“Unlearn your idea of impossible.”
Five words that summarize the incredible ride this book is about to take you on. To call this debut stunning doesn’t feel impactful enough. This book is nuclear in it’s impact!
Emmett finds himself about to board a spaceship. A winning ticket to a life he and his family have only dreamed of. A lottery he never entered, that he never knew existed. He and nine other kids are offered money they can’t fathom, benefits they’ve only dreamed of, a life that they never thought could be theirs.
Their mission is to go to a new planet. A habitable planet. Eden. Where a new substance has been discovered, and it’s unlike anything found before. Nyxia.
“It has secretly become the most valuable resource in the world.”
Babel knows about it. Has been studying it. And wants more of it.
Except. There’s always an except. Except, there is a species already living on that planet. A species stronger than we are. The Adamites. They tore through a platoon of heavily armed and trained military personnel. Humans are not welcome. But even the Adamites have an except. They revere children.
Babel, a corporation powerful enough to swallow Google whole. A corporation to end all corporations is determined to mine Nyxia and profit from it. Even if they have to turn children into miners. No matter the risk, and regardless of the consequences. So they offer these ten poverty stricken young adults the opportunity of a lifetime.
Of course, there’s a catch.
Too late, they all learn that not all of them will be chosen. That two of them will be given consolation prizes and sent home. Wealthy, but not the riches they’ve already begun dreaming about.
The scoreboard becomes Emmett’s constant companion. Following him day and night, reminding him of what he has to lose. The scoreboard turns his companions into competitors. People he cannot trust, people he cannot rely on.
“Competition. Supply and demand. Cage-style.”
I love the discussion of corporate power in this book. The blatant manipulation of these kids by a powerful corporation is very compelling. The idea that profit supersedes everything. These kids are employees on one hand, and commodities on the other. The end goal for every person on that spacecraft is to prepare them for mining Nyxia, and nothing will get in the way of that goal.
Emmett knows that Babel is lying to them. Giving them half-truths and just enough information to motivate them, but never enough to dissuade them. Each step in the competition unfolds, drawing them deeper and deeper in the web, until they can’t see the way back. Emmett sees this, but his families needs outweigh what his instincts scream at him. He can’t afford to see the truth.
Emmett and all the other kids are pawns in Babel’s chessboard. They know it, yet their desperate need to escape the hell of poverty is so great, they are willing to do anything to make the top spots. No matter the obstacles. No matter the consequences.
There is a danger when people’s basic needs reach such desperate levels that they become willing to do anything in order to meet them. Desperation is always present on the edges of this competition. Two kids will go home with a small sum of money. They will go home knowing they held the keys to the kingdom of their dreams and let them slip through their fingers. Desperation is used against them by Babel, keeping them on edge and focused.
All the kids are chosen from poor families. It isn’t just the money that is is the carrot dangling in their faces. The promise of healthcare and access to doctors and treatments is just as alluring as hard cash. Emmett’s own mother fights cancer. Access to treatment, to doctors, to medicine is immediate. Cash is a fleeting dream. Something desired but now known. Whereas treatments, medicine, doctors. Those are life. Those are now. Those are what they fight for.
The theme that stood out the most for me in this book is power. Money is power. Babel is the money. They are the boss. They hold all the cards. The scoreboard holds power over all of the kids. Who stands the most to gain, who stands the most to lose. Babel uses the prize money as their way to retain control and power over each individual on the ship. There is too much to lose and nothing to gain by not following their rules.
Babel wants to tear them down. “Babel’s plan is to make us numb. Execute the task without emotion. Complete the mission.” They want to build them up into the perfect workers. Compliant and ruthless, with the sole focus on completing the job no matter what.
And then there’s the struggle for power within the self. Emmett battles with becoming who he wants to be, versus who Babel wants him to be. One side wanting to embrace the dark side that will lead him to victory. The other side demanding that he not lose himself to that darkness.
This struggle is one I think so many of us can relate to. Sometimes we are put in situations in life where we see how easy it would be to comply. To just do what our boss wants, or our spouse, or our friend. But, sometimes, that isn’t always the right thing. Being aware of that, and facing that dilemma is never easy. I was glad to see the struggle happen in Emmett. It was honest and real, and I think readers will relate to that.
Finally we have the timeless divide between the rich and the poor. Money always equals power, and in this society that fact also remains true.
“It’s hard to tell the difference between rich and wrong.” This quote is so stunningly simple and staggeringly true. Rich is always seen as right, while poor is always seen as wrong.
All of these struggles and fights for power all play out in simulated training. Each player fighting for a position within Babel. This book is a survival of the fittest in a high-stake corporate game. In space.
File this book under M for Must Read. Under D for Do Not Miss. Under E for Epic. Under H for Heart pounding.
I cannot wait to see what happens next. This series is already moving it’s way into my top five favorite series. It’s going to kill me waiting for the next installment.
Nyxia comes out September 12, 2017. If you love science fiction and suspense, order this book! It is stunning.
Thank you Random House Kids, Crown Book for Young Readers and NetGalley for the ARC!!!