Released in North America on September 12, 2017, Nyxia by Scott Reintgen is a “high-octane thriller” that “has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae” . YA Sci-Fi fans are definitely going to want to read this one – from the settings, to the plot, to the characters, everything about Nyxia screams Sci-Fi from the very first page until the very last.
What would you be willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune? 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.
I really wanted to enjoy Nyxia – I’m not normally a huge Sci-Fi fan, but I adored Illuminae and Gemina, and with all the praised being thrown at Nyxia, I really hoped I would enjoy it. And I did enjoy it – I just didn’t love it. In fact, Nyxia wound up being quite forgettable as a result of a plot that was nothing more than a 400-page training montage, a generally dull, forced cast of characters, and the fact that absolutely none of the mystery was explained.
“I can write my own story. Not about lost dreams, but about a future bright as any golden shore” – Scott Reintgen, Nyxia, p. 49
The story opens with a group of 10 teens from around the world – who initially have seemingly nothing in common, being recruited by space exploration super corporation Babel, for a top-secret three year deep space exploration that will take their crew to a newly discovered habitable planet to mine Nyxia, a newly discovered element that can manipulated into nearly anything. All while they earn a veritable fortune. Even to the casual reader, this deal seems too good to be true – and it is quickly revealed that it is, in fact, too good to be true. Because only 8 of the 10 recruits will actually earn the opportunity to go down to Eden – after they successfully complete a grueling year of training in space.
Still sounds intriguing, right?
Wrong. While the training and interactions between recruits start off as intriguing, they quickly become dull and repetitive as the story drags on, repeating similar scenarios over and over again. Therefore the “plot” felt – as I said – like a 400-page training montage – not dissimilar from the one featured in Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card). Or, more recently, think of books like The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) or Divergent (Veronica Roth) wherein the earlier part of the book featured the main characters training. Now, extend that training sequence for the majority of the book, and you can see how the book might quickly become quite mundane.
“My fight is one of decades and generations. One bad day won’t stop me from rising up” Scott Reintgen, Nyxia, p.49
Now, let’s talk about the intrigue and mystery behind the story – the secretive powers behind Babel, the mysterious race of aliens currently inhabiting Eden, and the peculiar properties of Nyxia itself. One would think, with all this intrigue and all these secrets, something big would happen to reveal some of the mysteries to the reader. Maybe it would be an encounter with the aliens on Eden, or some in depth science fiction-esque explanation of how Nyxia does what it does. But what did the reader get? Exactly nothing. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the crew landed on Eden in the last handful of pages (yes, you read that right), leaving little time to interact with the natural flora and fauna, but part of this must, without a doubt, be attributed to poor world-building and exposition. It is fine for a story to raise more questions than it answers, especially as a first installment in a planned trilogy, but when it answers nothing at all, the book is bound to leave readers frustrated, confused, and feeling more than a little bit cheated. In fact, there were almost 400 pages full of words that could have been used to give some more details about, well, anything.
“I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be better than the other guy” Scott Reintgen, Nyxia, p.79
Now, before I discuss my problems with the characters, let me begin by saying that the characters were really well developed. All the recruits had their own distinct personalities and depth, especially the main character Emmett. Not only was Emmett quite well developed as an individual, he also had realistic flaws and underwent some pretty significant character development throughout the novel. In addition, Reintgen ensured that Nyxia was filled to the brim with a diverse cast of characters. In fact, there was only one white character in the main cost of recruits, which fit well (seeing as the participants were selected from all over the world). Unfortunately, despite the individuality of the main cast of recruits, I failed to really care about anybody except Emmett. Seriously – a main character died about half way through the book and I just kep reading without so much as blinking. Why? This can probably be attributed to a few things – primarily, there were simply too many characters, each with too little page-time to make me care about them. But also because, due to the nature of the competition, I started out expecting a few casualties, and was thus waiting for the blood to start running.
Unfortunately, Nyxia by Scott Reintgen was more than a bit of a let-down. After suffering through a nearly 400-page book that was mostly a long, drawn out training montage, I really expected more from the conclusion, but got nothing. No questions answered, no shocking plot twists or deaths, and no feeling of satisfaction as I reached the final page (2/5).