YA Weekend: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (September 12, 2017)
Length: 384 pages
I won’t belabor all the reasons why I didn’t enjoy Nyxia, especially since it’s a debut and a mostly adequate one at that, but I will touch upon the major points where this book fell short of my expectations. Admittedly, I am to blame for some of my own disappointment. I was led by the publisher description to believe this would be a book about space, containing all the adventure and excitement about arrival on a new planet. But instead, it turned out to be a more pedestrian tale about a competition, one that lasts the entire duration of the novel, so I didn’t even get the satisfaction of gaining answers to some of my pressing questions.
Anyway, here’s the gist of the story: Ten marginalized teens from all over the world are selected by a rich and powerful corporation called Babel Communications to travel to a newly discovered habitable planet called Eden. Their goal is to harvest and extract a volatile but valuable substance called Nyxia from deep within its mines. Why would a multi-bajillionaire company go with a bunch of kids for a highly sensitive, highly dangerous mission, when they could have easily opted for the more logical choice of a group of experienced, far better-trained and emotionally well-adjusted adults, you ask? Well, the explanation we get is that Eden is already populated, by a race of hostile aliens called the Adamites. Understandably, they’re ticked off about the humans trying to colonize their planet, but Babel has uncovered a weakness in their behavior: the Adamites appear to have a soft spot for children and won’t harm juveniles and youngsters. Babel’s hope is that by sending in a group of human teenagers, they’ll be able to slide under the aliens’ radars to get at their precious Nyxia.
Emmett Atwater is the name of our protagonist who has agreed to Babel’s contract, signing on as a potential recruit. Not only is he leaving Earth to make something more of his life, Emmett is also doing it for his sick mother. If he succeeds, the money he receives will be more than enough to pay for her treatments, as well as set himself and his family up for life. However, Emmett’s path to Eden is nowhere close to being a done deal. While Babel has chosen ten candidates, they only need two less than that for the actual mission. To determine who will continue on and who will go home, they’ve devised a series of challenges in which the contestants will try to earn the most points and beat each other out for the coveted eight spots.
And therein lies my main issue with the plot. There doesn’t appear to be a valid, persuasive reason for a competition, other than the prospect of capitalizing on the success of hit books like The Hunger Games or Red Rising. In what universe would it make sense for a lucrative company to throw untold amounts of money away just to watch a bunch of hormonal teenagers beat the crap out of each other, when those resources could be put to better use on a legitimate training regimen to give those kids—and by extension, their own company interests—the best chance of success on Eden? I even tried giving this novel the benefit of the doubt, thinking perhaps Babel would soon reveal a grand plan that would explain for all their questionable methods, but it was a long wait that led to no satisfying answers.
Still, I might have been more forgiving had it not been for the second half of the novel. The story gave me hope when Emmett and the others finally arrived at their destination, but instead of making it down to Eden so that I could get my fix of exploring a new planet, there came a surprising twist—and not one that made me happy either. By this point, I was already feeling the burnout from all the competitions, and I was looking forward to a nice change of pace. But instead, the story gave us even more competition-ing! Even worse, what follows is a romance with that had me gritting my teeth and fighting the urge not to hurl my e-reader across the room. In the end, I just settled for grumbling to myself about insta-love and other pesky clichés.
There were a few other quibbles I had about the world-building and characterization, but like I said, I won’t be dwelling on the little things. I think I’ve covered the main issues why this book wasn’t my cup of tea, and despite the cliffhanger way it ended I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel, because I’m just not feeling the characters or the story enough to want to continue. Clearly though, I’m in the minority in my feelings for many others have had a positive experience with Nyxia, so hopefully if you’re looking forward to the book, you’ll have a better time with it than I did.