Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015.
Ok. So. Illuminae. Yeah. That happened.
I finally read Illuminae. And I see why everyone is hyping it so much, because the hype is deserved, people. De-served.
For those of you who don’t know, Illuminae is a YA sci-fi (and romance) novel written in a series of documents. The book is set up like a case file, and the story unfolds through instant messages, video surveillance analysis transcripts, schematics, computer code, and other assorted documents. It’s very cool. The plot follows a fleet of space crafts fleeing from an attack on the planet Karenza, and our main characters, Kady and Ezra, are refugees (and exes) who survived said attack and are now facing the distressing after-effects. Naturally, their relationship buds again as they are forced to work together under crazy-ass circumstances, including a zombie-plague disease and a possibly homicidal AI system. To top it off, they only have a limited number of days until the fleet is intercepted by the Lincoln, one of the battleships that wants to ensure all of Karenza’s survivors, well, don’t survive. In short: it’s a wild-ass ride.
This is one of those books that gets your heart pumping and your brain racing to figure out just how this is all going to play out. There are several twists along the way, some of which I sorta expected, some of which I didn’t (no spoilers). The plot gets an A+, as well as the structure, which was brilliantly executed with the use of the various documents. This might trip some readers up who aren’t used to reading stories in unorthodox media, but I ate that shit up.
One of the things that bothered me early on in the book, however, was the voices of the characters. Kady, Ezra, and pretty much all of the secondary characters are all so goddamn witty. Like, they are so sharp and always have the perfect comebacks, even when facing potential utter destruction. I’d be ok if one or two of the characters have this sharp-witted spunk, but it was actually really frustrating to me that all of the characters have very similar voices, just for the sake of lols. Like, ok writers, I get that you’re witty af, but not every person talks like that. In fact, the vast majority of people don’t. To make the matter worse, some of the flippant, witty discourse is used in official government-type documents. Like, that shit doesn’t happen; it’s clearly just for the lols (admittedly, though, the dude [or dudette] who does the surveillance videos is my favorite). Fortunately, this frustration was only early on, before the plot started to get crazy. Once the plot started to get crazy, it stopped bothering me because I as more concerned with other things. But it bugged me a lot in the initial orientation stages of the text.
SPOILER AHEAD. The other thing I wonder about is a very specific plot point that maybe those of you who’ve read it can help me out on: Why did AIDEN feel it had to open hanger bay 4?? Just to protect itself? That puzzled me a bit because it kept saying it was protecting everyone, yet opening hangar bay 4 was a death sentence for all on board…and then who would it serve to protect? It mentioned something about preventing the Lincoln from capturing anyone and getting its hands on Phobos to potentially use as a biological weapon. Was that it? The greater good? Did I just answer my question? Am I no longer confused? What am I?? END SPOILER.
I am now reading the second book in The Illuminae Files, Gemina, which doesn’t come out till October (I got an ARC, get at me). So I’ll have an ARC review soon(ish) for that…grad school is in high gear so it might be a while, but I want to get it up before the release to feel all cool and hipster about it. Anywho, I give Illuminae 4 stars, cause the voice thing bothered me, and there was a bit of confusion at one of the major plot points. Other than that, an excellent read. Highly recommended.