When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.
For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Mia and Jules’ different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.
In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race’s secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race…
Unearthed brings an interesting concept to life: looking back at history in the future. While it takes place in a sci-fi setting where humans have found access to Gaia, a planet that seems almost habitable for our species, much of the narrative is done thinking about the past. It pairs up an unlikely duo – an archaeologist and a scavenger – in a nonstop adventure that continues from beginning to end of the book. Readers looking for action and adventure, get on this story. And readers who want something for substantial, perhaps save this one for a day when you want something light.
The thing about this book is that it’s a lot of action for fun times and adrenaline rushes, but there is not much of the plot. We’re far in the future and the International Alliance – composed of politicians that came together and enforce a certain hegemony over space travel and the industry at large in the world – has received instructions from an alien species, the Undying, about their secrets. What are their secrets? Perhaps it is valuable technology, like the raider Mia needs to sell in order to save her sister. Perhaps it is the entrance to the secrets of survival, as the intellectual Oxford-man Jules wants to discover. This is the question that hangs over readers throughout the book. It’s constantly in the background – this one piece of puzzle – and does not get resolved until well into the conclusion of the story.
This book felt like one large obstacle course that kept on going, with mercenary conflict mixed in-between as boss points. Jules and Mia pass through checkpoints in their adventure and have to unlock puzzles to stay alive and continue forward. I can easily imagine it as a video game. As a book, however, the lack of substance in actual story (in contrast to the action-based plot) makes it tiresome. Especially when the characters ask the same questions over and over again without headway.
“They forget to see the stars, as humanity once did, as we all used to do when we were children. When we learned about other stories and cultures for the sake of doing so, for how those revelations changed us, what made us. Gaia is the chance to learn on a scale we’ve never imagined before, and instead we’ve become traitors and thieves.”
There was a pretty good exploration of character and motivation in Unearthed. Mia and Jules are on opposite sides of the tracks. She dropped out of school, he grew up in a college-area. She wants to take the alien’s technology, he wants to study them. She thinks he’s privileged and naive, he thinks she’s desecrating artifacts and is too desperate. Despite these differences, they manage to make a smart and efficient team. It was great seeing their trust in each other and having their prejudices fall away when they discover more things about the other. Mia is more action-prone, quick on her feet, and has great survival instincts. Jules is a hard worker and passionate, biracial scholar but new at this whole adventure aspect. I thought they were pretty great characters.
“I ought to resent everything she’s done, and everything she’ll do, if we escape this place. But just like the left-behind histories we uncover – hers in ruined buildings, mine in vanished civilizations – our own story is more complicated than one simple truth.”
The focus is mainly on these two characters. There are mercenaries that come into play, especially for plot and conflict reasons, but don’t make a lasting imprint. It’s reminiscent to Spooner and Kaufman’s previous trilogy’s first book, These Broken Stars, since the secrets are discovered by two characters working together.
The romance began on hormone-charged attraction at first (which, I found very funny to see both characters remark on) to something more substantial as Jule and Mia’s journey brings them together. It’s pretty good though for the most part. There are a lot of “being in this situation brings out the sensitive parts of us” scenes that end up in unexpected honesty, but that is to be expected in this one large obstacle course of a book. Quite light, and not that big of an emphasis. It’s a very “at this moment, at this point in time, we feel this camaraderie” type of feeling.
“Together, we’re something more than we are apart, something more than I’ve ever been before.”
I liked Unearthed! I thought it was very exciting and action-packed. However, I do feel like the lack of headway in storyline and exploration regarding the world make it a bit superficial. Like I said before, great for adventure-loving spirits but perhaps a skip for readers who become impatient with too much adventure and not enough discovery. The introspection on what it means to find an ancient civilization is well-thought out, and the sci-fi bits are ultimately quite light. There is a cliffhanger for book 2, and I’ll definitely be picking it up to find out more about the world. Two words that I would describe this book with are fun and charming – it’s here for a good time, but not necessarily a long time.
Thank you Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for the review copy!