A Black Hole: a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape. It absorbs all your light and reflects nothing. What are you then?
An extraordinary opportunity presents itself to a teenager, hungry to discover and work on the planet Eden. After all, the compensation would set his struggling family for life. Emmett is one of the ten selected by the conglomerate Babel Communications to embark on a mining expedition of a valuable metal resource, Nyxia. But there is an unforeseen game. Only eight teens out of the group will be able to travel to the planet. The ten participants will be pitted in vigorous mental and physical games, in a competition to determine the best and to weed out the weak.
The narrative is easy to follow as it unveils a new world on the Genesis 11 and Eden. The ship is sleek and full of high tech specs. A mirror that reads your vital signs, a mask that is a language converter, holograms images. A ship that defies zero gravity all of this is possible from the metal Nyxia, the new black gold. The Nyxia is an interactive compound and almost like a 3-D printer operated by the practiced mind. The inhabitants of the earth- like Eden are territorial and sometimes treacherous. Adamites take on a more humanoid look while the primitive creatures Tars have an armor of shiny sharp scales.
The competitions are thrilling and a large focus of the book. There is a score board, and the competition is fierce. Tension builds when the games become more involved and intricate. Kaya and Emmett make an early alliance that proves useful in the matches and the in-between. They use strategies that are intelligent and grounding in a highly driven environment. The novel is an exploration of the psychology of competition and games. However, as the games start to take on a dark and sometimes horrific atmosphere, the participants suffer physically and emotionally and begin to question the tactics of Babel Corporation. All the competitions are designed to push the teens beyond their current limitations. After all, the participants are an end to their means. Instead of competing against other ruthlessly, Emmett embarks to find the dark secrets behind the machine. But as he learns what Babel hides, but he also learns something more meaningful about himself and his competitors.
Very few books can incorporate characters from different cultures with precision, and Reintgen does this well. The characters are all introduced in the first few chapters, and although it would appear too overwhelming, each character has an interesting backstory, with distinct behaviors and habits. They all share one thing in common, their broken history they are trying to fix. Our main protagonist, Emmett, is a black teenager growing up in the suburbs of Detroit. He knows what it is like to be desperate and impoverished. His mother also needs a transplant and has spent many nights in intensive care. The author creates Emmett as a person aware of his color but does not let this frame him. His love for his family is palpable, which defines his every action, especially his competitive side. The book written from the perspective of Emmett gives us a poignant look at a struggle to represent the what it means to be a great man (like his Pops and Moms) over being the very BEST.
There are many names and references from the Bible and other spiritual philosophies which add depth to the novel. Babel, the company name may refer to a man building a way towards God, and reuniting to a common language. Eden, the planet perhaps representing the Garden of Eden, full of resources to mine with some areas off limit. And then there is the concept of mercy, in the face of justified punishment and it outright contradiction and unification in a biblical sense. On a tangent, some of the names have symbolic meaning chosen to suit their character. Azima, magically charmed into movement is graceful with her footing in competitions like a “snake sticking from high grass,” “…born for motion.” Jamie, the supplanter to trip up or overthrow has a fiercely competitive side wanting to destroy Emmett. Bilal, the most trusted companion of the prophet Mohammed is a loyal force in the book. And Longwei, the dragon of greatness, believes he is invincible and unwilling to tolerate defeat.
Nyxia is a well-crafted novel. It has tension, character depth, and chimerical sci-fi competitions that reeled me in the right off the first page and to the last. There are twists, turns, and emotional defeats. The competitive matches felt dynamic and realistic even in the virtual simulator. Emmett is likable and relatable, and I felt driven to see him through his journey in this novel, and I look forwards to seeing what the future has in store for him.
I highly recommend Nyxia by Scott Reintgan! And I will file that away under N, for Nyxia. And…A for awesome novel!.
Thank you, NetGalley, Random House Children’s and Crow Books for Young Readers, and Scott Reintgen for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.