Author: Scott Reintgen
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.
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.
The promise of more to come can only be a good thing.
The original journey to the Nyxia-rich planet of Eden took twenty-seven years; now it will take just one. On board the Babel Communications spaceship making the journey, ten young adults and an unknown number of staff and crew prepare to brave deep space and spend three years away from their loved ones. The teens are winners in a poor man’s lottery, and shortly after launch they are informed that their reward will be a trip down to the surface of Eden and contact with the local inhabitants, the Adamites. The only problem is that the Adamites are not the friendliest of alien lifeforms and have killed all the previous visitors except a small child, who they have taken as a hostage. This leads to the discovery that the Adamites are now a barren race whose youngest member is twenty-one and that they revere children.
The six boys and four girls of various races; African, Asian, European and American, are then informed of the Nyxia of the novel’s title; a substance that has changed the world as they know it. Nyxia is controlled and shaped by mind manipulation; it can be shaped as a weapon or a tool and can shorten space travel as well as do a million and one other things. All it takes is a strong mind and focus.
Our protagonist in the story is Emmett Ethan Atwater, a poor child of colour from the streets of Detroit, Michigan. His mother is in the clutches of cancer and his father is run down by a life of scratching for dollars. In his pocket, Ethan has a key passed down from generation to generation; the key that finally unlocked the shackles around the ankles of his ancestors and set them free. Ethan is desperate to save his mother with radical new medical procedures offered by Babel, and to give his family the financial security that the rich payout from Babel promises. What Emmett doesn’t expect, though, is the surprising codicil Babel throws into the mix: only eight of them will make the trip to the surface of Eden. The year in space will be a competition between the ten teens - a competition that will result in two of them going home with nothing.
As the teens begin to get to know each other, friendships are formed, enemies are made and Emmett quickly realises that no small task has been set him to finish in the top eight of the competition. The tasks they are set range from individual tasks to group projects, testing the physical fitness and mental prowess of each of the participants. Leaders soon rise to the front as the strong weed out the weak, and Emmett soon finds himself embroiled in a fight for his future; a future that some among their number may be willing to kill for.
It’s very easy to draw a parallel to The Hunger Games in the story’s synopsis and during the opening few chapters, but it doesn’t take long for Nyxia to stand on its own two feet and take its own path; if you ignore a few little bumps in the road the journey is a very enjoyable one at that.
Aside from a cutaway scene midway in the novel, Nyxia is told entirely from the first-person perspective of its protagonist, and it is told well. A real stand out point in the book is that even from the beginning there is an underlying sense of dread; the feeling that there is more to events than what you are reading never ceases as you progress, and when the major plot points occur they still manage to take you by surprise, which is impressive for a debut novel.
There are a lot of characters in Nyxia and, for the most part, Reintgen handles the large cast well. Emmett, as the focus, is a well fleshed out protagonist, though not without his foibles; you come to care for him in parallel as he comes to care about the people around him. The same about of detail and focus is sadly not granted to his fellow contestants; you do get to know as people in their own right, but more in terms of Emmett’s observations rather than though them sharing his spotlight – a casualty, perhaps, of the first-person narrative.
The story jogs along at a nice pace. The challenges that the group are set are varied and interesting, and the solutions to problems always make a crazy kind of sense. Because of this, you fully get behind Emmett in his fight to be in the final eight. The tragic death of one character provides an intense emotional gut punch for many reasons, leaving you saddened as you wonder how their story may have ended up had they lived. The circumstances of the death also ramps up the dread, as it’s made very clear that there really is a lot more going on than it first appears.
It’s at this point in the story, however, that Nyxia encounters the largest of those bumps in the road, and for a handful of readers this may be enough to derail them for good. At a critical moment, when all focus should be on Emmett and his race to the finish line – and after failing to fully breathe life into ten supporting characters - Reintgen decides to exponentially expand his cast. As a move it borders on the insane; an influx of so many characters so late in the story shouldn’t work, but actually… it kinda does. Not only does the narrative get kicked up another notch, but Emmett is provided with a new antagonist to see the novel through to its conclusion.
As a standalone novel, Nyxia is a very enjoyable experience; how it fares as the first instalment of a trilogy, however, remains to be seen. Based on this premiere, it’s fair to say that the promise of more to come can only be a good thing. With any luck, the extra pages will give Reintgen plenty of scope to develop the new characters more and possibly reveal Babel’s true intentions.