January 2, 2012 by Heidi
Author: Veronica Rossi [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Book 1 in a new series.
Genre: New/Young Adult, Sci Fi, Post Apocalyptic
Published: January 3rd, 2012 by HarperCollins
Format: Kindle edition; 384 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
Challenge: Debut author challenge.
Aria has spent her entire life in Reverie, a pod that has kept generations safe from the Aether storms that now ravage the skies. She passes the bulk of her time in the Realms, digital worlds that have been created to give Dwellers the illusion of space and opportunity in an enclosed environment. Lumina, Aria’s mother, has gone to research in another pod, Bliss, and Aria has lost contact with her. Concerned about the loss of the connection, Aria seeks out help from Soren, unleashing a chain of events that will result in her being dumped unceremoniously into the Death Shop.Perry has grown up in an Outsider tribe, the Tides, brother to the Blood Lord and uniquely attached to his nephew, Talon. Perry is concerned for the Tides, the Aether storms have been getting worse along with his people’s sickness and hunger as game disperses from the area. Perry is torn between the desire to challenge his brother for position as Blood Lord and a need to keep Talon safe by leaving the Tides. When Dwellers arrive to violently take from Perry what is most precious, he begins a journey that will entwine his immediate fate with Aria’s on a dangerous path to find and reclaim what belongs to them.
Before we get in to why this book was a fantastic representation of the dystopian genre, let’s air some of its dirty laundry. First off, let me just say, I’ve spent the bulk of my life as an Anglophile romanticizing life in the UK…then I saw the UK cover for Under the Never Sky and became overwhelmingly grateful that I live in the US. Seriously. If I had seen this cover first thing, I would not have read this book, especially not a hardcopy, and certainly not in public. I mean wow. Just wow. We’re talking Harlequin romance 80’s fantasy level of embarrassment here. Wow.
I do like the US cover quite a bit, despite another model that doesn’t necessarily describe the character perfectly…I’m just happy she’s not in a ball gown, and the colors are gorgeous. But! As they say, never judge a book by it’s cover (and none of us ever do that, right?), so it’s what’s inside that counts. The blurbs seem to stress that this is a love story, but Under the Never Sky has so much more to offer than just that. The world that Rossi builds for us is masterfully crafted and believable, and her characters are developed in a slow burning way that gives them immense depth and likability.The world created in the pods was to be one of enjoyment–as is reflected in their names like “Bliss” and “Reverie”. Society had genetically engineered out the bad, and kept only the good. People can, through the Realms, engage in behaviors from flying to sex with none of the risks or restrictions one would encounter in real life. They had to reside in a world of unity and peace because they had no other options. Forced to reside in the pods due to the Aether storms, it is easy to understand why scientists would work to dull those negative sensations in order to preserve humanity. It is also understandable that they would not immediately realize the repercussions of their actions.
No one had ever died of heartbreak in Reverie. Betrayal never led to murder. Those things didn’t happen anymore. They had the Realms now. They could experience anything without taking risks. Now, life was Better than Real.
Life on the outside has become one of survival, tribes dealing with life with the Aether and the genetic mutations that have rendered from it. Those who are Marked have received heightened senses as Auds, Scires, or Seers, who can hear, smell, or see more strongly than any average human being. This gives them strong advantages as hunters, but the disadvantage of knowing they are under constant judgement and observation from those around them. The two worlds collide through Aria and Perry, she considering him a brutal savage, and he considering her an ignorant mole. Bound together by a mutual need, Aria and Perry commence a journey, the results of which will leave them either satisfied or hopeless.
Aria is flat out awesomesause. She may be incredibly naive when it comes to life in the real, but it is clear that despite her coddling and genetically engineered physical advantages she’s not your average girl. She is incredibly strong willed, willing and able to learn, and she’s not whiney or mopey at all (hurray!). When Aria is faced with experiencing for the first time things we experience regularly, fear, pain, her mother trucking period, she could easily collapse into herself and become a weepy mess, but she doesn’t. She learns to accept and appreciate the changes in herself, and face her situation head on. I almost want to be annoyed with her because she’s almost too good and could use a flaw or two, but I just can’t, she’s wonderful.
Perry? Massive crush potential on my end. It’s the ruggedness and the crooked smile and his undeniable sense of right and good that makes him fairly irresistible. I grew up loving stories of survivors, and Native Americans, and Perry epitomizes both. Perry has lived his life doing what he has had to do for himself and those he loves, though he is certain that he has often chosen wrong. He buys into the belief that he is cursed and has destroyed his family, but yet he holds the confidence and skills to be a true leader.
Aria and Perry’s relationship isn’t one of those wrote ones where they are drawn to one another instantly or meant for each other, it is one built slowly and roughly on mutual respect and the knowledge that they are not the best option for one another. They are both incredibly intelligent, though in vastly different ways. Aria must learn to interpret Perry’s quiet actions as speech, and Perry must understand that though he has an uncanny ability to know what Aria is feeling, he cannot unfailingly interpret the reasons for these feelings.
My primary complaint about the story were the names. All Outsiders seem to have noun, nature names like Vale, Peregrine, Brooke, Rose, etc. while all Dwellers seem to be named for ideas, feelings, or fancies like Aria, Echo, or Paisley. The reality that I was supposed to root for a girl who sang well and happened to be named Aria made want to me throw up a little at first, but I did feel that Rossi managed to provide a good explanation/excuse for this reality:
It was genetics. Lumina loved opera, so she’d crafted Aria’s DNA with enhanced vocal traits to create a daughter who could sing to her. If it was a gift Aria had, then it was a gift Lumina had given to herself. Her own personal song bird, Lumina’s pet name for her. Aria had never seen any sense in her upgrade. No one sang outside of the Realms–at least Soren’s tan made him look good in the real–but that’s what she got for being a geneticist’s daughter.
Overall, Under the Never Sky was a wonderful way to start the year’s debuts!
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Absolutely! There is definitely more to the story, but I’m so grateful that Rossi left us with an ending that was neatly done. No massive cliffhanger, but I still cannot wait to see what happens!
Recommended for: Anyone not burnt out on dystopians yet, it’s a great one!
Real life repercussions of reading this book: I’ve been smelling myself a lot. I want to know what my Temper’s like.