Rock the Boat | 2019 (7 May) | 480p | Review copy | Buy the book
It is 2380 and Tylor Jones is top cadet at the Aurora Academy. Training is over, crews are about to be formed, missions handed out – it’s time for the Draft, something that Tylor Jones has longed for. But he misses it. If only he hadn’t gone out for a joy ride into the Fold, the sub-space that enables impossibly fast travel between planets. If only he hadn’t have come across the distress signal from the Hadfield, a ship filled with sleeping colonists on their way to a distant planet. Except now they’re not sleeping, they’re dead and only one has survived – Aurora, a teenage girl who left Earth two centuries before and must now wake up lost into a world that is alien to her, with everyone she loved long dead.
Because of Aurora, Tylor misses the draft and comes back to the Academy only to be given the dregs for his crew that nobody else would pick. One of them appears to be a homicidal maniac, while another is an alien warrior with anger issues (and very attractive eyes). Then there’s Tylor’s twin sister who keeps calling him Bee-Bro. And then there are the others… Luckily, they’re given a mission that may well kill them before they can manage to kill themselves. Aurora isn’t going to be easy to shake off, either. But the mission sounded so simple, just to deliver relief aid to some refugees. Unfortunately, word is out of Aurora’s survival. People (and I use the word loosely) are after her.
I was so excited to read Aurora Rising! The Illuminae Files is, with no doubt, at all my favourite Young Adult trilogy, although I’d argue that it’s made to be loved by anyone of any age. And now we have the beginnings of a new trilogy. It is different as, I think, it had to be. It still features young adults in deadly peril in outer space but now we have a universe that is also populated by fascinating alien species who live alongside humans in varying degrees of harmony, although it is true to say that some species detest human beings and you have to watch out for those. There’s something of a Star Trek feel about Aurora Rising and I really liked that. This novel doesn’t have the epistolary structure and appearance of The Illuminae Files (and I couldn’t help but miss that at the beginning) and instead has a much more conventional structure but there is so much going on in this fantastic story of peril in space.
The premise is great! I love the idea of Aurora waking up after over two hundred years and finding herself in the centre of some terrible conspiracy that could have huge ramifications for all of life in space. This is exciting stuff and the action kicks off right at the very beginning in a fabulous first chapter and it doesn’t let up one little bit. But the stars of this novel are Tylor and his crew. Each is wonderfully distinct with a fantastic character of their own, a good mix of male, female and alien, and the interaction between them is brilliant. The chapters alternate between them. Some have a lot to say, others can barely spit out a coherent sentence, but we get to know them all and, as you’d expect, Tylor is just the man to turn a ragtag crew of dregs into a cohesive crew of dregs. There is sexual tension, plenty of sparks fly and a fair few fists, too. The dialogue is so funny. These characters shine. You’ll have fun getting to know them.
The world building is fabulous and the descriptions flood this universe with colour – except when travelling in the Fold, of course, when colour is lost. I loved the World Ship – a haven for outcasts – and a highlight is the absolutely ghastly great ultrasaur, surely the most disgusting creature in the entire universe.
This is great storytelling and, along with the humour, there is also emotion. Aurora is going through her own personal hell. There are some jaw dropping moments as the plot develops in its deliciously twisty way. Aurora Rising has it all – great story, characters and banter, some amusingly awkward relationships and lots and lots of thrills as well as a particularly nasty alien monster thing. Here we have the start of another great trilogy, which can be enjoyed by all ages, from this fantastic pair of writers. I can’t wait for book two and to get back into the Fold.