Review: Illuminae

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Goodreads Summary:

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 heroes.

I saw so much hype for this book, and while I love the Starbound series co-authored by Kaufman, I wasn’t sure about this one. But with Christmas approaching I decided to add it to my wish list. I’m glad I did.

I got this in hardback, which I think is the best way to read it as I don’t know how it would translate to e-reader. It’s an epistolary book, but goes beyond even that. It’s composed of audio transcripts, e-mails, IMs, memorandums, journal entries, after-action reports, and what becomes a central narrator – the artificial intelligence system in the middle of it all. While this aspect is what makes the book so unique, I was worried that it would make it hard to connect to the characters; that was foolish of me.

Even written in such a detached way, we still get glimpses inside the characters heads that unveil their deeper emotions and drivers. I also really liked how the format lead to the unraveling of the story. We go in with certain facts, but as we get farther and farther into the story more things are being revealed, and the extent of the damage done spirals out of what little control we thought the characters would have over it all.

While at times the narration of the AI bogged me down a bit, it was also one of the more interesting voices of the story, and really became an ambiguous villain. The romance element of this was also really well balanced, it was there, but it wasn’t drowning you, and since it was already established we didn’t have to worry about those “moments” that build it up and solidify it that sometimes take away from the action of a story. Coming into a YA book with an established relationship was something I hadn’t seen before too.

This reminded me a lot of the Starbound series in the general “world”, but it stands far enough apart that I think it will be able to please fans of the first series as well as brining in new fans who are more focused on the Sci-Fi element.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed the interesting format, well plotted and surprising story, and the potential this series has. Definitely one worth the hype.

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