I have read an insane amount of positive reviews on Illuminae and its sequel, Gemina. It almost feels like I am the last book blogger to hop on this train. What took me so long? I have no idea. One of the biggest appeals for these books is their unique structure. Unique book design is right up my alley, I have a tendency to enjoy books like The Themis Files, The Martian, World War Z, or even the Peculiar Children series. What I struggled with was the series’ YA genre tag. So far in my adult excursion into YA my feelings have been mixed, often love, or teenage angst is too much of a focus; or coming of age is something I have grown past. However, recently some unknown force started steering me more and more towards picking up Illuminae.
Published in ‘015, Illuminae is the collaborative project of Jay Kristoff (Nevernight, Stormdancer) and Amie Kaufman (These Broken Stars, Unearthed). Told through a collection of emails, files, reports and message boards, a larger space opera begins to take shape. Mixing elements of zombies, politics, teen romance, space battles, hackers, the story has something for everyone. Hitting the top of the charts and becoming an international bestseller, the series is currently in the works for a feature film (which would be amazing). Follow up novel, Gemina, saw its release last year, ‘016, to equally high praise, with the conclusion of the trilogy, Obsidio, planned for March ‘018.
Illuminae follows two teenagers, Kady and Ezra, living seemingly normal lives on a frozen planet on the edge of known space. A surprise attack from an enemy corporation leaves only a few thousand survivors abandoning their homes to travel to more populated space in 3 random space crafts. With the A.I. on the military vessel slowly losing its virtual mind, an enemy spaceship on their trail, and a virus causing violent behavior taking over their cargo ship, Kady and Ezra try their best to sort out the mess as crews race to what they hope is safety, but more of a mystery is what will kill them first.
And, oh my, it’s good.
The initial draw to this book may be its unique structure, but the plot is what blows away, and it couldn’t be thicker. There are so many things going on between the space battles and the zombie outbreak that I can only describe it all as ‘intense’. A ride through space wondering what else could go wrong. And I highly appreciate the efforts the authors went through to make the information as scientifically true as possible.
My favourite element, of which there are many to love, has to be the A.I., AIDAN, losing its mind. Making the computer the most powerful and complex of all of the characters took this story to a higher level. Although, I also have a lot of love for pink-haired, hacker, Kady, who is a determined, capable little lady. From starting with the dilemma of how to break up with her boyfriend, to where she ended in the story, this is very much Kady’s book. Plus, there’s friggin’ zombies in space! How much more do you need? How about space battles with nuclear weapons? Or the difficult political, and ethical questions involved in dealing with it all? Seriously, this book has so much awesome packed into 400 pages.
I was beyond pleasantly surprised with Illuminae, I was taken back with everything it had to offer. Sure, the teenage drama was a little unnecessary for me personally, but there are so many things to love. From style, to design, to plot, and conflicts, ground up this book is well thought out and executed to the highest potential. All the high praise and wonderful reviews cannot do Illuminae justice, you must read this book, everyone should read this book. I am debating, I don’t want to give this book a perfect 5/5, but honestly, I can’t think of a good reason not to. If you want to read a book of space, survival, love, politics, zombies, war, A.I., ethics, hackers, technology, and drama, you know what you should be reading next.
Thanks booknerds, can’t wait to dive into book 2, Gemina.