Unearthed (Unearthed #1) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Published by Allen & Unwin on 22 November 2017
Length: 12 hours and 44 minutes
Source: Free download via Audible
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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…
It took me awhile to get through this book. The second half was definitely stronger than the first, but this felt a lot like a YA-version of Firefly with a bit of archaeology thrown in. It was mildly entertaining — and the story made for a good audiobook, I must admit — but it ultimately it felt like a lot of wasted potential.
I really, really loved Jules. When it was mentioned he was a scholar, I expected it to be in a STEM field, and was pleasantly surprised to find out he was a linguist. Jules is a little awkward, dorky, and occasionally unsure of himself, but also quite earnest and it’s impossible to not like him. It took me a little longer to warm up to Mia. I found her to be a little prickly and her backstory didn’t really move me, but I enjoyed her wit and quick banter. She felt a little in the realm of manic pixie dream girl, but she grew on me eventually. I would’ve liked to see Jules & Mia’s relationship move at a more realistic pace — it was kind of like instalove — but understand why it developed the way it did. As a team, Jules & Mia have skills and knowledge that complement one another well, and it was great to watch them work as a team. Their dialogue is great. Their hot-and-cold relationship? Eh.
I wish that we’d had more time to get to the big plot point, although I supposed that’s what the sequel is for! However, this book was filled with Jules & Mia moving from place to place and try to solve the puzzles (which, honestly, weren’t that hard to solve). The puzzles are also hieroglyphs (from what I could tell) and we ended up with lengthy descriptions of what was happening — this is one book I would LOVE to see adapted as a graphic novel (although it WILL be interesting to see what the film adaptation does with all of this!). I was listening to the audiobook, and I did find my attention wandering at times. There was a tendency to dump information on the reader, but there were still fundamental world-building elements that were left unaddressed. The last… two or three chapters were by far the most interesting of the book, and I’ll be interested to see what’s in the sequel and whether or not this could’ve all been one book. I would’ve liked to see a little more world-building and being able to explore this fantastic universe that Kaufman & Spooner have created. Gaia and the Undying sound very cool. It just felt a little too narrow-focused for my liking. The plot also moved very slowly. Listening to audiobooks are often a very slow affair for me, and with Unearthed there was a lot of stopping-and-starting, but I was surprised by how little the plot progressed between listens.
Finally, I don’t think first-person works for multiple perspectives (it’s a gripe I’m also having with my current read, A Reaper at the Gates). It just felt… off, and continuously threw me while listening. We were constantly looking at the same event from two perspectives which, for the most part, just frustrated me. Nothing new was added by looking at the same plot point from two perspectives and the constant expounding of Jules & Mia’s emotions kind of made their relationship seem contrived.
Overall, this book had a lot of potential and I kind of want to see where that cliffhanger goes (I mean… if you paid attention to all the clues, you could see it coming). I much prefer Kaufman & Spooner’s Starbound trilogy, but I am hoping that Undying will be the action-packed thriller I was hoping for.