Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
This book has been quite hyped up and for the past months I’ve seen it everywhere. I was drawn to it for its unique style in reports, emails, audio transcriptions and so on instead of traditional narration. Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) is 608 pages long, but I read it in 3 days during a work week. It flows very easily, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t normally read longer books!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
It is quite true that you don’t need to be a fan of science fiction to like this book. It definitely has cross-appeal, and sometimes feels like a YA contemporary. The language isn’t too technical, and there is a lot of romance. I could not put this book down, it was so addictive! I appreciated the drawings of the spaceships so much I would go back to those from time to time just to stare at them.
There was a lot of work put into the artistic format of the book – there are technical drawings, reports (some bloody), emails, space battles and so on. Most of the time I didn’t mind it or even appreciated very much (did I talk about the spaceships yet??), but sometimes it felt a little annoying and not adding much to the story, except that I had to turn the book 90 degrees to be able to read it or go through a whole Wikipedia-like article to get one or two small interesting pieces of information. The changing format meant that sometimes the story felt like a thriller and sometimes it slowed down inconsistently. This is however a personal preference matter, and I am sure many people will appreciate the creative format!
Ezra and Kady’s interaction felt too forced and too predictable, like I had seen the dialogue so many times before. It definitely felt like adults writing teenage characters, which ended up with caricatures of teens in love instead of young, nuanced refugees who have lost everything. They tease each other and waste precious time during a freaking death plague, crazy AI with murderous tendencies, their family and friends dead or missing, and little time available for communication. When you have seven minutes to talk and you need to exchange important info, is it really necessary to spend 70% of your time discussing your relationship? That was the main downside for me.
The idea of the book is pretty cool. Honestly, I am pretty curious as to the audiobook version, which is supposed to be amazing! I guess with the audiobook the format issues that some people have, including me, could be solved. I really enjoyed the AI’s machinations, and in my opinion it was the best character.
I particularly liked the bloody reports and some emails that started so formally and then a last sentence let slip some personal information about the person writing. I liked the support characters as well, and the gory, creepy descriptions of the plague-infested ships.
Will I read the sequence? Hell yes.
Verdict: This book has really unique format, and the story is so good. I gave it 3 stars because it didn’t completely wow me and the main characters were too cheesy, but I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down! If you don’t like sci-fi and enjoy contemporary/romance YA, give this one a try!