AURORA RISING | Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series: The Aurora Cycle (Book 1)
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
“The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering
And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.”
I hadn’t really thought much about Aurora Rising until I looked at a list of upcoming May releases back in April and saw that this book was written by Kaufman and Kristoff. Since I’m a massive fan of the Illuminae files, I figured that trying another series written by the fantastic author duo wouldn’t be too bad an idea. And I wasn’t wrong! Aurora Rising was the stellar YA sci-fi I needed in my life right now.
Kaufman and Kristoff deliver once more with a wild ride of a sci-fi helmed by a ragtag band of space cadets who just kind of find themselves in a huge situation reaching galactic proportions. This book is action-packed from the very first edge-of-your-seat opening sequence. And we are kept further entertained by the characters and their hilarious banter with one another.
The world-building is done quite well, though it gets a bit lost under the characters and the mystery surrounding their impromptu mission to save the galaxy.
The story is told through multiple POVs (seven to be exact, eight including Magellan, the AI), and these varied narratives give the plot a multidimensional property, keeping the story from feeling too unoriginal. However, the downside of having so many POVs is that not all characters may be fully fleshed out. And to be truthful, there was only one character whose POV felt fully realized and it was not Aurora.
Tyler is a regular Captain Kirk with golden looks, perfect grades, and excessive luck. His sister Scarlett is a six-foot, smooth-talking beauty that can flirt her way out of and into any situation. Kal is an elfin-like alien with a conflicting sense of duty, impressive combat skills, and a soft side. Zila is an incredibly clever scientist who lacks the ability to connect on a social or intimate level (and who might be autistic or sociopathic, though this is not made clear which of these conditions might be correct). Cat is an extremely skilled pilot and is best friends with both Scarlett and Tyler. Auri is the girl out of time who holds a great power within her (The Chosen One).
And then there is Fin, the most well-developed member in the group, mostly because he seems to carry the most personality and personal story out of all the crew. And not only that, he is the most diverse character, not counting his being an alien. He is both bisexual and disabled but his profile is not reduced to those two aspects of his self. He is also intelligent, sarcastic, quick-witted, humorous, obnoxious, guarded, filled with jokes, and a plethora of other quirks and qualities that make him an easy favorite.
Besides Fin, the narratives of each character are fairly limited. Their backstory is hardly given much attention and their stories barely go beyond their talents and the roles that they serve within their crew. Because of this, the romantic subplots appear superfluous. One relationship, in particular, did not work for me at all, and it was unfortunate that their connection played such a large part in the overall plot. I honestly couldn’t care less for their romantic squabbles and frustrations. Why can’t friends just be friends?
Also, even though there is some bi representation, the authors somehow managed to set up only heterosexual pairings despite the possibilities. And they have every right to do so, but still it’s a disappointment to see the potential for a more robust and inclusive story only to have it return to something far more familiar but also a bit old and tired.
I know it sounds like I’m complaining about several things, but these are just elements that I noticed that appeared weaker than the rest of the parts that make up this story. Despite my qualms, I can’t say that I didn’t love this book. It’s a fun, thrilling adventure that is a mixture of YA tropes and sci-fi plotlines such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Voltron, Annihilation, and so many others that are familiar and consistently enjoyable even after all these years.There is room for improvement in the character department, but the action and humor and heart is there. And the non-stop action is a definite plus. So there is much to look forward to in the next installment!