BEA gave me the opportunity to meet so many amazing authors, and one of my favorites was Nick James. I actually encountered him more than once, and I am so glad I got the chance to connect with him, because his book was amazing. In short, Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars was a wonderfully fun, creative science fiction voyage with strong dystopian undertones, and even better, was a book I ate up like the delicious treat that it was.
The world has been destroyed by an epic bombing. America is a wasteland, dry and hot. The only civilizations that have survived on the ground are select cities surrounded by bio-nets which regulate the temperature, cramming people inside them in an alarming amount. However, even though everyone is packed into the nets like sardines, there are many many more who were left out in the fringes of society to suffer and try to survive in the unforgiving wasteland.
Right before the bombing occurred, the government was working on creating giant space ships that float in the sky high above the ground, and after the devastation they were commandeered by rebels of the government, those who didn’t agree with the way things were being handled. That brings us to the present time in the book, where these two separate yet similar societies are constantly interacting, even though they can’t really stand each other. Why? It all comes down to the pearls.
Pearls are bright green, crystal-ball-sized orbs that fall from space and are filled with so much raw energy that one of them can fuel the bio-nets or skyships for months. They land on the ground, so technically the Shippers aren’t allowed down there to gather them—but that doesn’t mean they don’t! It is always a race against time for the two different groups to gather the pearls and therefore the power to survive. The main characters, Jesse from Skyship Academy, and Cassius from Earth, first encounter each other on a race for a pearl that landed in Syracuse, New York, a fringe town. Something happens between them, something unexplained, intertwining their lives in ways they never imagined.
The book alternates between the points of view of Cassius and Jesse, but what made that interesting is that the tenses also changed. Cassius is in third person past tense, while Jesse is in first person present. For the first few changes every time it went back to first person present it jarred me a bit, but I think that was only because first person present isn’t as common (though is becoming more so). However, towards the end, once the book became all action, going into first person present felt wonderful, and it made those scenes more exciting. I think it was a good way to alternate character voices.
This book was a blast for me to read. I loved the story, which stayed interesting between the characters’ histories, the history of the world and why it was the way it was, and the immediate plot-driving focus on figuring out what is going on between the two main characters. Though having a sci-fi feel, it stays on earth, and since I have a harder time getting into the really technical sci-fi, I enjoyed this aspect.
I think anyone who enjoys YA and sci-fi will enjoy this book. It was well-written, the story is unique and has great pacing, and while the world is something a little different, at its core it is wonderfully character driven. I’d definitely keep your eyes peeled for Nick James in the future!