Title: Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: May 2019
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Young Adult #loveozya
From the New York Times and internationally bestselling authors of The Illuminae Files comes a new science fiction epic . . .
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 tech-whiz 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.
Aurora Rising was easily one of my most anticipated 2019 releases and it didn’t disappoint.
Set a few hundred years in the future, when humans have left Earth and established relationships (and enemies) with other sentient life out in the galaxy, this is a young adult sci-fi story about a team of potentially-misfit characters thrown together when they would otherwise have been content to ignore each other. The characters are the graduating class of the Aurora Academy – a peacekeeping effort – and star pupil, Tyler, loses his chance to pick the best-of-the-best when he ends up saving the life of the mysterious Aurora O’Malley, a girl out of time. The mismatched crew of Squad 312 have to learn how to deal with everyone’s idiosyncrasies… and save the universe at the same time.
The first point I have to make is that this is clearly the first book in a series and there’s a lot of set-up. The book itself is really a study in character dynamics rather than something determined to ground itself in its’ plot. Which is not a bad thing by any means – I love a good ‘character’ story and the characters in Aurora Rising are great. Yes, the fit into various stereotypes, but in a way that makes them all the more engaging when they suddenly being to display behaviours and traits outside of what you expect of them. I love the Amie and Jay created roles for within the squads – diplomats, pilots, commanders, scientists, warriors and techs; you’ve got a compliment of skill sets required to operate in space. I also appreciated that we spent some time with each of the characters (although given that we have seven main characters it’s hard to say that we spent enough time with everyone).
If I had to pick a favourite, Finian is easily my favourite of the characters – a Betraskan who relies on a metal exoskeleton after suffering a debilitating disease as a child, he’s snarky and sarcastic and kind of adorable when you realise how much he’s deflecting just about everything. He says everything like it is, and pretty much all his scenes made me laugh out loud. My least favourite character was probably Aurora, if only because she doesn’t easily break out of the trope mould that she’s been slotted into, but hopefully in later books this will be rectified.
The setting was both familiar and not – the wonderful thing about science-fiction set in outer space is that you will always recognise elements, but with good enough world building you’ll find yourself in a completely new sort of outer space, and Amie and Jay did that brilliantly. While not set on (or near) Earth, we get enough hints that something’s not quite right with the home system that I’m very eager to see what happens next.
Overall, Aurora Rising is a set-up book, and a good one. It doesn’t quite live up to The Illuminae Files – but let’s be honest, that’s kind of hard to top and in many ways the two shouldn’t be compared beyond being penned by the same duo. I’m looking forward to seeing what Amie and Jay have in store for Squad 312 and the perils they’ll face.