The book takes place in a futuristic, environmentally-ravaged United States — ruled on the surface by the Unified Party. But not all is so peaceful, as the Unified Party finds itself battling with Skyship, a group of renegades who live in ships above the earth — for control of Pearls, mysterious orbs that fall from space and can power an entire city for weeks. The book follows two teen boys — one from each group — as they come together under unexpected circumstances with major consequences for their entire world.
James masterfully reinvents the science fiction genre for a modern world, injecting his universe with familiarity. Readers will relate to the characters and the problems they face, despite the book’s futuristic, sci fi setting. That’s because James has rooted it in reality, imagining a future that — while desolate and undesirable — is based on the world in which we live today.
But the subtle cautionary tale underlying this world isn’t what Skyship Academy is all about. The book’s real stars are its characters, filling the book with emotional context and giving the reader a reason to care about what happens next. It’s no small feat to create sympathetic characters, and James has done so with flying colors. I honestly can’t wait to see where the next book takes Jesse, Cassius, Alkaline, and all the rest!
It’s also worth noting that not only is Skyship Academy a great story, it’s also beautifully written. James has a gift for phrasing and conveying the emotions of his characters in stunning prose. As an example, I give you one of my favorite passages:
She leans in closer, squinting and placing her fingers on my cheek. An orchestral symphony swells inside my body. For a second I’m convinced that she’s gonna kiss me. My mind frantically searches for the right thing to do. Lean forward, grab her shoulder, pucker up. Then she opens her mouth.
“Are you aware that you have an imprint of a brick on the side of your head?”
My inner symphony hits a bum note and the orchestra lights flicker off.
Skyship Academy is also a perfect example of how the first book in a series can standalone, while also setting the stage for book two. The story is complete within this first book’s pages, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But James has left plenty wide open for the series to continue, and I can’t wait to keep reading.
Skyship Academy is in stores now.