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“The Life Below” by Alexandra Monir Is Out of This World

Fans of The 100 or The Martian will enjoy this sci-fi series set in a dystopian future.

Two years ago on March 6, young adult author Alexandra Monir released her science fiction novel The Final Six, which, prior to its publication, had already secured a movie deal with Sony and Immersive Pictures. The Final Six is set in a world where the Earth is dying as a result of climate change and populations find themselves displaced by floods. Naomi Ardalan and Leo Danieli are two of 24 teenagers drafted to International Space Training Camp (ISTC) with the hopes of being one of the six selected to venture to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and colonize it to preserve the future of humanity. Naomi becomes one of the Final Six and is sent on the mission, while Leo is left behind. However, throughout her tenure at the ISTC, Naomi discovers that not all is as it seems, and this lingers in her mind as she continues training and eventually begins her mission.

The Life Below, released on February 18, 2020, continues where the previous novel left off. The sequel contains enough references to the previous novel for major plot points to remain fresh in readers’ minds, but the identities of characters aren’t entirely clear at the start.

Naomi and the other members of the Final Six – Beckett, Jian, Dev, Sydney and Minka – have begun their quest to Europa, but Monir reveals early on that there is a problem on the ship, and it has been caused by someone close to the team. Meanwhile, Leo is attempting to embark on an unauthorized space trip with the guidance of one of Naomi’s idols, who appears to have secrets of her own. By alternating between the perspectives of both protagonists, Monir is able to give equal attention to their fears, anxieties and motivations.

The most appealing aspect of The Life Below and its prequel is the world-building, which draws both upon our curiosities about space and climate change fears that already linger in society. It is clear that a lot of research went into the science and technology necessary for a successful space mission, and even the more fantastic elements are given a certain degree of credibility through juxtaposition with real organisms or chemical compounds. Monir also puts great detail into her description of locations, which allows readers to envision the interior of the Pontus or the various rooms at WagnerCorp themselves.

However, at times Monir resorts to explicitly stating how a character feels or reacts to their observations, whether this comes before a more detailed description or the detail is absent altogether. At best, it makes the narrator’s intentions clear and at worst, it reduces the reader’s ability to make their own judgments about what is occurring.

Despite this, The Life Below remains an engaging read, and it’s definitely worth picking up – after reading The Final Six, of course.  Be sure to check it out!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

You can purchase The Final Six and The Life Below through Bookshop and other book retailers.

Featured image via Goodreads

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Nadia Bey
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Nadia is a student journalist from North Carolina and the current Books Editor for Affinity. In addition to reading, she is interested in science, pop culture and policy.

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