by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
First, survive. Then tell the truth.
The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations 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.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Illuminae since it was released in 2015 – I can’t believe this novel has been around for four years already – and I feel like I’ve been seeing Jay Kristoff’s name everywhere this year, so when I came across the kindle edition of this YA sci-fi novel told via mixed media for less than £2 I snapped it up.
I had a lot of fun with this novel and, despite the fact that it’s over 600 pages long, I sped through it because of the format it’s told in.
In Illuminae we follow teenagers Kady and Ezra who, on the day Kady breaks off their relationship, end up fleeing their planet on two separate fleets with the warship that has destroyed their home in pursuit. What follows is a story that twists and turns as Kady tries to find out what the hell’s going on, and why so many lives have been ruined, by hacking into government documents.
To be honest that’s all I want to say about this novel because I went into it knowing practically nothing about it and I enjoyed it so much more because of that. The less you know, the more it feels like this story is unfolding in front of you and you’re simply along for the ride.
Parts of this novel are pretty dark, and I loved those moments. The mixed media format, sometimes a string of dialogue from an online forum and sometimes a report from someone examining CCTV footage, keeps you on tenterhooks because you’re experiencing the story as the characters are experiencing it and finding things out as they’re discovering them.
I have to say that, without the way it’s written, I’m not sure how original this idea is. To be honest that doesn’t bother me; I haven’t read enough sci-fi to feel bogged down by tropes and there’s no such thing as a completely original story anymore anyway. I want to mention it, though, because I think there may be some sci-fi aficionados who might go into this book expecting a completely original concept when it’s actually the way this story is written, and not necessarily the contents of the story itself, that makes Illuminae so original.
The characters are great; when Kady and Ezra are back on speaking terms their banter is really fun, and you get a sense of the history between them and how, now that their entire lives have changed so drastically, the problems they thought they had don’t seem all that big.
There was also one plot twist that took me completely by surprise and I loved it. When I say this is a twisty, turny book I mean it in every sense of the word, and I was well on the way to giving this book 5 stars. Then there was another twist, nearer the end, and unfortunately it lessened the impact of that earlier twist for me. I’d’ve loved this novel even more if Kaufman and Kristoff had been a little braver. If you’ve read Illuminae then I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.
That aside I had a lot of fun reading this novel and both Kaufman and Kristoff are authors I’d like to read more from in future. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with this series, I’ve seen most people say the first book is the best and the second and third are just rehashed versions of the first, but I might be tempted to read Gemina if I find a cheap copy somewhere because one of the characters in it is a member of a crime family, and I love me a crime family…