You can tell the authors had a blast writing this book. This is not your “father’s” science fiction – it is an SF saga. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff lacks the typical narrative – in fact there is no story, at least not in the typical prose. The reader discovers what is happening through various discourse, documents, and diagrams as found in the report of events prepared by the Illuminae. It’s as if we are experiencing life as it happens via emails and memos – a technique which not only engages the reader, but takes them prisoner as they become compelled to discover what happens next.
On the day after 17 year old Kady dumps her boyfriend Ezra, all hell breaks loose when their home planet is attacked by BeiTech Industries in retaliation for their illicit mining activity. That’s one way to eliminate the competition. Luckily Kady had taken the car to school that day and reluctantly allows Ezra to ride along as they race to one of the two shuttles which are able to make it safely off the annihilated planet to the protection of space ship Alexander (who luckily happened to be close enough to intercept their SOS). Although Flagship Alexander successfully fights off the attacking enemy ship Lincoln, its capacity to jump through space has been so badly damaged that travel to the safety of the nearest space station will have to be the slow, old fashioned way.
Danger continually pops up throughout this epic (600 or so pages), sometimes in the form of a rogue computer reminiscent of 2bi001’s Hal or via a bio virus which rapidly spreads and turns those infected into raving lunatics – a sort of outer space version of Night of the Living Dead. If that doesn’t cause enough of a crisis, the Lincoln is in pursuit while the damaged Alexander has to shut down their Artificial Intelligent computer, AIDEN, after it has gone rogue and taken command (with devastating results). Throughout, Ezra (an innately talented fighter pilot) and Kady (a secret, but effective, computer hacker) find themselves on separate ships, interacting through correspondence and other activities as they strive to reunite and rekindle their former romance.
The authors keep you guessing with death and violence more prevalent than survival. Expect to hold your breath on more than one occasion and don’t get too attached to any of the characters (although many become endearing through their brave actions as reflected via internet dialogue). There are lots of heroes in the midst of tragedy with a sliver of hope that our favorites will survive. Even if you think you’ve figured it all out, there are too many surprises to be smug about correctly envisioning future outcomes. The diabolical AIDEN, with its flawed inner core, leaves us conflicted with love/hate feelings as we at first root for its demise and then want it to survive against all the odds.
Four and a half stars plus some excited anticipation for the rest of the trilogy coming out in 2016 and 2017. This one should make a big impact on the young adult crowd which could easily eek over to adult and teenage readers. I personally think it is a little violent for younger children, but it’s not as if The Hunger Games and Divergent were G rated books either.
A thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for sending this ARC in exchange for an honest review.