Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: Young Adult / Sci-Fi
Publisher: Rock The Boat
My Rating: 5/5
Synopsis: The year is 2575 and two mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice covered speck.
Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them Ezra and Kady have to make their escape on the evacuating fleet. But their troubles are just beginning. A deadly plague has broken out on one of the space ships and it is mutating with terrifying results. Their ships protection is seriously flawed. No one will say what is going on.
As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth its clear only one person can help her. Ezra. And the only problem with that is they split up before all this trouble started and she isn’t supposed to be talking to him.
I’m really gonna struggle to put into words how much I loved Illuminae. It exceeded my expectations by far. This book made me well up with tears so much it’s almost criminal.
I had seen lots of other people raving about it in the blogosphere and had always been intrigued to try it, but the format of telling the story through documents, messages, CCTV etc put me off a little. If you have qualms about reading this book because of its formatting, push those to the side right now and buy this book. The format in no way hinders the story-telling; in fact, it makes the whole thing even better.
The format allows Kaufman and Kristoff to introduce a whole range of characters without making the story feel bogged down with character descriptions. I would say this is definitely a crossover novel in terms of genres – it’ll appeal to both young adults and adults alike – as the cast doesn’t centre around only teenagers doing slightly impossible things. Of course, our two protagonists are older teens – Kady Grant and Ezra Mason – but we also get to see this story told through the lives of adults such as Sergeant James McNulty (who I really liked), First Lieutenant Winifred McCall (who I also really liked), Byron Zhang, Syra Boll, David Torrence, the nameless transcriber of CCTV footage; the list goes on and on. It’s a big cast of characters, and some we only meet briefly, but it never feels like our encounters with them are wasted or pointless.
I don’t really know how Kaufman and Kristoff have pulled off such a likeable cast of characters using only digital formats to showcase them to the reader. I’m in awe of what they’ve managed to achieve with this novel. The two protagonists, Kady and Ezra, are so well-crafted. They’re witty, emotional, intelligent, and they have their clear flaws, but I was completely invested in them. Kady is smart and feisty and, for once, she was one of those increasingly rarer teenage girl protagonists who wasn’t whiny. Ezra I really loved too. He was a hopeless romantic and his banter with Kady via IM actually reminded me of my boyfriend, which was a little odd to read, but definitely made me attached to Ezra even more.
Another reason why I would call this a crossover novel is because it doesn’t pull punches. Death, gore, foul language (although that’s ‘censored’ but you can easily fill in the gaps yourself, which I admit was a little fun), this book really doesn’t hold back. There’s a lot of science to satisfy proper sci-fi fans, but it’s not over-complicated or trying too hard. It’s like a good Star Trek film – there’s jargon used, but the average movie-goer can still understand it and become invested in it. It’s definitely a book that people who aren’t usually a fan of sci-fi should read because it’s a great introduction to the genre; you get all the ‘science’ without feeling overloaded or that it’s detracting from the action.
And wow was there a lot of action. This book is non-stop. I struggled to put it down because there was always some big reveal or tense action scene just around the corner. This was another point in which the formatting really helped. The action scenes or reveals never got boring or formulaic because how would they be relayed to us? Classified e-mails? CCTV footage? Instant Messaging? Reports? Schematics? The possibilities were endless. The imagination in this novel was astounding.
I’m now itching to get my hands on the sequel and can’t wait to see where this goes next. The good thing is, this book could have actually been a standalone. Leave out the last few pages and you have an excellent standalone novel, and that’s how all books should be, trilogy or not. The first book in a trilogy shouldn’t be written as though it needs sequels because there are so many loose ends the author has yet to work out. The first novel should tie up as many loose ends as possible but leave a few larger threads hanging to pick up in the sequel. That’s exactly what Illuminae does. There are some pretty big threads left hanging, but I don’t feel cheated by not knowing the answers just yet.
So, overall, this book blew me away. I can’t sing its praises enough. Not a sci-fi fan? Doesn’t matter. Think the format might not be for you? Think again. An adult who isn’t usually into YA and thinks it’s too childish? You’re most definitely wrong here. Read it!
Have you read Illuminae? Did you enjoy it? Are you excited for the sequel? Let me know in the comments below!