Whether Unearthed was a victim of poor timing or a bad decision to listen to the audiobook for a first listen, I could not dig into this space archaeology novel and that’s a damn shame.
Rating: 3 Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: January 9, 2018
Synopsis: 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…
I wanted to love this book. I wanted to love it so much. And I feel like I let it down.
On the surface, Unearthed has it all: a scrappy scavenger girl with a secret, a nerdy scholar boy WITH A SECRET, and archaeology…IN SPACE! It should have sent me all a flutter as I dove into it’s pages (metaphorically, cause I read it via audiobook), but even through the adventure and wickedly cool premise, I couldn’t help feeling completely disconnected from the story.
The story is told from two POVs, Mia (scrappy scavenger) and Jules (nerdy scholar), and that right off the bat is something that gave me a lot of issues. There is SO MUCH revisiting of info and world building. We get the story of the earth’s downfall twice. We get the story of the Undying’s message…twice. We get the story of Jules’ father’s breakdown TWICE. I don’t typically mind multi POV narratives, but usually they don’t retread info quite so much. It was really difficult especially when reading via audiobook because I kept thinking my app had malfunctioned and taken me back a chapter because I was getting info I already had.
Outside of POV issues, I thought the whole concept of the story was endlessly intriguing. The planet of Gaia was well built and provided a perfect landscape for the adventure and archaeology themes in the story. There is a good sense of tension and high stakes throughout. I did figure out the big twist way before the end, but I don’t mind this. If the author’s don’t leave clues along the way, it makes the twist seem unbelievable (and not in a good way). It was still a well executed twist that led perfectly into book 2.
I thought Mia and Jules were perfectly fine characters. I just didn’t have any strong feelings for them. They were fleshed out and not flat, but they never connected to me. One of the things that bugged me character wise about the audiobooks was the narrator for Jules. The narrator is Steve West, who I love deeply and kind of wish would always be talking into my ears, but he was the wrong choice for Jules. It bothers me because Jules is supposed to be this super nerdy, kinda awkward guy, and that is not what Steve West’s voice conveys at all. Also, as pointed out by my friend Rachael from rqdreads.com, Jules is black…also something Steve West is definitely not. It would have been better to have a narrator who fit the character. Then maybe it would have been easier to connect and understand the character.
I feel like I’m harping on the book a bit and honestly, a lot of my negative feelings for this read probably has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic that started getting escalated during the time I was reading this book. I missed a lot of story because I was glued to the news and freaking out over everything that was going on. And while I beleive that even on a perfectly normal day, I wouldn’t have completely fallen in love with this book, I still think I’ll enjoy it more when the world isn’t on fire.
This truly was a case of bad timing. A truthful “It’s mostly me, but it’s also a little bit you”. Unearthed has an intriguing premise that wavers a bit in execution, but is still well worth the read. Just…maybe don’t read it via audiobook the first time round. And maybe don’t read it during a global pandemic.