For Disney’s Hyperion book imprint, 2018 begins with a look to the future with a novel called Unearthed. Written by co-authors Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner, this teen fiction has a great premise and is full of twists and turns. Initially described to me as Star Wars meets Indiana Jones, I wasn’t sure if I would appreciate such a drastic collision of worlds. I was wrong.
Unearthed takes place far in the future and while it doesn’t go into details about what happened, it’s clear that mankind has not only destroyed the environment, but also used up pretty much all of our energy supplies. The population has gotten so out of control that the government limits the number of kids a couple can have, particularly in large countries like the U.S.A. And as for government, all people of earth are under the leadership of the International Alliance.
Several decades before the story starts, earth received a transmission from a planet in Alpha Centauri called Gaia from a race that called themselves the “Undying.” It was sent hundreds of thousands of years ago, before mankind had evolved beyond cave dwellings, and was sent in mathematical code. The IA has since deployed a few research missions to Gaia and even brought back some advanced alien technology, which is being used to power large cities like L.A.
Amelia is the main character, a sixteen year old girl from Chicago who is desperate to free her contraband younger sister from the forced slavery she’s been placed in, which is what the International Alliance does to punish families who outgrew their regulatory limits. Mia has turned to scavenging, finding items of value in ruins all over her city in an effort to buy back her sister. And when an offer to scavenge the ancient temples on Gaia offers itself to her, she can’t pass up such a lucrative prospect.
It’s actually unfair to call Amelia the main character because there’s also Jules, a prep school boy from Oxford whose just a few years older than her. Each chapter bounces back and forth between their points of view, an interesting storytelling device that gives readers two sides to this interesting story. Jules’ father was an archeologist who claimed there was a secret secondary code in the Undying’s final transmission, a plea for help to the cosmos, that actually warned humans that exploring their home world would prove fatal. That code also included the equation for a nautilus cone (and Jules’ uncommon name is the same as the author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne).
Mia has been exploring random temples on Gaia, mostly following other scavengers, but when Jules lands practically in her lap and can’t find the educated party he intended to meet up with, she joins him to an as yet undiscovered temple that he believed the secondary code was talking about. Once inside, they will have to navigate through perilous tests of might and mind, all while dodging a ruthless team who expects treasure awaiting the hidden temple. But what Mia and Jules discover is beyond what either of them could have imagined.
Unearthed takes so many left turns and it wasn’t until the cliffhanger ending that I looked more into it, discovering that it is the first of two planned books. At various times, I was on the edge of my seat, unable to put it down. It’s no surprise that Hollywood has already made note of this fun read, with a studio and director already attached for a possible film adaptation. If you’re looking for an exciting read to kickstart the new year, look no further than Unearthed.