Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Publication Date: October 22nd 2015
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Purchase: The Book Depository / Waterstones
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.
Going into this book I knew I was in the mood for a sci-fi, but when it comes to Sci-Fi I find it really hard to find something I really enjoy and can become completely absorbed in. Whilst up until reading Illuminae, I hadn't ventured into Amie or Jay's previous work, this was definitely a book that screamed out to me. As a beast at 600 pages and told in a variety of hacked documents, Illuminae weaves a tale of suspense and danger that at the same time touches the hearts of it's readers.
First and foremost I have to discuss the way that the novel is formatted, because obviously it's told in a variety of documents that slowly begin to tell the tale of Kady and Ezra. I really enjoyed the diversity of these documents because they were never entirely identical. You had medical reports, schematics, email logs and many others. Take a look at some of these awesome photos of the layout of this book:
Aren't they phenomenal? I've never quite seen a novel formatted this way before!
As for the plot of this book, I found it to be enlightening. Whilst at times some of the science fiction tropes seemed slightly predictable, on the other hand they completely surprised me all at the same time. Something that is extremely difficult to accomplish successfully and yet Kaufman and Kristoff pulled it off flawlessly. Illuminae follows the journey of two teens caught up in a intergalactic battle fought by two rival corporations. However, not is all as it seems as with a rogue AI unit thrown into the mix and a deadly virus slowly working it's way through the ship and infecting its inhabitants, Illuminae is more than you could imagine from a science fiction novel.
What I found most incredible about this novel and the use of the AI unit, 'Aiden', was the way that he was brought to life and given enough substance to become a enjoyable and understandable character that stood on their own. Whilst at times I suppose the popular conventions seemed to come into play, the way Kaufman and Kristoff gave the AI a conscience, we as a reader could see quite visually in the book, exactly what motives drives Aiden to do what he did. What was stunning was frankly the way that they created a character that very much lingered in the background and brought him to the forefront of the novel and actually made him believable. All of his motives were accounted for, even if they were slightly homicidal at times. For a reader, creating a believable character, especially an antagonist is no easy feat and yet the strong connection to Aiden's character that Kaufman and Kristoff have built is one I'm sure readers shall appreciate!
As aforementioned, what amazed me about the plot of this novel was just how many elements were woven into such an already complex scenario, and yet all gelled together smoothly and added an amazing level of depth to the story. I loved the integration of the infected and the whole 'Don't Look At Me' pitch. It was ridiculously creepy and the way the infected were engaged with in the story really made it feel realistic, as if you could physically imagine yourself running from them. You could also really see how their minds were slowly getting more warped as time went on. The little elements like this really made up the story. When they're not torturing or planning their slow, bloody demise, Kaufman and Kristoff take such care in creating meaningful story arcs for their characters and it's definitely something that readers will be able to pick up on and appreciate as they work their way through the book.
As the plot progresses, we as readers are exposed to some very powerful plot twists along the way - some of which literally had me gripping the edge of my seat in anticipation. Without spoiling it, there is one major twist that was done to such dramatic effect that it worked superbly in the author's favour. Whilst at first I felt slightly confused on the event, it was an interesting twist that really does build up a great deal of anticipation for the sequel.
In regards to characters, we're introduced to our main protagonists Kady and Ezra right from the beginning, and the way that their lives were woven together played out really well. I enjoyed that their was no insta-love between these characters because there had already been some sort of relationship prior to the book, so any romantic gestures made between each of them felt natural and self-occurring. It never felt forced when reading it and the reactions that occurred between them in times of crisis felt extremely realistic. As individual characters, we were exposed to a great deal of depth into their own endeavours on the ships, and whilst I felt we got sufficient understanding of Ezra's ventures and the development of his job role since being aboard, I felt Kady's lacked slightly in depth - only ever so slightly. I am very appreciative of her hacking qualities and the development of this trait, however there was little to no mention of a similar job or integration into the lifestyle of the ship prior to Aiden's imminent attack, as Ezra had been exposed to. I would have liked to have seen a small mention of this, even if her character elected to ignore it. I think this would have only added to the rebellious nature of her character.
On a whole I thoroughly loved the dynamics of each of our main protagonists and I thought the side characters played well into the story. There were definitely some characters story arc's that I could easily have read more into and one in particular I'm strongly hoping we'll get more insight into in the future. Something tells me that they're part in the tale is not quite over. Kady as a character is strong willed, dynamic, intelligent and brutally raw. She's probably one of my favourite female protagonists that I've come across this year, so that makes me very happy. She's also very mysterious in her ways. To the reader it's quite obvious to see who she is and that she's a lot more ambitious and strong of wit than her visage leads her to believe. Ezra on the other hand is a lot less impulsive and more reclined in his actions. He's very practical and thinks on his feet to stay alive - instead of rushing about. He's also very focused and dedicated to what he strives for - more specifically to protecting Kady. This comes across very strongly not only in the communications between himself and Kady but also the actions he takes to appose the resisting forces.
All in all, this was a very powerful debut collaboration for these authors. It's such an effective and unique tale that whilst targets powerful sci-fi tropes, brings a fresh new twist on the idea. I award Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff a 4 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. From reading this book and seeing all of the hype that surrounds it, I can clearly see that this is going to be a popular series to look out for! So keep your eyes peeled!