Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Book One of the Illuminae Files series
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
If you saw my updates on either Goodreads or Twitter, you probably noticed that I sounded almost reluctant to admit that I liked this book. Don't get me wrong! I have wanted to read this book for a very long time. I've also had an ARC for months. But many people have read it by now, and the hype was killing me. So when I finally got to this book in my review schedule, I was scared. I didn't want to read it as much anymore. Plus, it is HUGE (600 pages). I'm fine with 400-450. But 600+? I don't have time for that. Luckily, this book proved to be an exception in every way!
Kady and Ezra's home planet has been invaded by BeiTech, a megacorporation that has been illegally exploiting resources from the planet. Kady is evacuated on one ship (the Hypatia), ad Ezra is evacuated on another (the Alexander). Ezra is conscripted as soon as he turns eighteen, and is trained to be a pilot - Second Lieutenant Ezra Mason. Meanwhile, Kady uses her computer and systems skills to hack into the data systems of the Hypatia and Alexander to figure out what is going on, what the General and Captain aren't telling the refugees. Kady and Ezra are up against biological warfare, surprise attacks, and speedy pursuit of the megacoporation, but nothing is going to stop either of them from trying to make it out alive.
The most fascinating and unique about this book is the way it's presented. It's not a typical narrative, in which one person (or two or three or six) tell a story, in present or past tense. This story is told via hacked documents, security footage, incognito chat logs, classified messages, etc. At first, I was like, this isn't going to be that interesting. I need a narrative! I need to know what the protagonist is thinking, feeling, and so on! The thing is, this mode of storytelling is quite genius. Kaufman and Kristoff did a flawless job of putting together the documents and messages into a clear and engaging story. It's so cool how it is done!
Kady is a unique character in YA lit. Yes, she is your typical spunky chick, overly feisty and fierce and whatnot (not EVERY girl is like that...). But she's also incredibly antisocial (not a team player at all), a bit awkward, nerdy, sarcastic. She is used to getting her way, and breaks up with Ezra because he told her no to something she wanted. I didn't like Kady at first (I thought she was conceited), but I ended up liking her a lot. Putting her in life-or-death situations really changes a person, especially when you're up to your eyeballs in dead or crazy people, contaminated breathing air, and lies.
I love Ezra. He is the perfect amount of cocky, self-confident, goofy, and honest. He is a massive guy (6'5''), an athlete, and a sweet person. He loves Kady, and he is crushed when she breaks up with him. Even when they're on two different evacuation ships, Ezra never stops trying to contact Kady. Kady ignores him for months, but Ezra keeps messaging her, I love his resilience, his attitude towards most things, his protective side. He has so many issues to work through during this story. I just want to give him a hug!
The book takes place over months. Literally the months just roll by after Ezra and Kady get evacuated, and it's made known by how quickly Ezra's birthday comes up, and then by how quickly he becomes a pilot. We know the timing of everything because there is a countdown to when the ship that is pursuing them - the BeiTech ship - will intercept them. The countdown is a good feature of this book, and very nerve-wracking!
This book is full of twists and turns, surprises and good foreshadowing. It's 600 pages and there are lots of shenanigans and general craziness that happens. A disease has been released within the refugees (while they were still on the planet), a system on the Alexander has gone haywire, and the refugees are definitely being kept in the dark about many things. Kady is on the Hypatia trying to figure out what is going on, and how to tackle the haywire system problem. Ezra is simply trying to survive, as he has had to engage in nasty military activity. The plot is very engaging, you will not be too bothered by the length of the book.
The world-building of this novel is stunning! Again, you'd think it would be hard to convey this through emails and chat logs and security logs and records. But it's all about the simple phrases, the matter-of-fact remarks, that the difference. There aren't necessarily large chunks of details about things. So you have to pay attention to nuances!
The romance consists of the exes - Kady and Ezra. As you can imagine, the made of storytelling isn't going to be very demonstrative of physical chemistry and romance. However, Kaufman and Kristoff write in subtleties. Even though they broke up, Kady and Ezra know they aren't done with each other. And throughout the story, there are so many funny and cute and sweet moments between these two. You have to read to the end of this book to figure out what happens to them!
And of course, in general! The ending is heartbreaking, yet perfect. I absolutely love the ending, though I feel like there is a part of the ending that is just totally dropped into the book (like, the reason for the book's title, for one). But I am quite satisfied with the ending. Until the next book!
What I Did Not Like:
The ending, as I mentioned, has that one thing that is totally just plopped in. I feel like that part of the ending could have been more worked into the story. There is one TINY hint in the book (when I read it, I was like, yup, this is going to reappear at some point, if Ezra made such a big deal about it), but I think it could have been more of A Thing in the story. The origin of the book's title, at the very least.
Loooong, this book was long. While I read the book fairly quickly, it was still, well, long. This is a con for me because I just do not have that kind of time! I recognize that this is entirely an Alyssa problem.
Would I Recommend It:
Science fiction fans (like myself!) - you will enjoy this one! It reminded me of Beth Revis's Across the Universe series. Stuck on a ship that is filled with lies and crazy people. Or something. This book is so thorough and well-put-together, and despite its length, it's a very entertaining story. Very heartbreaking at times, yet so excellent.
3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. I liked this book! I'm not sure it will end up in my top ten of 2015 (hence the 3.5-star-rating), but it is definitely one I will have on my mind for quite some time. And I will definitely be getting my hands on the sequel next year, as soon as I (legally) can!
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