Anything that gets kids reading is a good thing. A novelisation of a favourite film, an expanded universe of a great game; anything that gets kids pre-interested in turning those pages is something to be applauded. In that spirit, author LS Larson has created the world of IGIST, a sci-fi YA novel with a tie-in app to spice things up as you read.
The Intergalactic Institute of Science and Technology (IGIST) is the most prestigious Star League school in the known universe. Its alumni don’t tase into nothingness after graduation, but it hasn’t admitted an entrant from Earth in years. But that isn’t going to stop teenager Emi from pursuing her dream of becoming a universally renowned scientist and inventor like her mother was.
Growing up with her father and Sadee, a droid that her and her dad built together, Emi has grown up with a will and determination to rival anyone, and she will do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true. Fighting against grief, loss, an apocalyptic plague, and a system determined to steer her towards a regular joe’s life, she is going to have to dig deep to get where she wants.
It’s a simple premise: teenage girl wants to make it good on her own. Has all the troubles in the world, or the universe, thrown in her path. Whether it stops her in her tracks or strengthens her resolve, is completely up to her. Emi is forced to grow up with the turning of each page. Each new chapter brings a new challenge and the young lady is a delight to spend time with and watch flourish through them all.
What makes IGIST stand out from the crowd isn’t just the teenage girl the book focusses on – although in this world there will never be too many strong young ladies to inspire. It is what IGIST tries to encourage that should make it a go to novel for almost anyone. Emi isn’t just a girl trying to find her way in the world, like far too many other female protagonists. She’s going to be a scientist, an engineer, an inventor. She’s going to be a big deal and she knows it. She has the brains to do it and the guts to prove it. And she’s damn proud of who she is and who she wants to become. Anyone with a young girl at home would welcome a role model like Emi. A Katniss Everdeen for STEM.
Once you are stuck in and over the hump of learning the world(s), the characters and why we are here, reading IGIST becomes an absolute thrill; a ride that should absolutely be shared with young people. It has that after-school special “you can do it” feel-good quality, even if it does take a few turns towards the darker and more sinister. There is a brilliantly positive undercurrent that encourages anyone to be who they want to be, and not be ashamed of it.
As for its tie-in app… As it stands, it’s a gimmick with very little substance. Photo filters and overlays are fun, and coins earned work to gamify the reading experience, encouraging page turns. But it only worked on one of the four devices it was tested on, and crashed out on another after a minute or two. Hopefully it is just a compatibility issue and doesn’t ruin the experience for others wanting to use it. Luckily, it isn’t a necessity and doesn’t take away from the story that deserves a spot on any young science-fiction fan’s shelf.
IGIST is out now, in both paperback and Kindle editions.