Nil Unlocked by Lynne Matson
Book Two of the Nil series
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
On the island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die. Rives is now the undisputed Leader of Nil City, but keeping the City united is tougher than ever.
Raiders have grown bolder, supplies are dwindling, and non-human inhabitants have taken a turn toward the deadly. New arrivals cause rifts within the City, putting the Search system at risk, and calling everything Rives knows into question. Desperate for answers, he teams up with the only other person searching for them: Skye, a new arrival with a mysterious past of her own. Soon the duo find themselves locked in a desperate race to save all the residents of Nil—and possibly destroy the island forever. But at what cost? And who will pay the price?
What I Liked:
I thought Nil was pretty great... this book was either as good, or better! It's a tie in my head, and that's totally okay because both books were really, really good! Both are very solid, very well-written science fiction/thriller/Lord-of-the-Flies-esque novels. This book is on the longer side, but the story had me by its claws. I couldn't stop reading!
Rives has a few months left before he disappears from Nil, lost to known. Charley and Thad caught gates and are (hopefully) made it home (remember, Rives has no way of knowing this, though we as readers now, after the ending of Nil). Meanwhile, we have Skye and her odd father, who are both out searching for Nil. Skye's uncle (her father's brother) was on Nil years ago as a teenager, and returned, haunted by his experience there. Skye's father is convinced that Nil existed. Skye isn't as convinced... until she finds a way into the mysterious island. Now Skye has her own Nil countdown, but she's also armed with knowledge of Nil. Skye, Rives, and the rest of the teenagers on the island don't have long before something immense happens, and it's too late to save themselves.
I remember finishing Nil and thinking, that's it? No more? What about all the questions I have? There were soooo many unanswered questions at the end of Nil, and there was no mention of a sequel or a companion, at that point. This book, Nil Unlocked, functions well as a standalone, by the way. The protagonists are not the same protagonists as in Nil, though the protagonists in Nil do appear in this book. So you can read this one without having read Nil. In any case, I read Nil, and I read this one, and a lot of questions I had from Nil were answered in this book. Obviously I'm not going to enumerate what was revealed in this book (that would be involving lots of spoilers), but I will say that I was satisfied with the amount of answers I got from this book. Finally!
Rives is one of two protagonists in this book. We get his first-person perspective, and Skye's. I actually didn't have a preference as to who I liked better - I liked them both, and enjoyed reading from both of their perspectives. Usually I'll like one more than the other, but that wasn't the case with this book. Which is great!
Getting into Rives' head was an experience. He's weighed down by the role of Leader. He genuinely cares about all of the teenagers in the City, and wants to protect them all. It burdens him more than anyone else when someone is hurt, or dies, or runs out of time. Rives comes across as calculating and quiet, but he is not the unfeeling creature he appears to be. Actually, he doesn't really appear to be unfeeling. Maybe... shut down. Everyone knows he cares so much about everyone, but everyone can also see that he is lonely, and burdened. I like Rives a lot. I can't remember my impression of him in Nil, but I thought he was pretty great in this book. He's very careful, very observant, very protective, very selfless.
Skye is flame to his ice. She is impulsive - she goes with her strange, half-crazy astrophysicist father to find some mysterious island that doesn't exist. Or does it? When they arrive at an island in the ocean, she does some investigating of her own... and follows a boy through a gate, to Nil. She and the boy are now on Nil, with their own Nil countdowns. But the boy knows much more than he's telling her, and that includes a wealth information about Nil, and how to leave.
I liked Skye! She is calm and rational (most of the time), but also impulsive and fierce. Her father always thought Nil was real (because of his brother), and he had Skye train and prepare and learn random survival because of his fear of Nil. As it would turn out, those skills came in handy. Skye is a fighter, and she is very smart.
We get to know a lot more about Nil's history, and why it is exists. We find out how it came about, its purpose, and much more about the "rules" of Nil. There is a sciencey aspect to some of the explanations, which is cool. There are other more strange aspects too. I can't say much without giving anything away, so I'll leave it at that. I'm so glad I read this novel, because it gave me the answers I needed! And it was a really good book.
The story never ceased to be interesting, and the pages started to fly by as I kept reading. There was a serious creepy factor to this book - there were times when the story seemed chilling and a bit scary. Of course, I'm terrified of even the slightest "scary" thing - I hate scary movies and horror fiction and all that jazz. There were some points in this book when I was slightly terrified. But this is a good thing! Notice I'm not putting this comment in the "dislikes" section below.
There IS romance! And it is a semi important part of this book, though not the whole plot of the story. Rives and Skye fall for each other slowly and subtly, and it takes about seventy-five percent of the book for either of them to really recognize their feelings. Or maybe a little less than that. Either way, the romance in this book is really sweet. Rives needed someone like Skye, and I'm really glad he could have someone with him on Nil, until the end.
The end... what an end. I'm thinking there has to be a third book to this series? I think I remember the author telling me that she was working on one. I think it was Lynne. The ending of this book is satisfying in most ways, but there is definitely room for a third novel. Like, the ending silently screams for one! Not necessarily a cliffhanger, because this book ends well, but I would be highly interested in seeing a third book in this series!
What I Did Not Like:
I can't thinking of anything at the moment... Lynne Matson is AMAZING. Her writing, storytelling, world building, etc. is excellent!
Would I Recommend It:
YES! I recommend this book - or series in general. Remember what I said, this book can be read as a standalone! The series seems to be a companion series of a sort. Different protagonists in each book. Which makes me curious as to who the third book will feature... I have an idea of the male. Anyway. I like this series! Science fiction, thriller, survival story, whatever you want to call it, I like it!
4 stars. Nil and this book actually aren't my typical reads - I'm not a fan of survival stories - but I'm glad I gave the series a shot last year, when I won a giveaway for an ARC of Nil. I love how that worked out! Now, book three!
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