In the early twenty-second century, the earth is dying, reeling from the effects of a brutal nuclear war. To save humanity, an international alliance called the Consortium seeks to build a new homeland on a distant planet called Gaia. To send the first wave of settlers, the Consortium constructs an enormous starship called the Ark, which will allow them to reach Gaia and begin rebuilding humanity.
Biologist Becca Newman labors on the Ark Project with a profound concern. Her brother Alex will be among the first settlers to reach on Gaia. Yet when the starship launches from Earth and heads through deep space en route to Gaia, the ship disappears. Becca is devastated. Her brother is presumed dead and the last and best hope for humanity’s survival has disappeared into the ether of space.
Fourteen years later, she learns that the Consortium made a mistake. Despite losing contact, the Ark succeeded in its mission and the ship and its colonists safely reached Gaia. Becca is thrilled and overwhelmed by the knowledge that her brother may still be alive. She joins an expedition to Gaia to find out what happened to the Ark and what has become of the colonists.
On the distant planet, Becca and Alex undergo a blissful reunion but she soon learns the other visitors from Earth are not welcome. The colonists are quite happy in their solitude and are prepared to fight to remain free of Earth’s control. She soon learns about the inhumane cruelty of the Consortium, the violent insurrection, and a separatist plot spawned before the Ark was even built.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Before we move on to the main content of this post, let me just say this. I love reading three things the most, and they are 1.) zombies; 2.) dystopian settings; and 3.) space drama (or anything that involves intergalactic travel, really). Give me a book that involves any of those, and you will have a friend for life (me, of course!). Give me a book that has all three, and you’ll have a worshipper (ok, I kid, but props to you if you do find something that has all three elements).
After reading too much zombie and young adult novels (a fair number of them dystopian), The Fifth World by Jacob Foxx was a breathe of fresh air. I haven’t read any hardcore science fiction lately so when I started this book, I was expecting a lot. Were those expectations reached? Why, yes, very much so!
You see, in this book, the Earth is dying and 3/4 of the population have been wiped out due to wars and calamities. The rest who survived are desperate for a new place to live, and thus, sent a large ship to a habitable planet 60 light years away, in hopes they could colonize it for resources. Apparently, in this particular premise, a world that has supposedly taken place a century from now, scientists have been able to discover matter that could warp both space and time, making travel faster than the speed of light possible. When our main protagonist, Becca, travels to the same far-away planet 14 years after the first expedition, she was going to get the shock of her life, which could be the end of her, or the start of a new life and beginning.
In all honesty, I like the book, even with its pages upon pages of information overload. Fortunately, while I thought it was too detailed, they were information that were necessary to the story. Sure, they didn’t really move the story per se, but it did leave a solid background and foundation of the novel’s setting – the history, how it came to be, how travel faster than the speed of light worked, among many others (and hey, I probably learned a new word or two! That counts!). The author has created a disturbing image of the future Earth (radiation, wars, poverty, dictatorship, etc.), but he simultaneously created a vibrant one at the same time in the form of Gaia, the fifth world. I could just picture the latter in all of its lush greenery glory, blue skies and equally blue waters. After living in pollution-riddled Manila for almost four years, you kinda start yearning for oxygen and fresh air… even if it’s just in your imagination. *cough* Anyway, while the flow and structure was slow in the first half, it really picked up the pace in the second… perhaps a little bit too fast, but it was an enjoyable ride to see how the events unfolded in the end.
I didn’t like the characters that much, though. Becca was a scientist who specialized in Terraforming (a sci-fi term, methinks), but during the peak of this book she got really annoying, whiny, and sometimes narrow-minded. I’m sure it was part of the story, but I just can’t stand characters who blindly follow an obviously authoritarian government (or anything bad) for the wrong reasons even when the truth was laid out in front of them. Part of the story, I know, but it’s just kinda frustrating to read, especially with all the political drama going on behind the scenes (which was well-written by the way, but highly predictable…)
Overall, I enjoyed this read. If my schedule wasn’t so busy with midterm exams and projects, I would have finished this earlier, since it’s the kind of novel that I would have devoured in less than 24 hours. I only gave this a 4 out of 5 because even though it was a pleasure,it could have worked out better with less details and more action, and maybe more character growth? Nevertheless, it was good and I recommend it to sci-fi lovers and also to readers who do not read hardcore sci-fi but plan to start. This book would (hopefully) make them fans of this genre.
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