It took me a while to finish this book – not because it was a struggle to read it, but because I was just so dang tied up at work. (I still am, tbh – am writing this review from a conference I’m running in Olongapo, lol.) However, I soldiered on, because I was absolutely determined to finish this gem of a book and scream to everyone just how much I loved it!
I’ve been pretty much saying this nonstop on Twitter and Instagram (click the links to see short but glowing reviews!), but The Disasters really is the YA sci-fi found family set in space that you NEED in your life.
Read on to find out why!
Title: The Disasters
Author: M.K. England
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.
But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.
On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.
They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.
Content warnings: Violence, character death
☕ Quotes ☕
“Latent homoeroticism is the backbone of the British education system, isn’t it?”
“Every cell of my body says, ‘Oh god yes! Crime? I can do some crime!’ I want this ship like I’ve never wanted anything in my life. I had a poster of the first-ever Breakbolt model on my bedroom wall when I was nine. It’s like a manifestation of every dream I’ve ever had, everything I’ve ever wanted for myself: a piloting license, a beautiful ship under me, and stars out the viewport. Child Nax says, ‘Do it, do the crime!'”
“Yeah, I know, I’m a bit of a disaster. But hey, aren’t we all? Doesn’t mean we can’t fly.”
☕ Plot ☕
I’ll say this for the book. As much as I enjoyed it, I feel the plot was one of its weaker points. I would have loved for the motivations of the Earth First terrorists to be explored further, not to mention I feel like the whole reason Nax washed out (terminology for getting kicked out of the Academy) was kind of convoluted and a bit of a reach.
However, I firmly believe that the ensuing action more than made up for it. The Disasters isn’t a book that beats around the busy, and I really appreciated that. From the very beginning, it grabs your attention with a The Breakfast Club style opening, showing us the Academy washouts-slash-misfits. Then it hits full throttle and shows you just how high the stakes are: a group of terrorists bomb the Academy, killing entire generations of Earth’s best and brightest students, teachers, pilots, explorers, and scientists. Worse still, the Academy is the only link between Earth space and the rest of Earth’s colonies.
I also liked the plot point of making it a rule that those who go beyond Earth space are not allowed to return to Earth at the risk of bringing space pathogens back to the origin planet. This is a super interesting concept that I’ve never seen incorporated into sci-fi before, and it added new twists and complications to the story that made the plot that much better!
☕ Writing ☕
I really, really, really, really freaking adore M.K. England’s writing! One of the best compliments I can give to a book is that it made me feel like I was watching a video in my head, and I can definitely say that about The Disasters. Like I said earlier, the story grabs you at its first chapter – and then it totally doesn’t let you go. From Nax and his crew escaping the Academy, getting to the colonies, discovering what’s going on, and then fighting to save the galaxy, this book keeps you on your toes and completely on tenterhooks, waiting to see what happens next.
Not a lot of authors are good at action scenes, but M.K. England absolutely excels at them. Their action scenes don’t feel clunky or slow, but instead are well-paced, evocative, and do an excellent job of really firing up the reader‘s imagination. If any aspiring writer out there would like some tips in writing action scenes, I highly suggest picking up this book.
I also adore the world-building! The diversity of the colonies that sprouted up beyond earth was so freaking delightful, and a much-needed breath of fresh air in the usual white-as-Wonderbread SFF that we have. I particularly adored how al-Rihla, one of the colonies, was primarily influenced by the fact that its original settlers from Earth were nearly all African or South Asian, and how that influence was still very much seen years later.
☕ Characters ☕
Holy freaking balls, the characters.
For me, the characters were truly what made this book such an enjoyable read. First, you have Nax Hall, disaster bi hotshot pilot. There’s Rion Turner, the son of a diplomat who flirts as much as he breathes. Asra Haque, the stepdaughter of a criminal determined to undermine her asshole guardian. Case Hwang-Torres, a prodigy with a bright future dimmed by this one spot of trouble. And Zinaida Rozhkova, a medical genius kicked out on a hurtful, illegal technicality due to her being at trans woman. Despite their differences, they band together to save the galaxy, and end up sticking together at the end. Very Guardians of the Galaxy!
I cared so much about each and every one of these characters. The thing that’s sometimes difficult about the found family trope is that, inevitably, I end up liking some of the characters more than the others. That was definitely not the case with this book. Not only did I deeply care about each and everyone, I also didn’t know who to root for in the love triangle (which is one of the few love triangles I can think of that worked!) because I wanted everyone to end up together!
This crew personifies the phrase ‘chaotic good’ and I am here for it.
☕ Overall ☕
The Disasters is the found family book full of wacky space hijinks that we all need in our lives. It’s charming, diverse, well-written, action-packed, and just captures the imagination so much. Highly recommended!