Illuminae – The Illuminae Files_01 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf for Young Readers
There is so much to praise about this book, that I don’t know where to begin. From the design of the cover and the unique design of the pages, to the way the story is told – this book is spectacular.
When you read a lot of books, no matter how many of them you liked, you find that there are always a very special few that you will always count as a favorite. Even as plots and characters from some very good books fade from memory, those special few stay with you forever. Earlier this year I felt that way about Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and now Illuminae will be added to that very special list.
Another thing this book did was get me out of my reading slump. In the past few weeks I’ve picked up a number of books, some that I was even very excited about, but for one reason or another they just didn’t feel right, and I wound up putting them down after only a couple of chapters.
Not this book! I started this one and did not want to put it down. After reading a few chapters last week on my lunch breaks at work, I picked it up Saturday morning and didn’t put it down until I finished it that same day. Slump is over 🙂
OK, so let’s dig in. This book is told in a format known as epistolary, which means that the authors used journals, transcripts of video surveillance, instant messaging, etc. to tell this story. It also takes place quite a way into the future, and in space. But let’s not throw this into the “science fiction” genre; or even the YA genre just because our two main characters happen to be teenagers. This book is so much more than that, and I’d hate to see it dismissed by someone because they don’t read sci-fi or young adult.
The book opens in the year 2576, with a memorandum from the Illuminae Group, explaining that they are sharing a “file” which contains documentation describing the destruction of the Kerenza colony the previous year, and the aftermath that followed. You get the sense that this group is trying to set the record straight.
The next set of documents are transcripts from interviews held with Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, two teenagers who were in school when the attack began. Interspersed with the account of the attack, both teenagers also tell of their recent break-up, and how it saved their lives that day.
And then the action begins – and never really lets up throughout this entire book. Even as the survivors flee the colony they are not out of danger. They’ve been crammed on the only three remaining ships: the freighter Copernicus; the science ship Hypatia; and the military battlecarrier Alexander, who heard the distress call and came to their rescue. These three ships are carrying more people than what they were built for, and there may not be enough water or food supplies to sustain them until they reach safety. To top it all off, the Lincoln, the last remaining ship that helped lead the attack on the colony is still after them, and the Alexander has been heavily damaged and can no longer use its jump capabilities. It’s going to take six months or more to reach the nearest station, if the Lincoln doesn’t get to them first.
On board their ships, Kady and Ezra try to adjust and deal with the stress and trauma of the attack. They were separated during the evacuation, with Ezra winding up on the Alexander, and being conscripted into the military as a rookie fighter pilot; Kady is on the Hypatia, doing everything she can to stay under the radar, even to the point of purposely not passing her aptitude tests so that she won’t be conscripted, and basically being a moody, arrogant teenager to any authority figure. But over time, Kady and Ezra connect via messages and realize that their break-up was a mistake, and now all they want is to reach the station safely and be together.
But then something horrible happens on one of the ships, and Kady knows that there’s a cover-up. As she hacks her way into classified and private communications she finds a co-conspirator – another hacker who will help her find the truth. What they are doing is considered treason during war time, and they could be shot, but Kady will stop at nothing to get to the truth, even if it means putting Ezra in danger.
What a wild ride! This book has it all: snarky dialogue, a biological outbreak, reluctant heroes, villains, an artificial intelligence computer with a mind of its own, danger, heartbreak, and a fast paced race to the end. I know I’m being a bit vague about most of the plot, but that’s on purpose because I don’t want to spoil or ruin one page of it. I loved every bit of this book!
I’m sure you can tell that I would highly recommend this book, and from what I’ve been reading, it’s flying off the shelves. Oh, and apparently this is book one of a trilogy. Can’t wait!
I also think I know someone who would particularly like this book – I’m looking at you, Patty!
Lastly, I think these two authors are fabulous, you can follow them on twitter at:
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