Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.
Genre: YA – Science Fiction.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Pub. Date: October 20, 2015.
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●●
Writing Style: ●●●●●
Art Style: ●●●●○
Illuminae was possibly one of the most hyped new novels of 2015– brightly colored with a distinct and eye-catching design and promising premise, the bookternet was abuzz from the second (hardcover!) ARCs were set out at Book Expo America 2015. I don’t willingly or easily board the hype train, but I kept an eye on this one because the premise seemed too good (or too ridiculous) to be true. A friend loaned me her ARC, which I set on my bookshelf and stared at hungrily. My local bookstore also hosted one of the US tour stops, so I put in my pre-order, attended the event, got the book signed… and waited.
I finally picked this up in late April and was glued to it from beginning to end. Illuminae is a whopping 599 pages of fast-paced space adventure told through a dossier of hacked documents, chronicling the events following an attack on an illegal mining colony. It has a fascinating array of narrators, from a military veteran’s mission logs to the foul-mouthed transcriber of salvaged video footage, and, of course, our three main characters: Kady, Ezra, and AIDAN.
The formatting of the book made for an interesting read. Where storytelling typically focuses on one or a handful of main characters, relying on them staying alive to tell the story, this dossier made no promises for any characters getting out alive. It gave the story a sense of urgency and real danger that you don’t often see. And this book was really unexpectedly terrifying– it went places I never imagined a Young Adult book could go and had me gasping out loud. It was also funny. I don’t often laugh when reading, but this book had me rolling.
However, because or in spite of the nontraditional formatting, I could feel a definite disconnect between myself and Kady and Ezra– while I enjoyed both as people, I didn’t care one way or another about their romance. The only main character who is allowed to really narrate its own actions was AIDAN, the artificial intelligence. His was the only true first-person present-tense point of view, and I found myself far more sympathetic to it than anyone else in the novel.
There are very few character descriptions in this book, but one of the things I really liked was that the authors really tried to make it as diverse as possible. There were named characters who were obviously people of color and (if I recall correctly) one major side character who was a lesbian. With the very minimal style of the storytelling, I think it did a good job of imagining a culturally diverse future.
Finally, this book was a YA-reader’s dream. There were so many hidden references to real authors and other people in the book community. It really made me slow down and focus on the book as a visual medium instead of just flying through it.
I would love to check out the audio book before the next book comes out this fall. I can’t fathom how some of the storytelling would translate into audio. I think it would be a fascinating and entirely unique experience.
I really loved Illuminae and I can’t wait to see where this series goes. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman have created something very special and I am so glad they’re going to continue writing together even beyond the Illuminae Files. I recommend this book to absolutely everyone– it’ll take you on a wicked roller coaster of emotion and an adventure as funny and exhilarating as it is terrifying.