This book started as “not bad” and quickly morphed into “pretty good” followed by “actually quite good,” “really good,” and then became the kind of book that made me glad of stop lights because I could sneak in another page. I am utterly surprised by how much I loved reading this book and I feel that warm, internal happiness that comes from knowing that a book you love is the first in a series. C’mon reader friends; tell me you know that feeling! If you’re the people I know you are, consider Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s new novel, Illuminae, to be your next soul-warming conquest.
I’ll let Goodreads give you the synopsis:
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.
You know me, tell me the book is riddled with relationshippy nonsense and I’m giving that book a hard pass, but luckily for me, Kaufman & Kristoff gifted their readers with a strong, independent, quick witted protagonist in Kady. There was still relationshippy nonsense, but in this case there was some sense in the nonsense. It wasn’t overkill, it propelled the story forward, and it gave some sort of reunification objective. I really didn’t mind it and I think that those who love reading about relationships will be overjoyed with these characters and their relationship journey.
Now, let’s talk about YA appeal. Not even by the most exaggerated standards (what was it? 15-24??) am I considered a Young Adult, and this book was tremendous fun for me, but I kept thinking, “Oh gosh, teens would love this.” It has amazingly appealing characters, it happens in space, it generates immediate interest (what with the invasion, explosions, car chase, dead people, etc.), it not only maintains that interest but builds upon it with each page, and can we talk about the format of this book??? It is not written as a standard narrative; the closest it gets to narrative is with journal entries, which only make an appearance about five times. The remainder of the book is formatted as a classified document telling the story of the planetary invasion through recovered emails, IM conversations, surveillance transcripts, ship-wide memos, maps, interviews, etc. Yes, the book is just over 600 pages but no way, now how did it take me as long to read it as a usual narrative novel. Not only was the abnormal format fascinating, but it also meant that most pages contained styling and images that made the format change evident, and thus the room for text varied. Also, some pages were simply pictures, or one word (for emphasis), or scrolling/styled text (that conveyed meaning through the text and the image it created).
Seriously, the page count means nothing. This novel is even more fascinating than it is quick and you’ll be so glad you picked it up. Also, most of the curse words are censored, which makes it teen-friendly. There are a few exceptions, but 3 curse words over 600 pages isn’t bad. I will absolutely have this in my classroom library one day. And then I will ring the bells and celebrate when the next volume is released.
Also, Happy Halloween, reader friends!