Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
4 / 5
"So here's the file that almost killed me, Director."
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.
This book's structure was unlike anything I'd ever read before. Plus, can you beat combining the delicious horror of zombies* with the vast terror of space? Because that is exactly what these authors have done. And it is done extremely well. Throw in AI with a real personality, an evil megacorporation, and loved ones torn apart, and you've got a recipe for a riveting book.
It was done in such a unique way, too: the reader is told the story by reading through a stack of classified documents intended to recreate the story, collected in pieces from various places (email and chat transcripts, video feed analyses, official documents, voice recordings, debriefing interviews). And when I say "stack", I mean it - this book is 599 pages long! But it truly flies, especially when you hit the halfway mark. (Don't worry, getting to page 300 sounds daunting, but it took me no time at all. Plus - I kind of liked how every page was marked as, for example, 289/599 so you always knew exactly where your endpoint was!)
I love that the true hero of this book is a 17-year-old girl who is a badass hacker. Things started off a bit iffy for me as the first thing you read is an interview transcript where the girl and her recently ex-boyfriend are mostly talking about their anger towards each other, with a bit of background "my planet was getting attacked simultaneously" thrown in. But it works itself into a great story, so stick with it for a few pages. Plus, I started imagining Ezra as a young Captain Mal, which helped when reading his parts - you can tell from the clever banter that the authors are probably big fans of Firefly. That kind of helped cement my love for the book. (Maybe it was just that they used "'verse" a lot, but I do think it was more than that.)
And there were a couple twists that I didn't even see coming! Which was pretty great.
You'll also be impressed by some of the art this book employs to tell its story - it's as much a visual as a textual piece of work. And a surprisingly emotional and deep one, considering some of its subject matter. You'll find yourself aligning with people you didn't think you would. Every character is memorable and multidimensional, and you often feel as if you are traveling alongside them on this adventure.
So if you are in the mood for some space travel, I say pick this one up!
*If we're going to be technical, they are pseudo-zombies, but close enough.
P.S. This book was one we grabbed as an ARC from BEA this past year.
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