Published: December 2017 by Allen & Unwin
Format reviewed: Paperback, 331 pages
Series: Unearthed #1
Genres: Science fiction, YA romance, action adventure
Source: Harry Hartog
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018, Beat the Backlist
Available: Publisher (print only) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo
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…
Inspired by Lara Croft and Indiana Jones, Unearthed is a fun, action-packed adventure. It takes these adventuring archetypes, turns them into teenagers and puts them on a new planet, then adds a hefty dose of romance.
At first glance, the main characters are pretty stereotypical, but both are given a bit of a twist that brings more dimension to them. Mia is an experienced scavenger who has earned a living through pillaging abandoned cities on an Earth ravaged by climate change. She’s a street rat with limited education… and a passion and talent for mathematics. And while she’s all about the money, it’s really just a means to an unselfish end. Jules is the bookish one. He knows at least half a dozen language and not much about what it takes to survive in a hostile environment. However, he is somewhat athletic and even though he’s not exactly street smart, he’s not an idiot, either.
There is a strong focus on the relationship between these characters. They have competing agendas and aren’t exactly forthright with each other; trust is an issue that crops up multiple times. Some readers may feel their relationship develops a bit quickly, considering the entire book takes place over just a couple of days. However, I found it well paced in terms of the story’s arc. There are things that immediately attract them to each other, but it takes some time to overcome their distrust of each other. The process is helped along by the fact they must rely on each other to survive.
The story has a very visual style that plays out rather like a movie. There are some spectacular landscapes and the temple offers some interesting set pieces as the pair traverse the puzzle chambers.
While the book touches on a few issues–such as climate change, corruption and human greed–it’s not an overly deep book. It’s more of a fun, fast-paced thriller. And while most of the characters (even the minor ones) manage to avoid stereotypes, they don’t exactly surprise. Mia and Jules act pretty much as expected. The villains, both major and minor, are particularly flat. They receive little characterisation and mostly serve to add pressure to the situation.
However, overall I enjoyed Unearthed. Be warned: it ends on a terrible cliffhanger.