Book Review: Nyxia

A swift, fun read with plenty of twists and surprises, cunning strategic moves, and touching moments between characters.

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Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Synopsis

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.

Forever.

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.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

Scott Reintgen was always a back-row dreamer. As early as kindergarten, teachers noticed his tendency to stare out of classroom windows and disappear to more interesting elsewheres. In high school, he began laboring away on the opening chapter of his first fantasy novel. One of his favorite English teachers agreed to read the pages and the very next day she switched him (illegally) out of Spanish and into a Creative Writing class. The story got tossed eventually, but he never lost the confidence he was given by that single act of empowering faith.

Convinced he would one day be a writer, Scott spent most of college and graduate school investing in the world of literature. This eventually led to a career teaching English and Creative Writing in North Carolina. He strongly believes that every student who steps into his classroom has the right to see themselves, vibrant and victorious and on the page. It’s his hope to encourage a future full of diverse writers. As he’s fond of reminding his students, “You have a story to tell and you’re the only one who can tell it.”

(Via the author’s website)

My Impressions

At the same time that I picked up Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince (my review about which you can read here), I also picked up Scott Reintgen’s Nyxia, which happened to be displayed on a nearby shelf and had lovely dark cover art. The blurb was just The Hunger Games enough to catch my attention, but Emmett, the main character, sold me on the first page. He has attitude, sharp perception, and a unique perspective. He bears the burden of an atypical (and personally familiar) dysfunction, which he must learn to overcome as he battles for even a chance at success. Plus, he listens to music constantly and, honestly, can relate.

What a clever little tale Nyxia turned out to be. Reintgen’s science fiction involves three things: a new planet capable of supporting life, a new species with particulars about alien ages, and a new substance called nyxia. With those three elements, he creates an experience removed from contaminating outside variables, and boils down the narrative to pure competition. Not precisely for life itself, but for money, which might as well be the same thing. Yet within that competition and within the expectations of science fiction, the perspective of Emmett has the focus on the characters more than on the particulars of the genre. His attention explores the evolution of each character as they struggle toward the whisper of something beyond mere fiscal sustainability: meaningfulness.

I appreciated the even gender representation as well as the platonic nature of the relationships Emmett developed with (most of) the female characters. Curiously, the love interest doesn’t appear until halfway through the book, implying that Reintgen means to develop their romance slowly over the course of what I assume will culminate in a trilogy. The story itself was a swift, fun read with plenty of twists and surprises, cunning strategic moves, and touching moments between characters. I’m genuinely curious about how things will progress in the next book, because Nyxia ends not only on a satisfying overarching cliffhanger, it also leaves the fate of one of the more beloved side characters in question. I expect I’ll be picking up the next book to find out.

I recommend Nyxia for fans of The Hunger Games and competition-style stories, as well as for those who enjoy light and creative aspects of the science fiction genre.

My rating: 4/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.11 stars


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Book Review: Leviathan Wakes

I can go along reading it for quite some time before it’ll do something to irritate me.

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Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Synopsis

Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions

As a fan of the “Mass Effect” video game series and Artemis: a novel by Andy Weir, Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (pen name for fantasy authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), tickles me in all the right places: it’s got believable technical space jargon without being so overbearing as to detract from the story, sufficient mystery and moving parts to keep the reader guessing, good dialogue, solid pacing, and characters that were probably quite relatable at the time of its inception. In fact, I suspect a lot of the details from both “Mass Effect” and Artemis may have been inspired by Leviathan Wakes/the greater Expanse universe as a whole. I can go along reading it for quite some time before it’ll do something to irritate me (which is saying a lot for the tradition of the science fiction genre), possibly because it’s such a big book that it has a lot of wiggle room for mistakes.

However, here are the ways in which it made my shit list:

  • At least two female characters have died for Man-Pain
  • The two white, cishet, male main characters are so similar that I have a really hard time telling them apart
  • One (living) female character
  • Said female character has been in love with one of the main characters, Holden, since 17 days after they met (blargh)
  • One of the dead female characters is essentially a Pixie Dream Girl for the other main character, Miller (only exists for him because she’s dead and a literal a product of his mind)
  • Little racial diversity; probably still more than was normally seen at the time
  • The mentally unstable character sacrifices himself (right after committing to impending suicide) instead of, you know, getting/being offered some professional help

It was okay. The development of the crew dynamic was probably the main thing I liked.

Goodreads rating: 4.21 stars
My rating: 3/5 stars