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“The ultimate weapon. The ultimate prize. Winner takes all.” So says the tagline for Nyxia, the first novel in a three-part young adult series by Scott Reintgen. With the second installment in the series, Nyxia Unleashed, about to hit bookshelves, we’re taking the time to catch readers new and old up on what went down in The Nyxiad Triad‘s riveting debut.
In the world of The Nyxiad Triad, teenagers are gathered from around the world to compete for a chance to mine an incredible resource on an alien world. The corporation funding this operation, Babel Communications, dangles quite the tantalizing prize in front of them: For the cost of working for a short time and being away from home for a couple years, these kids and their families will be set financially—around $50 thousand a month for life. Of course, there are a few catches, and not all is as it seems aboard Babel’s ship Genesis 11.
Emmett is the lens through which this story is told. He’s a bright young man from Detroit who is tempted by the monetary compensation Babel offers. His mother is chronically ill. With the money, he can provide a better life for his family. Emmett also seeks to validate the family name. He carries with himself a token from their past: a key made to open the chains of a former slave ancestor. With this opportunity, he hopes to have a success story as his legacy.
Babel Communications brings together kids from many different walks of life: Emmett is from Detroit, Michigan. Bilal is from Palestine, Kaya and Katsu from Japan, Jasmin from Tennessee, Azima from Kenya, Jaime from Switzerland, Isadora from Brazil, Longwei from China, and Roathy from the Triarch Empire. Thanks to Babel’s nyxia-enabled technology, they can all easily converse with each other.
Emmett explained early in the book about the origin of the name Babel: “I don’t know much about the Bible, but I do remember the story of Babel. I always thought it was weird. God scatters the people and gives them different languages. Babel Communications has gathered the peoples of Earth and reversed it. There’s something sacred to our easy, borderless conversation. Either something sacred or something forbidden.”
There’s definitely some Biblical allusions in the book. Babel Communications is the most obvious metaphor. They provide the international crew and contestants with devices so they can easily understand each other, completely antithesis to the Tower of Babel story. And of course, the end goal is to reach Eden, the planet which contains the only known source of nyxia.
Nyxia is a well composed novel, easily accessible to casual readers as it is quick-paced and packed with action, but also conscious of the classic science fiction lover. There’s not a lot of heavy descriptions here, and in fact sometimes I think we miss a line or two of needed description as I had to go back at least twice to re-read a paragraph and see whom I missed entering a room or joining a fight.
This is a large cast of characters, who we only meet more of during the journey to Eden, but Reintgen does an admirable job giving our characters easily identifiable character traits, so they were no longer just names on a page but people with complicated lives. As Emmett grows close to the ever-friendly Bilal and the adventurous Kaya, we also grow close to them.
At the center of this story is nyxia. Nyxia is without a specific form, resembling a black stone until someone forces their will to shape it. Nyxia is an impressive, powerful and dangerous tool. During the story, it is used to make translation gear, form deadly weapons, and shaped into any number of obstacles or whatever the situation requires. It’s almost too powerful, the Mary Sue of tools, and so it needs some boundaries to make it somewhat believable. For one, it can’t be transformed into water. And also, the nyxia is limited by the strength of its user. If someone is not ready to manipulate nyxia, they are in peril of being manipulated themselves.
There’s a couple instances in which we see how dangerous the nyxia can be. In one quick scene, the kids are given the task to manipulate larger and larger pieces of the material until they collapse. Emmett prides himself on getting further along than a competitor until it’s his turn to feel the negative effects.
“Pride comes before the fall…” Emmett describes, echoing another Biblical sentiment. “Something outside me pushes its way in. Claws explore the deepest places, touch the parts of me I will never see. In that impossible dark, I see a face…”
Nyxia is described as having an inner pulse, an alluring temptation. In this instance, it is personified and we truly see it as more than a sculpting material to be used by a powerful will. Sometimes, it forces its will right back. It’s a bit nightmarish, and makes me wonder if we’ll be exploring the substance’s hidden personality in the next volume Nyxia Unleashed.
To me, nyxia represents temptation. It’s raw, unchecked power and the greed of Babel Communications (and the greed they in turn inspire in these teens) is what forces some truly awful consequences.
Three quarters of the way through the book, the stakes for the kids aboard Genesis 11 change drastically. It wouldn’t be fair to spoil that here. Just know that, around this point in the book, Emmett has every reason to be very suspicious of Babel’s motives and methods.
The story takes us through some significant twists. It goes from a simple competition to a dark world of corruption and mistrust. We see characters like Jaime and Roathy and Isadora change greatly over the course of the story, for better or worse. The antagonists are not always clear-cut. The only truth is that there is always something underneath it all, like the mysterious force that exists within the nyxia itself.
Nyxia works for me because it doesn’t talk down to its readers. It is aware that teens live complicated lives, are insightful and aware of their surroundings, and can fall victim to the vices of greed and avarice just like adults. Best yet, our main guy Emmett is not always the best person. He tries to be, but he has some moments in which he describes himself as a destructive black hole. He knows he is capable of great harm if he lets loose, but he tries desperately to keep that in check.
Mistakes are made. Promises are broken. The pursuit of this seemingly magical nyxia is at the center of it all, but to what lengths is this group of teens willing to go in order to get the payday of their dreams? You’ll have to check out the book to find out. With the next installment about to drop, it’s the perfect time to dive into The Nyxia Triad.
The second book in the Nyxia Triad series, Nyxia Unleashed, will be published July 17, 2018.