Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Goodreads: ★★★★ 1/2
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.
I knew Illumiae would be a unique reading experience ever since I picked it up at Book Expo America (“BEA”) this past May. This brick of a book is 600 pages, yet flies by due to its experimental writing style. Illuminae is told through a series of hacked documents and presented to the reader as one large case file. From email logs, to video surveillance summaries, to government documents and more, Illuminae is experimental writing done right.
The story chronicles Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, a young couple who breaks up on the same day their colony is attacked by a giant corporation. Kady and Ezra escape on spaceships, with Kady being on the Hypatia and Ezra on the Alexander. Illuminae chronicles this duo as they discover the reasons behind the attack and the fate that is in store for their community. What follows is a terrifying tale featuring a petrifying virus taking over the population and a human-like artificial intelligence program called AIDAN, which is controlling the fate of everyone aboard the spaceships.
I was immediately captivated with the story, though I did find it a bit difficult to understand everything that was going on at first because of the book’s set-up. While the world-building could have been stronger, the characters were instantaneously likable, and I was rooting for Kady and Ezra from page one. I was amazed with how connected I felt with the characters in Illuminae. Kady, in particular, is an impeccable heroine.
The breakthrough star of Illuminae, though, is AIDAN, the artificial intelligence on board the Alexander. While AIDIN may be just a machine, his words and feelings are so human that it was easy to forget he was created through computer code. AIDAN’s character is creepy and intriguing. His ability to know and see everything around him is disturbing, and his ability wipe out the entire community with one command is terrifying. AIDAN’s role in Illuminae stirs up a dialogue about what it means to be human, and the dangers of technology if we continue to let it dominate our lives.
Moreover, Illuminae’s design is done extremely well. As the story continues, page design plays a big role in the reading experience. The color of the pages, font, and word placement help to build anticipation, and I’m very impressed with the careful attention to detail. Some pages in the book are truly works of art, and it does not go unappreciated.
Finally, the ending of Illuminae is very well done. While it was a bit predictable, I still enjoyed it nonetheless. The story is completed while still setting up for book two. I can’t wait until the next installment in this trilogy comes out, though I’ll have to do so – it won’t be released until sometime in 2016. Until then, I highly recommend you pre-order Illuminae so you can experience this adventure as soon as the book hits shelves in October. Don’t be intimidated by the page count – you’ll fly through Illuminae with ease.
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