I swallow hard, gritting my teeth. Millions of light-years from home, standing on the surface of an alien planet, it never truly hit me until now that the biggest thing I’d have to fear would be another human being.
Mia is alone on Gaia, a planet far from Earth. Her goal is to scavenge as much alien tech as she can to earn not just her backer’s approval but something far more important – enough money to buy her little sister’s freedom. Jules Addison is on Gaia too, but his goal is far more important, he thinks. He wants to study the long extinct alien civilisation who once lived here – in the hopes that what he learns might save humanity, and his father’s reputation. With very differing aims, neither is impressed when they meet – but it fast becomes apparent that they need each other if they are to survive the planet, let alone meet their personal goals.
Unearthed is a young adult space-opera blending sci-fi with action, romance and tomb-raiding scenes reminiscent of Indiana Jones, where the pair must cooperate to navigate action puzzles to stay alive and continue their quest.
The dual narrative allows readers to connect with the two main characters and to understand both their motivations and their back stories. Both are likeably flawed and although the story is slow in patches, it is increasingly absorbing, and readers will be left keen to read the sequel and find out what happens to Mia and Jules.
Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Allen & Unwin, 2018
Sometimes bees get too big to be up in the branches. Sometimes they fall and break their bones. This week both happened, and foreman said, ‘Tomorrow we’ll find two new bees.”
With real bees extinct, Peony wants nothing more than to be one of the human bees – children who climb the trees in the orchard and pollinate the flowers by hand, so that the rich people in the city can eat fruit. It’s not an easy life, scratching out a living on the farm, with her sister and grandfather, but at least the foreman makes sure they have food, and Gramps makes sure they have love. But Peony’s ma wants her to come and live in the city, and won’t take no for an answer.
How to Bee is a moving novel set in a dystopian near-future of haves and have-nots impacted by the extinction of bees and other changes. Peony is feisty, an intriguing blend of innocence and worldliness. Good-hearted, she is torn by loyalty to her mother and the new friend she makes in the city, and her love of the rest of her family and of life in the country.
The premise is both intriguing and important – with the world’s bees declining in numbers – and readers will cheer for Peony as she makes her way through some really difficult times, helping others along the way.
How to Bee, by Bren MacDibble
Allen & Unwin, 2017
The girl knew she was going to die. Her heart thumped. Mouth dry, throat tight, she could barely breathe. She looked at the madman with the gun, who’d trapped her, on top of a train hurtling through the night. There was no way she could get out of this alive.
When a mysterious sponsor calls for entries from young people worldwide to have the chance to see their ambitions realised, entries come from everywhere. But there can only be seven winners – and Yasmin, Isabel, Andy, Dylan, J.J., Zander and Mila are all delighted to be the winners of the DARE awards. Each is from a different continent, and each has a very different dream, but together they will find out just what it means to be a DARE winner.
But none of them is prepare for what happens when they start receiving strange texts. None of them know what the symbols they receive mean, but it soon becomes apparent that they are being targeted to try to unravel a mystery which, if they can’t solve it, will have catastrophic consequences – not just for them, but for the whole world.
Skyfire is the first in the new series for young readers.Filled with action and mystery, there is lots to love, though the need to set up the cast and premise slows it down a little.
Set in a near-future world, adventure fans will eagerly await the next installment.
Skyfire, by Michael Adams