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.
Note: This review is not spoiler-free, but the spoilers have been hidden with a lighter font. Highlight the missing text to read.
The central plot of Nyxia can best be described as a mash-up of The Hunger Games in space and Avatar. A company called Babel recruits these teens for what is essentially mining jobs in a planet called Eden, for the substance
vibranium nyxia, and in true capitalistic fashion, they (Babel) don’t care what they have to do to get it. Conceptually, even if with the familiar inspiration behind it, it is interesting: a secretive company hiring poor teens promising them huge salaries is shady in any world, but combine that with the way they want to essentially colonize and siphon off Eden’s most valuable resource and you have a conspiracy plot on your hands. Only thing is, I did not enjoy the way the book was actually WRITTEN.
From the start, the book basically throws you directly into the plot with no introduction, no exposition and no explanation for the jargon that would be peppered throughout it. The story barely gives enough introduction to our protagonist, when suddenly you find out he is essentially in a contest against 9 other kids for a dangerous job, and they all are obsessed with winning right from the start. 99% of the book is the competition itself, with not much time given to developing any sub -plot. Even the one conspiracy arc was pushed aside by offing the character for man pain, and basically rendering her as a one-trick character. I liked the competition, honestly – it was different and interesting with nyxia thrown into the mix, but the book never stops to give any explanation for the dozen or so ‘what?’ and ‘why?’ questions that arise in the reader’s head.
Some of them are:
– Why even eliminate kids from the competition? They wanted miners, and from the looks of it, they can spare the money for their salaries. Also why not keep spare workers around in case of accidents?
– Even if the elimination is in place to give them the drive to push through their mental barriers in handling nyxia, why the arbitrary 8? And all that is moot anyway, when they give the losers a final do-or-die challenge in the climax!
– What even was their criteria for selection, BTW? Defoe says that despite him liking Emmett’s work ethic, he can’t guarantee his spot? Like WTF, you are the employer and you are setting the rules – you can employ the candidate you want, not what some contest decides for you.
– The presence of the Adamite on the ship is never explained properly. Or why Adamites will tolerate humans upto teenage in their midst
– And from that, surely they had ground crew in the first place to set up the mining operations (you can’t just descend with a huge ass drill FFS, so what gives? How many of them survived, huh?
– What even is nyxia? It took like half the book for me to even get some idea of what the material is. But it sounds a lot like gravitonium. And like vibranium in Wakanda, its use is varied and there is no physics-related explanation for this magical element.
To be sure, it had its good moments too – the competition strategies were inventive, and the diverse cast of characters from around the world brought in a varied perspective of the competition. For someone like Bilal, even the consolation prize would be enough, but for someone like Kaya, there was only Eden or bust. Longwei was an interesting character and I hope we get to see more into his heart in the next book, even if he was Emmett’s nemesis for some time. The shadiness of the organization and the way they basically make their own rules was also brought out well – in space, they are basically running their own little dystopia. And despite the lower stakes of the competition (compared to outright death and last one wins) it does keep you on your toes, much like the contestants. The pace is fast, but the repetitiveness of the contests, even with the events on the Tower Space Station got tiring very fast. By that point, I was like, can we get onto something new please? The ending comes about – you guessed it – at their entry into the planet.
Overall, it is a good concept, executed well enough, but I wish it was better written, and had more to work with than just a fierce competition. I will still continue with the series, because I am interested in what Eden will bring, but I am hoping the next one is light years ahead of this one. By the way, another book that does a similar concept, but better is The Final Six, which I couldn’t help but compare it against while reading this one.