“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 one of the 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.”
Thoughts on the Novel: Every once in a while, a book comes along that reaffirms the reason why we love to read. Illuminae is just such a novel. It is not that it is a profound or life-affirming story; it is just a damn good book that demands to be read quickly and often.
While there are several novels out there that have mixed up the epistolary format for story-telling, these tend to be a bit stilted in nature. It is as if the extras, emails, letters, texts, etc., are just to enhance the story. Illuminae is the first one where these extraneous documents ARE the story. These hacked documents are the only bits of information readers receive regarding Kady and Ezra’s adventures on board their respective ships. The key to the success of this format is the fact that they are hacked. That lends the entire proceedings an air of informality that would be missing were the documents all obtained through official channels. In turn, this informality allows readers to truly get to know Kady and Ezra and become vested in their relationship and their future survival. They are also a testament to mankind’s, or at least Kady’s, creativity and refusal to take no for an answer.
While the story is obviously science fiction, set in the future with an unknown backstory, the story does not rest solely on the setting. There is not much in the way of history to the story, in that readers do not know what happened in the great swath of time that allowed mankind to harness the power of wormholes and build colonies on other planets. However, this is okay. In fact, it is more than okay. Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff manage to create a foreign and yet totally familiar world that has an anytime/anyplace vibe to it. Similarly, because it is a science fiction novel, there is science interspersed throughout the story. Yet, just as with the great leap into the future, Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff make it fun science. There is nothing so highly advanced that most readers would not be able to understand, and if they do not, the story unfolds in such a way that understanding the details behind the action is totally unnecessary to a reader’s enjoyment.
In many ways, Illuminae is a game-changer for the world of young adult science fiction. It bridges the gap between hard-core science fiction fans and those looking for a good story. This one just happens to take place in outer space. In that regard, it does have a Star Wars vibe to it, but that is all the comparison to Star Wars one can make. The AI portion of the story does lend itself to comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey as well, but other than the fact that both stories have AI that interferes with human’s plans the two are nothing alike. All this means is that while the story might sound familiar in some aspects, it is a totally new reading experience that anyone can enjoy.
What makes Illuminae so much fun is not just its unique approach to storytelling. It is not just its fresh take on the science fiction action-adventure. It is all of these things and more. Because of each of these elements, readers come to truly care about Kady and Ezra and will appreciate their viewpoints of the ongoing crisis. The banter is absolutely hilarious; Ezra and Kady have so much personality and zest. They are instantly familiar too, in that reading about their experiences is like reading about long-time friends. Plus, the action is heart-pounding, take-no-prisoners intense. With a last line will leave a reader with chills, Illuminae is a book well worth reading and sharing with others. It really is one of the best books of 2015.