Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Random House Children’s Books/Knopf Books for Young Readers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
I’m going to pull the marketing copy from Goodreads because honestly, I won’t be able to come up with anything to the story better justice:
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.
What I thought
This story is kind of like World War Z meets 2001: A Space Oddyssey. SO. MUCH. TENSION. An unpredictable AI who may or may not be trying to kill everyone, plus a highly contagious epidemic of people basically turning into paranoid, violent zombies. In a closed spaceship. In the middle of outer space. With an enemy ship closing in behind them. Are you on the edge of your seat? OMG, you should be.
The story is told through various “records” like emails, interviews, crew reports, and instant messages. At first I didn’t think I’d like this. I felt like it really limited how things unfolded, but once I got past the first couple of chapters, I felt like the pacing and the choice of which documents are included and the order in which they appear really adds to the feeling of tension building and building as the story progresses.
I loved the quick, witty dialogue between characters, especially Ezra and Kady. What I didn’t love quite so much was that after a while, it seemed like that voice got used too often and too many characters sounded the same to me. I was definitely willing to overlook that, though. It hardly affected my ability to enjoy the story. It was just more something I happened to notice.
Also, the end was fantastic. There was a moment in which I worried that it was going to all wind down leaving me bitter and disappointed, and instead Kristoff and Kaufman totally kicked it up a notch. I would absolutely read a sequel.
Side note: I read an ARC acquired from Netgalley, so the formatting in my version may not match the final version, but I’d recommend ordering a hard copy of the book rather than an ebook. There were a few pages that, because of how they displayed, were a little bit difficult for me to read, and I felt like I was missing parts of words at the edges of the page. I think it might have been easier to read as a paperback, though I usually prefer an ebook version.
Loads of profanity and some crude references.
References to sexual acts.
A biological warfare agent/virus causes those affected to become violent. Sufferers maim and decapitate others. Lots of descriptions are of the aftermath of the outbreak, but there are some really intense moments in which a point-of-view character faces someone with truly gory intent. I’m pretty sensitive to violence in literature, and it was definitely at my upper limits of what I can take.