Genre: Science Fiction, YA
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
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.
Have you avoided reading ILLUMINAE because of the hype? Are you holding out on reading it because you don’t have the time right now? I was just like you until earlier this week, and now I’m here to tell you: don’t make the same mistake that I did. Here are 5 reasons to read Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s ILLUMINAE.
1. Kady Grant
Kady Grant is a snarky, low-key genius with a massive chip on her shoulder – but you’d be testy too if your planet had been assaulted by a fleet of spaceships and you were forced to flee, pursued by said enemy. Separated from her parents and her closest friend – and ex-boyfriend – Ezra, Kady’s left to fend for herself aboard the Hypatia, a vessel in the fleet of refugee ships gunning for the nearest safe port. From corrupt leaders, to biological warfare, to an increasingly erratic AI, Kady is a heroine who can handle it all. Added bonus: instead of using physical force, Kady uses her hacker skills to fight back. Definitely a contender for one of my favourite YA heroines of 2016.
2. Ezra Mason
Ezra is a jocky, cocky guy with a heart of gold, still pining for Kady from aboard the vessel Alexander when their miniature fleet of ships reaches a critical point: fight or die. Swiftly moved through fighter pilot training, Ezra is forced to grapple with the reality of the fleet’s dire situation while grappling with the loss of his beloved father. In typical teenage guy fashion, he deals with his feelings by making jokes; his crass humour was a welcome break from the barrage of insanely tense scenes in ILLUMINAE, and his dogged persistence in winning back Kady was charming. In some respects he’s kind an average guy – maybe even a bit of a tool – but in a story full of exceptional people, it was a welcome change of pace.
That erratic AI I mentioned earlier? Meet AIDAN, the supercomputer consciousness responsible for guiding and operating the Alexander, a military vessel armed with nukes. As events spin wildly out of control and the ship takes multiples hits, AIDAN begins to spin wildly out of the crew’s control and starts to develop a distinct personality. The contrast between AIDAN’s ease at mimicking human speech and behaviour patterns and its complete inability to reckon with the capricious, emotional nature of humanity was fascinating (and kinda terrifying) to read about.
4. The Format
ILLUMINAE, as I’m sure you’ve heard, is an epistolary novel, told primarily via written documents rather than traditional narration. Chat logs, reports on video surveillance, military reports, and AIDAN’s internal code processes are all vital to the story, and I had a ton of fun looking at the redacted passages and curse words. The pages where text is used to make shapes might seem gimmicky at first, but I thought it contributed a lot to the feel of the story. If you enjoy books told in a diary format, then I highly recommend this one!
5. The “Dialogue”
Okay, so there’s very little “traditional” dialogue in ILLUMINAE, but the chat logs between characters are amazingly well done. Normally when I see authors trying to imitate teens’ texting patterns it just looks cringe-y and out of touch, but Kaufman and Kristoff really capture the tone and style (despite their own slang terminology) of modern texting. The chat logs between Kady and Ezra, and Ezra and his pilot friends about Kady, were my favourites. They struck the perfect balance between dragging one another and genuine communication. Other authors, take note!
With all these reasons to read ILLUMINAE in the last weeks of 2016, how can you possible refuse?