I enjoyed the previous series by these two authors and this new duologyu follows the formula of a teen aged pair in a sci fi setting and their two perspectives. In this case, we have an uptight English scholar and a Chicago street scavenger thrown together on an unexplored planet. Since I had to opportunity to listen to the Audible versions of both books in the series at the same time, this review will have a larger perspective than just a single book.
Story: Jules’s father was one of a select group of experts on the Undying race of aliens. He was among the originals who decoded their message and gave the coordinates of a new world to explore, Gaia. There the IA (the Earth-wide police) found technology that could save a dying Earth. But Jules’ father found a second message hidden among the first that was a warning – a warning no one wants to hear with the lure of Earth-saving technology on the line. When his father is imprisoned for telling the truth, Jules secretly travels to the Undying planet Gaia. The Undying are not there – only ruins are left and the IA has restricted all ships going there. But scavengers are sneaking in – and on one of these ships is a hidden stowaway Mia, there to find enough contraband tech to sell up and save her sister. Jules and Mia meet and must depend on each other to survive. But each is keeping secrets.
I have to believe that Kaufman and Spooner were directed by their publisher to ‘dumb down’ the books even further from the Starbound Series. Plot points are continually repeated to make sure everyone is on the same board; e.g., after the 40th time a character named Mink is brought into a conversation, you’ll get a whole paragraph remind you of her connection to the characters. It got VERY tedious after awhile. The plot itself is risible. I could suspend disbelief somewhat on the Starbound Series but it is REALLY hard here. The aliens are cliched, the ruins generic, the whole ‘Indiana Jones trap aspects REALLY inexplicable for a technologically superior race, and the reason the undying reached out to humans comical. My eyes hurt from rolling so much throughout.
Jules and Mia’s luck is, of course, tantamount to their escapes. I wish it was because of intellect but it is clear the authors wanted to balance Mia’s survival skills with Jules’ book learning by ensuring they solved all the riddles together. But really, when you think about it for just a minute, the ludicrous nature and reasoning of those riddles become hard to surmount. Especially since the scavengers following them were able to do so easily since all the traps were sprung. Why bother with the traps in the first place since any alien species finding it could set off the traps in advance and then just walk through.
The characters are uber likable and that is the heart of the book. You’ll really like Jules and Mia and want to follow them through their travails. And in liking them, you’ll probably look over the complete silliness that is the plot. There is a lot of mystery in the beginning but the reveals throughout were underwhelming and further highlighted the problematic nature of the plotting.
This first book takes place fully on the forbidden planet Gaia. Much of it involves running from other scavengers, which includes being forced into a temple and having to solve its riddles in order to move forward. Jules is the only person on the planet who can read the Undying Glyphs and Mia has the common sense to see what Jules overlooks. The next book has a complete tone shift and takes place on Earth.
In all, it is a nice Summer read if you don’t look too closely at the plot. This first book was much better and more tightly written. It all begins to fall apart quite a bit with the second book. I listened to the Audible version and it was ok – I couldn’t help but feel there were too many accents for the narrators to deal with and so it could be frustrating at times.