By: Scott Reintgen
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Series: The Nyxia Triad #1
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
When I first heard of Nyxia by Scott Reintgen, I expected a grand space adventure, with young protagonists exploring new planets and encountering new civilizations. What I received was nothing of the sort, instead being another teenagers pitted against one another in a long competition. That’s all well and good. I like those plots just as much as the next person. But while Nyxia has a story that has promise, it ultimately proved to be quite tedious and dull.
Emmett is a regular teen living a tough life in Detroit – his mother is ill, his father is overworked and underpaid – until he is recruited by the multi-billion dollar company Babel. The organization is launching a mission to the newly discovered planet of Eden, a wondrous new world with its own civilization and a miraculous substance called Nyxia they indend to mine. Emmett is one of a crew of ten teenagers chosen for the mission, but it becomes quickly apparent that not all is as it seems.
A story which suggests far off planets, aliens, and a traditional space adventure turns into a competition between Emmett and the nine other recruited teenagers. This is frustrating, but in no way the novels’ fault – that would be more a tick against some marketing aspects as well as my own expectation. However, this focus on competition, while certainly able to draw certain reader’s attention, ultimately worked against the novel.
The cast of characters is very diverse. Emmett, our main character, is a black teen from Detroit. Other characters are from Japan, China, Africa, and the Middle East. All the teenagers have lived difficult lives and faced the sort of things most have not. There are few characters outside of the small army of teenagers, but I do want to mention one in particular. Emmett’s father is probably one of the kindest, wisest fathers I’ve seen in literature in a long time. The few passages he’s in are all very memorable. We see a father obviously distraught that his son will be so far away but also proud of his accomplishments trying to put his own emotions aside to impart the wisdom and comfort he knows Emmett needs in that moment.
It was very refreshing to see that many of the relationships forged between characters were ones of platonic friendship. This is something I often find missing in many books where character relations are either ones of romance or varying levels of competitive and antagonistic. Romance wasn’t absent, but it did come in the form of insta-love. A relationship which could have been meaningful through simple mutual respect turned into an instant love scenario despite the characters barely knowing one another and having no obvious chemistry.
This is largely a book of missed opportunities. Too much time was taken following Emmett to competition after competition and watching the board as scores ticked up and down. The competitions themselves became very repetitive. Stakes were never raised and lowered enough to create that desperate air of tension which makes tournament arcs in shonen manga so very addictive. The end goal remained the same throughout – be one of the eight people chosen to go Eden’s surface. The character’s pasts, emotions, goals, and inner conflict weren’t enough to drive the tension or plot.
As for the individual competitions, some of them were interesting, some of them less so. Creative competitions involving teamwork were mingled among more common ones such as one on one battles. However, I do need to speak on in particular as it was simply so illusion breaking that I cannot let it pass. One particular event was swimming in a pool for a certain amount of time that simulated gale force winds. This is a perplexing choice of competition as even specially trained individuals normally have a difficult time facing 18-25 foot waves and 40 mile an hour winds. (For those playing along at home, those are tropical storm conditions). The fact that no one drowned was astonishing.
Also, please, explain how taking untrained teenagers and forcing them to compete with one another is any sort of training to go on a deep space mission to recover a potentially dangerous substance on a planet with a species who, while having an affinity to children and adolescents, doesn’t like the human race at large, is a sensible business plan. Surely Babel would benefit from actual training regimens rather than baseless contests. It seems like a huge liability and money drain for the company.
Now. Let’s talk about nyxia, the mysterious substance Emmett is on his way to mine off a far-off planet that isn’t too keen on having their nyxia mined at all. What is it? In a word, physical deus-ex-machina. Nyxia can do anything. Thoughts can telepathically form it into any shape. It can heal nearly any injury, except for those wounds made by nyxia. It is the reason why a twenty-seven year journey suddenly takes only one. It is the reason why the ship has gravity in deep space. Despite its deus-ex-machina mechanics, I still found nyxia and its mysteries interesting. The unexplained aspects of the material felt more like deliberate decisions by the author which would be explored further in later books than anything that was unintentionally not included.
Which brings me to another gripe. Despite being four hundred pages long, the reader learns very little throughout the course of the story. Characters, while diverse and having an overall air of likability, weren’t very deep. We learn only snippets of their pasts and what drew them to signing contracts with Babel. Almost nothing is related about Eden or its inhabitants, the Adamites. It is inferred that this story is set sometime in the future. How far in the future is never discussed. The lives of the characters seem much the same as lives today with no evidence of advancement in technology or anything else.
I came into this book with high expectations. With promises of space adventure and newly found planets, I had visions of something with an Illuminae Chronicles sense of adventure. Unfortunately, what I found was nothing of the sort. In the end Nyxia felt more like the long prequel no one asked for instead of the start to an exciting new series.
You like competition based YA novels; You want a non-typical hero
Don't Read If:
You like solid world building in novels; You don't like insta-love romances