Expected Publication: October 20th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Traded (ARC)
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.
It took me a long time to write this review. It's so, so hard to put into words how incredible and gripping this book really is.
So I'm just going to start by saying that Illuminae is the coolest fucking book I have ever read. Which is probably no surprise, since the synopsis itself talks about how the entire book is written through hacked documents and such. But I didn't know it was going to be this cool. There are IMs, journal entries, audio transcripts, data from the AI's POV, artwork, and so much more. And it works. It works so, so well.
I think the data from the AI was my favorite, to be honest. I LOVED Kady and Ezra's conversations, but there was so much artwork involved in the AI stuff. Everyone who worked on this book deserves a round of applause. HOW DID THIS EVEN HAPPEN? I was constantly amazed by the detail that went into this.
More importantly, though, is that the incredible format and artwork don't carry the story. It's not like they make up for a weak plot. Because the plot is AWESOME. It's everything you want in a sci-fi. Plus, it takes place IN SPACE. ON SPACESHIPS. The colony of Kerenza has been attacked, and the survivors are now running (figuratively) for their lives as the Lincoln pursues them through space. Their AI has been severely damaged, and let's just say it no longer runs quite right. Add in a deadly contagious virus, leaders who are constantly forced to live in the grey zone, and even a romance, and you've got a 5 star book.
Illuminae is intense. And it's not one of those books where it only gets intense and heart-pounding for the last fourth - it's always intense. Though this definitely gets kicked up a few notches for the last fourth or so, there was never a moment where I was bored, never a moment when I wasn't worried about someone. The plot never felt stagnant - it was always moving forward with a huge bang. And I've complained about the stakes never feeling high in many other books - that isn't the case here. The stakes are always high in Illuminae, and Kaufman and Kristoff manage to make me care about strangers, make me feel incredibly sad when they die. When my heart breaks for characters who were rarely around, you know it's good.
And the virus that begins to infiltrate the ships is absolutely chilling and well-done. I feel weird saying that I love a deadly virus, but I do. I LOVE IT. I LOVE EVERYTHING. And the AI? Also chilling. You get to see plenty from its perspective, so to speak, and it's a very unique and interesting perspective, at that. I want 500 more books about AI, please and thank you.
And, of course, we have Kady and Ezra, the main characters. (I will say this - Illuminae had a lot of characters. I tried to pay attention to the names on emails and other documents, I really did, but it got pretty hard to keep track.) They've broken up, they're on two different ships, they're definitely not supposed to be talking. But Kady is an epic hacker - I do wish we'd gotten a little info on just how she knows so much computer jargon that I definitely didn't understand - and she's sick of being lied to and on a hunt for the truth. Ezra has become one of many conscripted civilians. Individually, they're both awesome characters. But of course, my poor little heart just wanted them to kiss and make up, despite the fact that, you know, they're on two different ships. Their conversations happen mostly through IMs, and I was the heart eyes emoji basically the entire time. And then I was crying emoji. I could do an entire emoji review on this book because it had my emotions ALL OVER THE PLACE.
tl;dr: I don't know how to write reviews. Illuminae absolutely deserves all the hype. It's intense, heart-pounding, shocking, and oh yeah, did I mention intense? I WANT A MOVIE IMMEDIATELY. Although I have no idea how that would work, considering the awesome format it's written in. 5 stars.