Story Synopsis:A devastated Earth's last hope is found in Pearls: small, mysterious orbs that fall from space and are capable of supplying enough energy to power entire cities. Battling to control the Pearls are the Skyship dwellers—political dissidents who live in massive ships in the Earth's stratosphere—and the corrupt Surface government.
Jesse Fisher, a Skyship slacker, and Cassius Stevenson, a young Surface operative, cross paths when they both venture into forbidden territory in pursuit of Pearls. Their chance encounter triggers an unexpected reaction, endowing each boy with remarkable—and dangerous—abilities that their respective governments would stop at nothing to possess.
Enemies thrust together with a common goal, Jesse and Cassius make their way to the ruins of Seattle to uncover the truth about their new powers, the past they didn't know they shared, and a shocking secret about the Pearls. (from Amazon.com)
My Review:I love a good sci-fi. Give me a book brimming with crazy technology, imaginative ideas about outer space, wild physics, and spaceships. Tie it together with a compelling message about the real world, and you won't see me again until the book is done. But sci-fi has always been underrepresented in the YA market. With Curiosity landing and Kepler on overdrive, the time is ripe for some crazy sci-fi. So along comes Skyship Academy, blasting into the YA world like one of its own ubiquitous Pearls. It's a breath of fresh air. Which is ironic, since I don't think the characters get a single breath of fresh air over course of the entire book. Recirculated and processed air, if they're lucky.
Set 83 years in the future, James' comic-book inspired story envisions a world made bleak by terrorism and counter-terrorism. Earth is scorched beyond recognition. The only sanctuaries are the Chosen Cities on land or the Skyships above the clouds. It's a compelling yet terrifying vision of our future; one that makes you think twice about the paths we have chosen, or may very likely choose.
The story is told from two points of view - one in first-person present-tense, the other in third-person past-tense. Whether or not you like this will probably depend on your own personal taste. I admit I was a little disoriented by the first switch. But James' ability to write engagingly from both POVs is impressive. The style grew on me, likely in part because it's so unique. A side-effect was that I felt less connected to Cassius (3rd person) than to Jesse (1st person). Despite, or perhaps because of this, I ultimately found Cassius to be the more compelling character, and the one whose arc I'm most looking forward to reading in the sequel. Regardless of the POV, James' casual, engaging style pulls the reader in, and provides more than a few laughs - especially when we're seeing through the eyes of the quirky, relatable Jesse.
This book is thought-provoking and fun, packed with action and excellent world-building and complete with an ending I didn't see coming. The second book comes out on September 8th, so I only have to wait a month before finding out what happens next. It's going to be a long month.