Bought this book for the island survival aspect, stayed for the action and mystery.
Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction
No. of pages: 384
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.
Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.
Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.
I went into this without knowing much about the Nil universe other than it was a survival adventure for a group of teens on a tropical island. I certainly did not expect the sci-fi twist, which I found delightful and set up an interesting premise. This book felt like a mash-up of ‘The Maze Runner’ and ‘Beauty Queens.’
I got a little worried with the dual perspectives, it is usually a note that gives a lot of repetition in the narrative, but ‘Nil’ managed to dodge this pitfall expertly.
There was a little bit of a slow start. The world building took a little bit of time to erect with such a large cast of characters, and the rules of the island inhabitants… and the island itself. It is well worth persevering. I’ve read slower, I think because we learn about the world through ‘show’ more than ‘tell’ it slowed the pace a little. But it’s the kind of writing that I prefer. ‘Nil’ definitely captured my imagination.
Protagonist Charley, an athletic, 6-foot, awkward teenage girl awakening naked on a strange island was a great premise. She really works at finding herself, and her place on the island. I loved how her unique perspective of the island, and its reason for being, adds something new to the story. I love how the attributes she found embarrassing about herself were the things that gave her advantages in this hostile environment.
The constant ticking clock for all the characters added an urgency that really upped the pacing and kept me engaged right to the last page.
Thad, the love interest, was all things hunky hero that you’d expect. The leader, the rescuer. Though he didn’t embody that stereotype completely. He gets to live outside those initial impressions, and lets Charley deconstruct a few of these aspects on her own terms and grow as a person. It was great to read about his doubt and insecurities.
The romance between these two felt a bit insta-lovey. I would have liked have read more of a build and a rocky start. So it did feel a bit cheesy and tropey in that respect.
Contra to that, ‘Nil’ is brutal. Matson is not afraid to pile up the body count – and any character is fair game. I really did not know who was going to make it through to the end. This air of uncertainty, of living in the now, adds some great tension and had me hooked.
‘Nil’ reads more like a romance with a survival setting. Upon finishing, while satisfied with the resolution of major plot points, the mystery of the island remains unsolved. And I am keen to read on in this trilogy to discover what Nil is all about. Though it looks like the sequel ‘Nil Unlocked’ is dealing with different protagonists.
There was a contrived element that urked me. Like some big Game Master was pulling the strings. Whether this was intentional, and the role of the island itself, or the author setting up the storyline, it’s something that resonated with me in a slightly negative way.
I think if there was a touch more explanation about the island, a little less romance, less of the trope, this would have been a 5 star read. It is still a bonza read. I loved the adventure and the mystery of the island, the challenges to survival, and how visceral the challenges were. Definitely up there with my recommended books. Can’t wait to work out the mystery of Nil in the remainder of the trilogy.
Overall feeling: Not too shabby
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