaction and page-time to really make it pop out. No matter for me, because the friendships and rivalries that come out of the story were the highlights. The characters are also from all over the world, so there are POC’s all over. All of them have lived through tough lives and dark pasts. Emmett is black and from Detroit, Kaya and Katsu are Japanese, Longwei is Chinese, Azima is Kenyan (omg I love her), Babil is Palestinian, Isadora from Brazil, Jaime from Switzerland… the list goes on and on. Emmett’s voice is so clear and relatable that I felt so many emotions while reading. His betrayal and his desperation, his loyalty and his doubts. He’s far from the Chosen One and has to overcome many obstacles to continue on. I love how his character fights to win – nothing is given to him easily. His flaws made him even more lovable as a character as readers will really connect to his voice.
Nyxia is only a part of the adventure that Emmett has, as beyond the competition is a new world to discover and more characters to meet. But it was a fantastic start to a science-fiction competition set across the stars as both readers and characters cry, rage, and feel. I can’t wait to see where Reintgen takes us in both plot and world in the sequel. I will definitely be onboard to see how Emmett’s story will progress, and the growth that will come from it.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Netgalley and Random House Books for the review copy!
Nyxia is available in Australian bookstores for $22.99 RRP and American bookstores for $17.99 USD.