Title: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: Young Adult | Sci-Fi
Goodreads Synopsis: One moment, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have nothing bigger to worry about than each other. Specifically, avoiding each other in the wake of their messy break-up. In the next second, their entire world falls apart.
The year is 2375 and one of the mega-corporations that control much of deep space has just fired the opening salvo in an intergalactic war, destroying Kady and Ezra’s planet. Forced to flee on a small fleet of crippled rescue ships alongside thousands of other refugees, the fear of enemy warships chasing them down is at first all-consuming but soon becomes the least of their worries. A deadly plague is ravaging the refugees on the ships; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be an enemy; and High Command is refusing to acknowledge that there may be a serious problem. As Kady plunges into a tangled web of data in search of the truth, she realises that Ezra is possibly the only person who can help her save the refugees before it’s too late.
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If you haven’t already heard of this book, you’ve probably been living under a rock. This book is everywhere – almost every blogger I follow had this in their ‘Top Books of 2015’ lists. I have heard nothing but brilliant things, and when I found the beautiful hardcover for $9 at the Strand Bookstore, I couldn’t pass it up. I’m glad I picked this up though, because gosh, was this an experience I won’t ever forget. Told in case files, interviews, strange text shapes, video surveillances and chats, this book was definitely entertaining, fun and exciting. But while I flew through this 600-page tome, there were some vital things that were compromised due to the unique format.
This book is about so many things at the same time, and because that’s the nature of it, it is never slow. It is never boring or dull. There are no lulls in this novel – it is constantly fast-paced, action-packed and absolutely crazy. I didn’t get the time to breathe during the action, and while most people will think that this is a very positive point, I see it as both positive and negative. I enjoy well-balanced books, where the action is balanced off with the right amount of character development. Here, the action was balanced with chats that work to develop the romance between our two protagonists, and even those were plot-centered. There was a ton of planning, strategizing, futuristic jargon that got a little bit much for me. But despite this, I found the book extremely enjoyable.
Another negative that immediately struck out for me was the back-story behind Phobos, the illness that is plaguing our characters’ crew members and such. There was virtually no back story. I don’t have a strong grasp of the sickness, which I feel is going to be the Big Bad throughout the next books (next book?) I would have liked for it to be a bit more developed.
However, I was a big fan of our main antagonist in this book: AIDAN, our self-righteous, insane artificial intelligence unit. Personally, I thought putting AIDAN as the antagonist was a bold, yet interesting move. Almost like a commentary on the perils of putting our lives in the hands of technology that functions on formulae and algorithms. We also get several sections from the viewpoint of AIDAN, which were lyrically written and very well done, albeit a bit overdramatic.
Also, kudos to the authors for taking tough decisions and killing off people. God knows I’m sick of novels that take place during war where everybody leaves happy as a unicorn.
As I expected, the characterization was compromised for the format of the book. The characters had very strong voices, since we saw very little action from them; we mainly just saw dialogue. Ezra’s voice was especially well-established- his colloquial terms, how he phrases his sentences, everything was planned and thought-out. This obviously lent itself to his characterization, but I still don’t feel like I know him. Or Kady for that matter. Her voice was significantly less distinct than Ezra’s, and apart from knowing that she’s smart and feisty, she’s nothing. I want to know more about these characters. I want development and back story and personality.
I liked how other characters played a significant role in the advancement of the plot. It was realistic, but again, I don’t have a feel for any of these characters. Perhaps the only character I think I have a grasp on is AIDAN, which is funny because he’s not… you know… a person…
This section is a little bit tricky to write in, because we have two authors and I don’t know who wrote what section. I think each author took control of one of our protagonists, which is why they both had such different voices, but apart from that, I don’t know. I will say that they both worked wonderfully together. The whole novel felt cohesive. Despite having (obviously) different writing styles, the book never felt disjointed. I can’t say much about anything else though- just that I had a great time reading this. And I can’t wait for the next installment.