Aria lives in the enclosed pod city of Reverie. After an apocalyptic event that destroyed most of civilisation as we know it now, these pod-type cities are one of the only ways to survive. Everything is enclosed and everything is grey. Most of the residents spend their time in the Realms, virtual spaces and worlds that can represent anything – any period of history from the past, any outdoor environment. They don’t need to set foot outside anymore. Very few citizens work, everyone is entitled to the same rations, housing arrangements and plain grey clothes.
For a while now, the Realms have been Aria’s only way of communication with her mother, a scientist, who is researching in a different city. When the link to that pod city goes down, Aria is desperate to find out if her mother is still okay, desperate enough to get mixed up in a crazy stunt with the son of the Director of Security. When that goes horribly wrong with only her frame of events against his, Aria finds herself kicked out of the pod, dumped ceremoniously outside into what is known as the Death Shop.
The Death Shop. Called that because there are a million ways to die. As a citizen of Reverie, Aria isn’t equipped for life outside of the Pod, especially without provisions, the means to defend herself or adequate clothing. Luckily for her, her path crosses with an Outsider, a boy named Perry who is well skilled in ways of survival in the harsh lands. He’s the younger brother of his tribe’s Blood Lord (leader) and he and Aria need each other for the moment. Aria has what he wants, what will enable him leverage to get something he wants back from the people of Reverie. And Aria needs Perry just to simply survive and to try and find out what has happened to her mother.
Forced into a convenient alliance, as Perry and Aria travel their way through the Death Shop to people that can help them, the wary acceptance of each other’s existence is changing into something else. At first they needed each other to get things done. But after a while it might just be that they need each other full stop.
I was impressed with Under The Never Sky. It starts off with Aria doing something silly, but something that all teenagers might have done in her situation, or any number others. Her punishment for such an action is extreme so you’re immediately on her side and want her to triumph over adversity. She’s a bit whiny in the beginning, but that’s also understandable, because she’s spent her entire life in what is basically a giant eggshell plugged into a virtual reality device that lets her go anywhere and do anything without actually having to you know, go anywhere or do anything. She’s totally unprepared to be kicked out into a life outside the Dome city and should probably have died during the first 24 hours if it wasn’t for Perry.
Perry is carrying around a lot of anger and some guilt as well. As the younger brother of the Blood Lord of his tribe, he and his brother haven’t exactly been seeing eye to eye lately. His brother recently lost his wife and his son, Perry’s nephew is the only reason that Perry has been biting his tongue, reining in his temper and not challenging his brother. Now he’s carrying a grudge against Aria’s people but he also needs her to be able to get what he wants, which makes him resentful.
Aria and Perry are great characters, separately and together, but I think their interactions with each other and the way that they each grow and change over the course of the novel (especially Aria) is where they shine. When Aria is first dumped into the Death Shop she’s convinced she will die, she has no idea how to survive or even how to defend herself from anything. She doesn’t know what is safe to eat, where she will find shelter, how to avoid possible threats. Over the course of their journey, she learns from Perry, even when she is not really aware that she is doing it. She is learning that the Outsiders are not savages, even if their lives are very different to the life that Aria has been living up until now. She changes over their journey – she stops whining that she’s going to die, she stops whining about finding out what happened to her mother and she starts to accept that she can and will survive and that she will find out what happened to her mother, if she’s okay. She becomes the sort of character who can now think and act for herself, out of the confines of an environment where she never needed to do either.
There were a lot of aspects about the story line that interested me and thankfully this book gave me information! I know what caused a lot of the cities to be destroyed (although not why it started) and I know why what happened in the beginning of the novel, happened. I love a book that sets up questions for the reader and then gives answers that trickle in over the course of the book. Given there will be more novels,I know there is more left to learn about the world that has been created here but so far I’m not left scratching my head and going ‘but why did this happen? there’s no logical reason for this’ (yes Wither, I’m looking at you). There are some excellent supporting characters and Rossi has given us several very different environments/worlds within the entire world she has created which is awesome. The section where Perry and Aria are at the Delphi was very enjoyable – perhaps my favourite part in the whole book.
A very promising debut novel and first volume in a trilogy. I’m looking forward to the next book but I’m sure it’s going to be a long wait.
Book #2 of 2012