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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nil by Lynne Matson

I was extremely excited to read Nil by Lynne Matson because it's been a while since I've read straight-up sci-fi; I've mostly been reading dystopians/post-apocalyptics recently. I expected Nil to be more of a sci-fi novel, but truthfully it's more of a romance than anything else. Nil works as a romance novel, but it is largely ineffective as a sci-fi thriller. Marketing Nil as a sci-fi thriller feels misleading because the sci-fi elements and suspense are virtually non-existent.

Nil takes place on a remote island where residents have exactly 365 days to escape or they die. Charley wakes up naked in Nil and she knows nothing of the island's rules and customs. Slowly, Charley forms a relationship with Thad, the leader on the island and they have to race to find the truth about the island before the clock runs out.

I didn't love the characters in Nil, but they were interesting enough for me to emotionally invest in their arcs. This novel is written from the point-of-view of Charley, but her voice was never properly defined. Charley is from Georgia and she talks in some sections like a true Southerner, yet in other sections of the novel she loses that Southern dialect. It didn't make sense to me that her voice was so inconsistent in the novel, considering the fact that Charley repeatedly references her Georgian home. Thad, Charley's romantic interest was sweet to Charley, but he wasn't all that interesting to me personally. I definitely enjoyed reading about him, but there was nothing to distinguish him from 100s of other male main characters, aside from the fact that he skis.

Lynn Matson is definitely a skilled writer and her writing definitely deserves some praise. Her prose was very simple, but it did a great job of keeping me enticed. I wasn't a huge fan of the pop-culture references, especially the constant references to Sprite. I get it, Charley enjoys Sprite; there's no need to mention her Sprite addiction so often.

Even though, I enjoyed Charley and Thad's relationship, there was no need to focus so much on their relationship. The constant focus on their romance brought the plot to a stalemate in some sections and ruined any momentum the plot was building up. I was finally relieved when Charley and Thad started to investigate the island and when they attempted to figure out why they were transported to this island. While it took way too long for this duo to start exploring the island's origins and I find it hard to believe that no-one else ever felt curious enough to probe around the island.  I was extremely happy with the chain of events that led up to the novel's conclusion and I was surprised with the way some of the final plot elements unfolded. I did know exactly how it would end,  but the way Matson paved the way for the ending was quite shocking.

Lynne Matson raises so many questions in readers' minds about the island and just when I thought I would be getting answers, the book seemed to end. I had so many questions by the end of Nil that it upset me that this was a stand-alone, how can this be a stand-alone when there's so much left unanswered. There has to be some sort of sequel because there's so much room for a sequel and I NEED answers.

Nil lacked any tension, making this thriller feel extremely inadequate. There were so many missed opportunities where the stakes could've been raised even further, instead Matson is too safe with her characters. It truly never feels like Nil is actually dangerous because when there is danger, it feels petty due to the lack of tension. I wanted Nil to be extremely frightening and strange, but at times, it felt like the teenagers were on some reality TV show that took place on a tropical island. Instead of worrying about how they're going to leave the island, it seems that Charley and Thad are more concerned with making out and becoming a couple. The characters kept referring to Nil as if it were some kind of malicious person that was messing with their minds, but I wanted to see this instead of being reminded of this frequently. There truly had to be less "telling" and more "showing" in Nil, I wanted to shown a scary island instead of being told how frightening it is.

Nil has it's fair share of issues, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy this novel. Nil lacks any proper resolution and it's plot is extremely basic, but it was an entertaining, light read. It's truly a shame that this novel never became the sci-fi thriller, it was being marketed as. I truly hope that there ends up being a sequel to Nil because the lack of a proper conclusion is bugging me.


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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4 People left their mark' :

  1. It sounds like this is a good book, but it's good to know that the focus isn't entirely on the science fiction element. It's disappointing, as I was looking forward to reading a good YA sci-fi. The characters sound interesting enough though. Great review, Jonathan!

    Kris @Imaginary Reads

  2. I'm a bit scared to go into this now. I'm really sick of sci-fi novels dominated by romance. The whole point of getting the novel was for the action, suspense, etc. But I'll still probably read this one, considering I'm into light reads recently.

  3. The premise sounds so good that it's disappointing that the tension and action aren't followed through. I want the sci-fi part, not the romance. Oh well, at least the cover is still pretty.

  4. Wonderful review Jon! As you know, from our conversation about this one we felt exactly the same. I forgot to mention Charley's accent though. I wish Nil had been a darker place and really put the characters in real danger. Hopefully if there is a companion novel it will raise the stakes some. I'll be reading more from the author though. As you said, she is talented and this book read extremely fast and was fun.