In the mood for some new adult sci-fi with a brilliant ass-kicking heroine? Of course you are! Kimberly P. Chase’s The Apollo Academy is the first book of a promising new series about Aurora Titon, an heiress who’s training to be a shuttle pilot for lunar missions. She may, in fact, be the best pilot the Academy has ever trained — assuming she survives her first semester, since someone is apparently trying to kill her.
The book starts as Aurora and her best friend, Kaylana, are hitting the town for one last night of freedom before their final test to see if they’ll be accepted into the Apollo Academy, a two-year program that guarantees jobs in the privately-run space program. She briefly dances with a gorgeous guy, who just happens to show up at initiation the next day without having realized who she was. Zane’s background is totally different than hers — Aurora’s father runs one of the biggest technology companies in the world, while he lives off the grid and is classified as an unknown, which nearly gets him kicked out of the Academy before he even starts. He’s also hiding a big secret that we only learn a little bit about as the story progresses.
As training begins, Aurora realizes that merely qualifying for the Academy’s elite pilot program (even though she’s the first woman to have done so) isn’t enough to convince everyone that she deserves to be there. A clique of mean girls keeps making snide comments about her. Sky, the hotshot pilot in charge of their training, pushes her harder than any of the other cadets. Zane keeps running hot and cold on her. She throws herself into her training, determined to prove everyone wrong and distract herself from all her personal drama. Besides, she really wants to fly missions to the moon.
Unfortunately, Aurora has bigger problems than just personal drama. A group called TerraUnited has been staging protests outside the school, since they disapprove of the Apollo Alliance’s mining operation on the moon, and when someone tries to shoot down a shuttle, people start freaking out. Worse, she starts having training accidents that nearly kill her… and they might not be accidents. Zane and Sky form an unlikely team to try to figure out if the systems failures are bizarre coincidences or intentional sabotage. This puts Zane’s secrets in danger, and as it turns out, Sky has at least one big secret of his own that might make him the prime suspect. It all comes to a head at the dance to celebrate the end of the first training session, but will they be able to prove their suspicions correct? And who will Aurora wind up making out with?
Overall, this was a fun story and I’m definitely looking forward to the sequels. However, some parts of the book worked a lot better than others.
- Aurora as a kick-ass pilot. Of course since it’s a New Adult book there was going to be a badass heroine, but she has a good mix of raw talent, hard work, and determination. Plus, red hair!
- The inevitable love triangle. I was skeptical about how realistic it would be since Aurora doesn’t always get along with either of the main male characters, but by the end I was surprised that I wasn’t quite sure which one to root for. (Fortunately, it’s going to be a four-book series, so we have plenty of time to choose a ‘ship.)
- Kaylana! She’s a great friend to Aurora, which is nice because too many female leads in books like this don’t have other female friends (or friends, period). Also, her budding relationship with Akemi is adorable.
- The training. Kimberly P. Chase has a degree in aeronautical science, so she really knows her stuff when it comes to describing the curriculum and how the flight technology works.
- I like that it’s set in a non-dystopian future. There are elements of humanity fucking up the planet (all their food is synthesized; Aurora has never seen a real plant until she arrives at the Academy; they’re mining on the moon), but it isn’t all doom and gloom.
- It’s kind of depressing that even 150 years or so in the future, it’s a big deal that Aurora is the first female student to qualify for the Academy’s pilot program even though she’s in the eighth class to start there. (There are plenty of women at the school, but they’re in other specialties like medicine or geology.)
- Zane’s roommate Akemi is described as looking “Asian” and there are several references to him having “darker skin” than the others. Of course he could have mixed heritage, but I’m pretty sure there are still countries in this version of the future. The lack of detail makes him kinda come off as the Token Minority Character™. (Also, Akemi is generally a female name in Japanese.)
- The timelines don’t always sync up quite right. There are a couple places where several hours passes for one character after a given event, while another character meets up with them seemingly minutes later from their PoV. There’s also a weird continuity error when we find out who Sky really is.
- The slang. Futuristic slang is almost always awkward as all hell, and “Nova!” (“Cool!”) is no exception.
- The “Lunar Moon Base” and “Lunar Moon Festival.” Those words mean the same thing!
I received an advance copy of The Apollo Academy from Escape Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This review originally appeared on Persephone Magazine.