Taking place in a future version of Earth, Nyxia by Scott Reintgen is a brand new sci-fi escapade into the unknown reaches of deep space, where life on Earth has not been particularly kind or generous to Emmett. Pops works the night shift, weary yet determined to provide; Moms is sick, and a transplant is a far-off dream; and Emmett is stuck, hanging with the boys, yet destined to follow his father’s footsteps, never quite able to break the cycle. Even though Emmett is content with life, he has been searching for a way to be more than content—to be happy. And then Babel Corporation—an impressively advanced tech company possessing the mysterious nyxia—smashes into Emmett’s life and changes things forever.
In the quest to expand their stronghold, Babel has been at the forefront of space exploration for years, and they have recently made their greatest discovery yet—a new life-sustaining planet, appropriately dubbed Eden. Almost more exciting than the planet itself, though, is the mysterious new substance they have discovered, hidden beneath its surface. Nyxia is a highly sought-after material, with Babel quietly leading the charge for excavation. And in order to do that, they have recruited an unlikely group of individuals—including Emmett.
Ten teenagers are offered the chance of a lifetime—to vie for a spot on the exploration team heading to Eden to mine the coveted nyxia. Each individual is different from the next, coming from all across the world, speaking different languages, and possessing their own uniquely troubled past. But the only way to make it all the way to Eden, forever changing their lives, Babel forces the ten competitors to face each other—and themselves—to see who can come out on top.
Why’d they choose us?
We’re all broken. They picked us because we’re broken.
Physically trying, mentally taxing, and emotionally debilitating, the challenges set forth by Babel are unlike anything Emmett has experienced before. The other contenders are equally determined to get to Eden, making it a cut-throat battle—each man for himself. But along the way, the group realizes that individual results aren’t the only factor in play, and Babel is setting them up for more than just solitary endeavors. Forging relationships in the middle of deep space isn’t something Emmett ever dreamed he would be doing, but relationships begin to grow nonetheless—often without him even realizing it’s happening. And when Babel begins to change the game, and there are more questions than answers about Babel’s motivations and techniques, Emmett and the rest of the group begin to consider the possibility that not making it to Eden might not be the worst outcome.
We can be kings and queens, sure, but only if we bow first.
Coming out of nowhere, Scott Reintgen (pronounced “rankin”) has found himself catapulting to the top of my list for best novels in 2017—and this is his debut! I came across Nyxia, the first novel in The Nyxia Triad, as part of a package deal when Reintgen teamed up with Marie Lu for a signing event. I’m always on the lookout for new stories, so I jumped at the chance to scoop up the deal (and it’s signed, so extra bonus!). I am so incredibly glad I made that decision, because Nyxia is absolutely breathtaking and a beautiful debut novel. Not to mention the gorgeous cover art looks mighty nice upon my bookshelf.
With a hint of Hunger Games, a splash of Divergent, and oddly reminiscent of Armageddon, Nyxia is a sci-fi journey full of secrets, betrayals, friendships, and trials. And even though I’m reminded of other books, Reintgen takes those familiar concepts and flips them upside down to fashion something new and exciting. I have to admit, this book didn’t initially seem like it would be my usual cup of tea. Typically, I’m lost in a faraway land filled with magic, mystical creatures, and a vast new world I could never have dreamed up. And I don’t usually leave for the wide expanse of space and all of the science-y elements that are inevitably involved. I was so deeply surprised when I found myself devouring this book. I couldn’t read it fast enough! The sci-fi part wasn’t overwhelming at all. The technology and science didn’t feel too far away from what is conceivably possible in our world, and Reintgen kept the core of the story honest, and down to earth (yes, pun intended). It didn’t feel cheesy or full of clichés, and it had a gritty, intensity that resonated with me.
But they don’t tell you the pain comes with you. They don’t tell you that hurt travels at light-speed too.
Each character is well thought out and developed, having multiple layers and a depth to them that is a key characteristic in an exceptional author. And even though we have what may seem like a traditional overcoming-your-past type of story with Emmett, Reintgen successfully avoids making it feel as though this is a story you’ve read a million times before. Occasionally, I was surprised by some of the character choices, but I was reassured when I realized those choices fit the characters. There was nothing that was so shocking to make it feel out of place, and even though there were secrets and surprises, everything made sense for the characters involved.
This type of story can, in my opinion, get a bit repetitive and dry at times. And considering the entirety of the adventure took place in space, I was a bit concerned the challenges and events would feel like repeats of the same scene, having only a slight variation. Somehow, Reintgen masterfully avoided the feeling of monotony and tediousness that many fight-to-win stories tend to have. Yes, we’re in the Rabbit Room once again, and yes, there is another nyxia challenge later. But each visit to the Rabbit Room has been tweaked and altered in what feels like a subtle yet distinctly different way. Each nyxia challenge has us understanding the creepy black material a little more, and each conversation reveals a bit more about the characters. Reingten has been successful in showing the daily tedium of a routine, without making it feel tedious to read.
For me, the biggest appeal of this story was the theme that became prevalent throughout—struggle. Each and every character had their own personal struggles to face and overcome. On top of that, Babel has thrust the characters into new situations where they are forced to struggle against a variety of elements—each other in physical tasks, nyxia in emotional tasks, and against Babel in mental tasks. But whereas many characters in other novels come off as whiny and have a woe-is-me type of perspective (Katniss Everdeen, anyone?), Emmett takes these struggles and analyzes them, learns from them, and ultimately uses them to his own advantage. He’s a kid that is very relatable in that sense, having lived a rough life on Earth, only to have to re-learn himself while on the way to another planet.
Babel might have all the keys, but they don’t know what they’re keeping in the cage.
My only real issue with the novel, was the final big romance (don’t worry, I won’t spoil that for you!). The problem I had with it in general wasn’t so much that it felt rushed or that it came out of nowhere. Because let’s be honest—we’re talking about teenagers cooped up in a spaceship with limited access to…anything. Rushed relationships are par for the course. I personally felt as though the relationship didn’t feel genuine in the way that previous relationships had. Other connections made during the trip to Eden felt more real, and had a rawness to them that made me think of my own friends and enemies and how those are being paralleled in Nyxia. Luckily, this is only the first novel in the series, and I have high hopes that Reintgen will take the already formed relationships and change them in unexpected ways.
The most impactful facet of this navel wasn’t the characters, or the plot, or the sheer badass-ness of nyxia. The true gem was the writing. The sentence structure, the word usage, theming, weaving of elements you might not think would fit in that specific kind of scene, and pure emotion that radiates off the page. Reintgen, with his background in English and Creative Writing, it’s no surprise that he was able to shape everyday words from the English language into such beautiful lines of prose. Many authors can create a compelling story, and many authors can weave individual words into a structure that sounds beautiful. But few authors have the true gift of creating a compelling story, weaving the words together beautifully, and infusing each line with a specific emotion befitting the scene. Reintgen has done that, and more.
Nyxia was a breath-taking emotional rollercoaster. The peaks had me shaking with laughter, the valleys had me dripping tears on the pages, and the twists had me reading as fast as possible to find out what happens next (but not so fast as to miss anything important, of course). Page after page, I was constantly left wanting to know more. Then I got to the end. And let me say, what an ending. Unexpected and heart wrenching, I literally read the last couple chapters with my mouth hanging open. My husband even stopped to see if I was okay. A cliffhanger, yes. But one that promises more exciting layers of this story and still provides a sense of satisfaction that part one is complete. Part two cannot come out soon enough.
Unlearn your idea of impossible.