Traveling in space to a different planet and earning more money than you could ever imagine spending sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, but in Scott Reintgen’s Nyxia there’s more to the games those selected are playing than they realize.
Emmett Atwater has won the lottery, securing a place aboard the Babel Communications’ ship to Eden, where he’d mine a versatile and incredibly valuable material called Nyxia, offering him the chance to leave Detroit for three years and earn more money than his father is able to make and help his mom get better care for her failing kidneys. Thinking that this is his ticket to a better life, he’s eager to do what he must to secure his job, but soon learns that out of the ten teenagers selected for the trip, only eight will earn the full salary and benefits package. Tapping into his competitive, and sometimes overly aggressive, side he competes against the nine others on Genesis 11. As Babel’s secrets slowly come to light and they drastically change the rules of the game, Emmett and his competitors are faced with a dilemma: win at any cost, possibly forfeiting their humanity, or figure out a way to cleverly fight and maintain some human compassion.
Reminiscent of other sci-fi young adult literature as it utilizes some familiar tactics and arcs, both the story and characters are captivating, developing into deeper, more complex entities as the narrative progresses. Addressing topics such as systematic poverty, unequal access to healthcare, and cultural/racial biases (THANK YOU FOR A DIVERSE CAST OF CHARACTERS!), the narrative brings larger issues society currently (and continually) faces and makes them digestible for a younger audience, for whom these issues have and will play an immense role in their lives. There was a tendency of Emmett’s that I thought was used strangely throughout the novel, which was identifying and categorizing his thoughts and emotions toward particular people or situations, for example, S for Suspicious; while a good device to further characterize Emmett it was used sporadically instead of consistently and the reason behind him doing so wasn’t explained until around halfway through the story, which moderately diverted my attention.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.