Written by Scott Reintgen
Published by Michael Joseph (Penguin UK)
Publication date: 12th September 2017
Age range: 14+
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
“You may have noticed that there are ten of you here. At Babel Communications, we find competition to be valuable. Iron sharpens iron and all that. “
Babel is taking parts of me that I never knew I needed. The person who lands on Eden will be less without them.
I was predisposed to like this due to a love of science-fiction – anything set in space will usually get my attention! I also quite like dystopian fiction (though there is a bit of a glut at the moment, some better than others) and I adore books utilizing characters from a diversity of backgrounds, therefore accurately reflecting our world. So far, so good!
The main character, Emmett, has a strong, distinctive and believable voice.
I loved his references to his memory filing system and the little tit-bits of family history which gradually filled in his background. His roommate Kaya is a great character too – curious and rational. Longwei is driven and cannot stand failure. Bilal struggles to balance the edge needed to win with his kinder instincts. Unlike some other stories with multiple characters in a competition, so many of the characters are fleshed-out and it is in growing to care about these characters that the struggles they go through begin to have an impact on you as a reader. (I did struggle to see Roathy and Isadora’s motivation).
The set-up is creative, as is the training that the recruits have to go through to prepare them for a mission on Eden. I did think that the reasoning why teenagers had to go rather than adults seemed a bit off but I imagine we will find out more about this in the next two books – perhaps Babel just doesn’t want to risk their own staff? They definitely seem a bit suspicious…
What seems, on the surface, as a simple story, twists and becomes convoluted – I truly couldn’t put it down. Read it now!
Here’s hoping Book 2 is out soon!
His eyes are so knife-sharp that I can imagine them cutting through everything he sees, digging down beneath the bright outer layers. It takes me about thirty seconds to figure out what’s so weird about him. He’s seeing the world like I see it. The brighter the colors, the more likely something dark is hiding underneath.
What I liked: The diversity of the characters and the fact that this diversity is just part of the story, not something unusual (although all of the contestants have been chosen for a reason – they all have a very strong motivation to win due to their circumstances at home), the struggle Emmett goes through balancing the right thing to do and the need to win
Even better if: I had thought this was a stand-alone, but it is in fact the first book in a trilogy – it ended on a massive cliff-hanger…and we have to wait for the next two books!
How you could use it in your classroom: Comparisons have been drawn to Hunger Games so this might be a good recommendation for teenagers who have already enjoyed that. I think this book could be drawn on in a number of ways in the classroom – discuss the ethics of taking natural resources from another planet and relate this back to the destruction of natural habitats on our own planet. You could discuss the language barriers and how they are overcome by Babel’s device – could this happen in the future? What would be the pros and cons?
(Thank you to Netgalley and Michael Joseph – Penguin UK for my review copy)
Thanks for reading!