Review – Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

 

That probably about sums it up. Just kidding let’s do a real review!

If you fancied, you could go and read the Want-to-Read Wednesday I wrote on Illuminae first, see if my guesses and impressions were correct?

Goodreads Summary:

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.

BRIEFING NOTE: 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.

This is a tricky one to review mostly because it’s just so unlike anything I’ve read before. You could maybe draw parallels to World War Z’s style (a series of interviews) but this is so much more than that. The collection of ’emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more’ creates such a range of viewpoints which, when you add the brief ‘commentaries’ by the person creating the dossier, makes for such an immersion in the story without a huge amount of prose. It’s an impressive feat and Kauffman and Kristoff pull it off with great aplomb. Good word.

The romantic aspect does steer the book somewhat, but I think that was an important device that was actually handled pretty damn well given how cringy it could have been. We get only glimpses of the full lives of Ezra and Kady and yet they are more fully developed and interesting characters than the vast majority of other YA protagonists I have had the ‘privilege’ of encountering.

The sci-fi element was also really cool. I’ve never been particularly interested in the mechanics of space-ships or artificial intelligence but I get the feeling that you could be a rookie like me or an actual rocket scientist and you’d find this book cool. The diagrams of the ships themselves are really well done, I don’t know who illustrated them but they know what they’re doing. The artificial intelligence aspect of the book was also really interesting as well as being thought provoking. If I were running an ‘unusual YA novels’ book club I’d definitely suggest we read this book because it could really spark some fascinating conversations about ethical dilemmas and the future of AI.

The ‘deadly plague’ is also compelling. The book lends itself to describing plague through it’s unusual style since we can read medical reports and the like. The plague isn’t dry and distant however, it’s a reality for the reader as much as the characters and I certainly wouldn’t want to contract it myself. It’s not a novel idea, plague on a spaceship, but it feels new because of the unique approach taken by these two authors.

You should read this book. Even if you’ve read this review and you think it’s something you could never enjoy. Even if you hate every page you should read this book purely because I don’t think you’ll have read anything like this before and we should all expand our horizons. But go into it with an open mind and it might just win you over as it did me. I’m converted to sci-fi (at least in this instance) and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series Gemina (which published in October 2016).

 

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