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Book Review: NIL UNLOCKED by Lynne Matson... Plus an Interview!

I am SO EXCITED to share this with y'all today! For anyone who's new here, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Lynne's first novel in this series, NIL, and I reviewed it here. (Spoiler alert: I loved it!) After wallowing around in NIL feels, Lynne was so kind to send me the next book in the series, NIL UNLOCKED, and answer a few questions, as well.

NIL UNLOCKED by Lynne Matson
NIL UNLOCKED by Lynne Matson

*licks cover*

About NIL UNLOCKED:

On the island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die. Rives is now the undisputed Leader of Nil City, but keeping the City united is tougher than ever.

Raiders have grown bolder, supplies are dwindling, and non-human inhabitants have taken a turn toward the deadly. New arrivals cause rifts within the City, putting the Search system at risk, and calling everything Rives knows into question. Desperate for answers, he teams up with the only other person searching for them: Skye, a new arrival with a mysterious past of her own. Soon the duo find themselves locked in a desperate race to save all the residents of Nil—and possibly destroy the island forever. But at what cost? And who will pay the price?

I tend to be pretty suspect of sequels because—unless they are very specifically planned out by the author and hints are left in the first book—the ones I’ve come across tend to suck.

But, of course, there’s the Jurassic Park series. Book 1 was great, but people weren’t happy that Crichton killed off Malcolm (seriously, they mention his funeral), so he wrote a sequel featuring Malcolm. Completely unplanned. Crichton resurrected a character, guys. It worked out in his favor, though, lemme tell ya. To be honest, I prefer the second book to the first. When I'm in a rut with my writing, it's that completely unplanned sequel that I turn to, having the page numbers that mark the beginning of my favorite passages memorized even.

And that, readers, is the case with NIL and NIL UNLOCKED. Lynne hit this sucker right outta the park. *watches flaming baseball fly*

I loved the first book, so much that I’ve threatened to chuck it at my sister if she doesn’t read it, so when NIL UNLOCKED arrived, I squee’d and dove right in.

First off, Lynne answers all the questions I had at the end of NIL. Where is the island? How do the gates work? What’s their deal? Why hasn’t there been anyone else before Charley who figured out how the island worked? What happens to the teens who escape Nil? And for the love of God, WHAT HAPPENED TO EVERYONE ELSE? *deep, relieved sigh*

I loved Skye. Where Charley could be angsty as hell (like teen girls often are), Skye was the calm, level-headed, ass-kicking warrior the teens on the island needed. Why? Her uncle went to Nil, too! She had insider information that helped the other characters really sink their teeth into Nil and together, they all accomplish some very specific, very scary, very important things that I can't talk about here because spoilers. Also, she’s got crazy blonde hair like mine. *high fives character*

As much as I loved Skye, I loved Rives more. Rugged, tough, driven to survive and help everyone else on the island survive, as well. Possibly even thirstier for answers than Thad or Charley were. Now, sure, he had his dick moments, but they occurred naturally and in ways where I could understand them. Better yet, he realized when he was being a dick and apologized when necessary, like any good, maturing young person should (even though I don't often see this in a lot of male leads). That was my favorite part about him.

Additionally, getting to see the island through Skye’s and Rives’s eyes gave new perspective to how it worked. Skye seemed to take a very analytical approach while Rives was somewhere between Charley’s and Thad’s take. The changes in perspective helped me to understand the island and, from a writer's perspective, it gave Lynne a lot of opportunity to fill in the gene sequence gaps--wait! Sorry! Wrong book! (*blows at dinosaur fossil dust* Go away. This blog is not all about you, you know!) Ahem. Anyway, the presentation of information on how Nil worked was so natural yet informative and it worked out so well in my opinion.

Diversity is kicked up another notch in this book, which I appreciate, and I think it worked pretty well. (Says the white girl...) Not only does Lynne mention characters' nationalities, but she includes wonderful details like common words they use from their first languages, changes to speech patterns and varying slang, and references to their religions. And again, all smoothly inserted in a way that felt natural to me.

I do have a bone to pick, though. Without getting too spoilery… WHY WOULD YOU DO THE THING TO THE PERSON?! *wails in agony* That said, from a writer’s perspective, *applauds*.

Ooh, I just loved this one. Even better, there’s gonna be a third one, NIL ON FIRE, and I can’t wait until I can get my hands on it.

My rating: 5/5

5 star rating

Now, like I said at the beginning, Lynne was also sweet enough to answer a few questions. Several of these are tailored more to writers because, hey, this is a writing blog. ;) (Also, I was SO HAPPY to read Lynne's answer for the first question. I'm the exact same way!)

*shines spotlight on Lynne*

Are you more of a plotter, a pantser, or a combo?

Lynne: I'm a planster! :) I always know my beginning and my end, and while I don't outline AT ALL, I do have a sense of where I'm going and usually have a timeline as a framework or have a few notes to guide me. Like, three. lol

How did your writing process differ between the first and second books? Your editing process? (Mostly in terms of research, outlining, referring back to things you established in the first book, things like that. "Technical" stuff, I guess.)

Lynne: I'm not an outliner. I always know where the book will start and how it will end, and I usually have a feel for what might happen in the middle. But, I simply start writing until I don't know what will happen, and then I step back. I brainstorm, go for a run, press something completely different (like poetry). And...I research! That process stayed exactly the same both for Nil & Nil Unlocked.

But for Nil Unlocked, I wrote faster--much faster, because I was on deadline. And my research was more focused as I worked to flesh out plot threads I'd started in Nil. :) Much of Nil Unlocked was already written in my head when I wrote Nil, but there just wasn't room for everything in book one. :) I also kept a copy of Nil close by as I wrote Nil Unlocked. :)

What was the publishing process like for you?

Lynne: Pretty normal. I did a guest post about this on Swoon Reads about this very thing: https://www.swoonreads.com/blog/how-i-got-published-a-guest-post-by-author-lynne-matson/

How do you deal with your inner critic?

Lynne: Oh gosh--great question. Writers tend to be tough on ourselves, and we're often perfectionists. But, to combat these tendencies, you get critique partners, who offer an objective opinion of your work. And then you just do your very best. At some point you have to put the book into your agent's hands (or the agent you'd like to have!) because if you don't, you'll tinker forever. Of course, each books hopefully is better than the last, because the more you write, the more you grow as a writer. :)

Without getting too spoilery, what can we expect in the third book, NIL ON FIRE?

Lynne: Ahhhh!!! Kissing! Running! Death! You know, the usual. ;) Seriously, you'll see characters from both books one and two, and you'll see much more of Nil. In fact, the island gets its own point of view! And without a doubt, this book concludes the trilogy. And I can't wait for y'all to read it!!!!

Y'all can find Lynne on Twitter, her blog, Facebook, Goodreads, and Tumblr, and help soothe that wicked Nil hangover on the books' blog right here.

Thanks again for your kindness, your time, and for inviting me into the #NILtribe, Lynne. It's been a roller coaster so far, and I'm eagerly awaiting book 3!