Book Review: Unearthed is Exceptional…But…
Sometimes, reading a really good book is like running my palm along the smooth side of a long sword…with my fingers curled around its very sharp blade. Being entranced by the flow of good prose or the seamlessness of a smart plot is like feeling the evenness of cold metal, but as a writer, I inevitably compare my skills to the writers of such good books and feel that I’ll never write that good, thus the cutting feeling. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner are two such writers, and their soon-to-be-released book Unearthed is one such book. It was phenomenally good, which left me feeling both elated and a little disheartened. But you will love it.
From Amazon: 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.
Why You’ll Like It
This book is, to some extent, reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with a young archaeologist having to find a very ancient, long-abandoned temple in the middle of a desert, interpret the glyphs etched therein, and survive the puzzles that the creators of the temple left behind to prevent anyone unworthy from reaching its center. There’s even an encounter with an “alien” race and a giant artifact. If Unearthed doesn’t get made into a movie–a better version of Temple of Doom–I will give up on any hope I ever had of Hollywood having good sense.
It’s phenomenal, for one, because of the premise. The Earth is dying, Amelia is on Gaia to scavenge something from one of the Undying’s temples to take back to Earth and sell so that she can get her 14-year-old sister out of bondage, since they’re parentless and Amelia had to become part of a scavenger group in order to provide the necessities of life for them. Jules is there because it was his father who originally decrypted the message sent from the Undying to Earth, then seemed to go crazy on live television saying that there was a hidden message that showed the Undying to be not as benevolent as they seemed. Jules wants to prove that his father wasn’t crazy by discovering proof of whatever the Undying’s true motive might be. Her goals are the opposite of his, but they have to unite against a common enemy to survive. In uniting, they eventually discover that they like each other…alot, but their goals can’t change.
Which leads me to the second reason I really liked this book: the main characters. The juxtaposition of Jules, a genius British teenage archaeologist, and Amelia, a street-smart American teenager, makes for many funny, “spicy” moments. There’s this paragraph, spoken by Jules, for example:
“The Undying certainly knew how to roll out the welcome mat,” I manage, meeting her gaze. She’s as rattled as me, and I know that endless fall will be flashing behind her eyelids as she tries to sleep tonight–just as it will behind mine. Assuming we survive until bedtime. “If this is the welcome mat, I’d hate to see their ‘do not disturb’,” she manages, with a weak laugh.
Or this sentence, spoken by Amelia:
A cliff like this has got to look like death on a tea sandwich to someone like him.
Because of the premise, there aren’t alot of other characters that come into play until just before halfway through the book, and even then, they aren’t very well-developed, but Amelia and Jules’ banter and bickering is plenty entertaining.
And the fact that the plot depends so much on the actions, feelings, and reactions of these two characters makes the fact that it is so awesome that much more amazing. What I mean by that is you wouldn’t think that it would allow for too many plot twists, but it does. In fact, there are several insane twists that I was totally shocked by, but in retrospect, realized that they had been well-built-up to, oftentimes quite surreptitiously. Well done, Amie and Meagan, well done.
I do have to say, in the spirit of a nutrition facts label, that there was a lot of swearing (primarily on Amelia’s part). I lost track after 54 swear words, which happened probably around two-thirds of the way through the book. And I didn’t like the cover, but that’s just me.
All this being said, keep in mind that the ending is a HUGE cliffhanger, one of the biggest I’ve ever read. I hate cliffhangers with a passion, mind you, because I think they’re unfair to the readers and manipulation on the part of the publishers, but I will be waiting on pins and needles for the sequel to this.
I asked for this book through NetGalley because I’d read Amie and Meagan’s Starbound Trilogy, which I reviewed here and which is also very good, and Amie’s Illuminae, a YA sci-fi horror-ish graphic novel (graphic in the sense that it’s told with visuals as well as text). I knew going on that they’re writing was going to be good, but I think they’ve outdone themselves this time. So, off I go back to further revise my second manuscript and study the craft so that I can one day publish a book as good as this.
If you go to AmieKaufman.com/preorder, you can preorder the book (it comes out in January) and be entered to win some really cool stuff, like your name in the sequel to the book. On her site, she does say that the book is being made into a movie so whew!