Series: Under the Never Sky, #1
Author: Veronica Rossi
Pages: 400 (Kindle edition)
Release Date: January 3, 2012
I received an ARC from NetGalley.
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.
As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.
They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.
While living in a Pod and being allowed to go anywhere, do anything you'd like, and not get hurt or sick through virtual reality may seem ideal, it can really make a person go crazy. We see this in the opening chapters of Under the Never Sky where the son of the head of security breaks into an off limits area, starts a fire, and attacks the main character, Aria. Of course she gets rescued (or else there'd be no story), by an Outsider who just happened to have broken into the Pod at the same time. It's no surprise that Aria gets the blame, because why would the head of security punish his own psychotic son?!
Her punishment? Banishment from Reverie. She's dropped off on the outside, where she's sure she'll be met with sudden death. Aether storms have become a dominant part of the climate. They're some type of electrical storm which cause fires and mutations, bringing new diseases and death. Aria gets stuck out in one of these storms, but is, again, rescued by Perry. They end up becoming a team on their way back to Reverie. During the beginning of their journey Aria drove me nuts! She's been extremely sheltered and absolutely would not listen to what Perry told her to do even though their out in his world. "And she was a Mole who lived in fake worlds. What did she know about surviving out here?" He'd tell her something and she'd just argue with him and act like she knew more, when she knows nothing about life outside of Reverie. Perry even had to explain to her that she wasn't dying, she just started her period!
While I did feel bad that Aria was suddenly thrust into the "real" world, which she was taught was a savage place that would kill her in no time, I felt like her struggles were more to contrast life inside with life outside, rather than to further any type of character development. The characters actually felt like they were of second importance to the plot. We don't really learn anything about them that doesn't directly effect their quest. Perry wants to get his nephew back, great, so what? Aria wants to see her mom, but I have no clue how she actually feels about her mom. From the flashbacks we get, it seems like Aria and her mom don't really get along, like she almost resents her, and yet getting back to her is her ultimate goal. I just couldn't get invested in their lives, since I didn't know enough about them.
There is a slight supernatural component to this story which I thought was well done without being too fantasy-like. Some of the people left on the outside have heightened senses which allow them to read people and nature much better than normal. Since the storms destroy crops and kill animals, there's also a subpopulation of cannibals, which I found interesting. As a whole, I think the world building overshadowed any character development that was going on. I didn't care about the characters enough to care if they achieved what they're set out to do or not, but I was very impressed with the futuristic way of life within the pods. It seems like something that could happen in real life if technology keeps advancing as the natural world deteriorates. But things in Under the Never Sky aren't so bad that life is impossible. In fact, there's thriving tribes on the outside. So why weren't those inside attempting to expand, or at least help those outside? This was one thing that was overlooked which I'd have liked to learn more about. Maybe in the second book?
I really enjoyed this because the world Rossi created was unique and fascinating, even if I can't say the same for the characters. I did start liking them more towards end, which I take as a good sign for the next book.