Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th, 2015
Genres: science fiction
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.
I read Illuminae over the course of a single day, staying up until 7am the next morning just so I could finish and find out how it all ends. I was not expecting this book, in any way. All I thought was the it had a cool concept and I love epistolary novels, so I would give it a shot. I don’t have any experience with Kristoff’s writing, as steampunk is not for me, but I read These Broken Stars cowritten by Kaufman – so I knew her writing to be gorgeous and she has the ability to create the ultimate ship (haha.) But I didn’t think this format would be a great vehicle for beautiful writing and heartbreaking feels. I was totally wrong.
This book is so emotional. Like SO rip-out-your-heart-and-show-it-to-you emotional. This is an intergalactic war, basically, and there are casualties. Their deaths are on-page and brutal and you can’t shy away from them. Kaufman and Kristoff force you to feel and experience it all. I thought it was amazing that we could be reading emails and transcripts and still feel all of these losses. You don’t know how or when it happened, but you find yourself emotionally attached to people who aren’t even the main characters. You’re so worried for them, you have no idea where this is all taking you. And the worst part is, can you even trust this? The points of view are constantly changing, from changelogs, to journal entries, to memos, and to something even more sinister. And you know the person on the receiving end of all this data isn’t exactly to be trusted either – I mean, all the info was obtained in not-so-legal ways – so you have to sort through it and it leaves you wondering if this is real or if it’s what “They” want you to know.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I find the themes in this book terrifying. Space, space travel, the Void – it’s all scary as shit to me. The idea of being alone in space is horrifying. THERE IS NO SOUND. No one can hear you scream! One wrong move and you’ve torn your space suit and then you’re boiling/suffocating to death. The absolute silence, darkness and isolation. It is all so terrifying. Another thing that’s terrifying? Self-aware artificial intelligence. “Am I not merciful?” Yeah, fuck that noise.
Let’s not forget our two main players, Ezra and Kady. I loved both of these characters and the way they grew throughout the story, from typical teenagers breaking up one innocent afternoon, to space-traveling superheroes (basically) the next. Ezra becomes a fighter pilot. Kady is the computer-hacking super-genius Astro-Princess of my dreams. I especially felt a fondness for Kady, who lost everything and keeps giving more and more of herself. I loved that, because of the way Illuminae was written, you get to see all these different sides of the same character. You get to see the fast-talking neurogrammer/hacker. You see the sarcastic flirt. Her anti-anything to do with authority side. And this vulnerable, broken girl who is so lonely and so afraid and trying so hard to keep it all together. My heart broke for Kady over and over again.
This book, though amazing and epic and captivating and everything I could want from science fiction novel, wasn’t a perfect five-stars for me. My biggest issue was the length. I think probably fifty pages could have been cut, just to keep the pacing going. There was a bit of lagging in the 3rd quarter of the novel, mostly due to the single POV we get to see during those pages. Because everything else about the book was fast and constantly changing, being stuck in the same character’s head for too long started to wear me out. There was also one page that I felt was SO cheesy – it was an image of two people kissing, but it was done using just the word “together” and it was so goofy, I don’t know. I didn’t feel like it had a place in this book, where everything else very much worked. Finally, View Spoiler » this book uses a trope that I am not fond of. When a character dies, I expect them to stay dead. The reveal of Ezra’s death was awesome. I loved that twist. I just wish that he had actually been dead. I just hate the characters coming back to life trope. Not really the book’s fault, but still. « Hide Spoiler
Listen, you want to read this. If you love science fiction and space operas and innovative formatting, or you are so here for broken hearts and feels and romance – you need to read this. Don’t be put off by the enormous size or the skipping around with POVs. This book is absolutely amazing in every way. The villain and heroes are perfectly gray in their morality. The OTP potential is huge. The plague is scary as shit. You will not regret this purchase.