Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (Knopf Books for Young Readers; Oct 20, 2015)-What happens when big business gets ahead of itself and thousands of people are killed? When they try to cover it up, but some anonymous hackers dig deep to gather information that the government is withholding from the people who survive? Now put all of this into space, where an entire planet is destroyed, the ships with the survivors are being chased by that of the corporation, and one of the primary hackers is a 16-year-old girl who just happened to break up with her boyfriend the day of the attack, then helps to save his life during. Add to that a horrifying virus created by the corporation, the Artificial Intelligence controlling one of the ships seems to be damaged, and it’s like some crazy combination of Space Odyssey, current day events, Battlestar Gallactica, Resident Evil…and some baddass, crazy writing that ties it all together.
Kady Grant is a regular teenage girl, living on a mining planet that is sort of off the grid. Life is fairly normal, for her and everyone else on the planet, until the day BeiTech ships attack. In the middle of the chaos, Kady is not only trying to survive, to help her (now ex-) boyfriend, Ezra, stay alive as well. When the attack is over, she is still alive on one rescue ship, and Ezra is on another. Civilians are being conscripted to work on both ships, because they are being chased by the remaining BeiTech ship. This, and everything else that follows after, we know because of it is all part of a dossier compiled after the fact. Ship logs, journal entries, internal memos, IMs…it’s all here. And in order to get to the bottom of the chaos, and to find out what the TRUE story is, you must read the dossier.
I initially gained interest in Illuminae not because of the premise of the book, but because of one of the co-authors. Jay Kristoff is the author of one of the best trilogies I have read in the last few years (The Lotuswar Series), and as a follower of his blog, I greatly appreciate his sense of humor and his intelligence. I went back and forth before deciding to read this, simply because I’m not always a hard-core sci-fi fan. However, I found myself drawn into this story like the proverbial moth to the flame for a few reasons.
First, the format. Sometimes reading something done in similar styles can be exhausting. It is more trying to the old gray matter when switching back and forth between different types of documents. The success of this type of format can either be terrible, or amazing. In this case, it works so well that I struggle to imagine how Illuminae could have been written in straight novel form.
Then, you have the human vs. artificial intelligence argument. No spoilers here, but this type of thinking has been present for years (Terminator, anyone?). What *would* happen if humans lost control of the very intelligence that they created? A big question that arises here is – will we even know if we have lost control of the computers that run our lives?
And certainly not last, but arguably the most important – the story itself. It’s just truly well done. The characters are (mostly) human, doing the best they can to survive a situation that no one could truly have anticipated. And when that situation goes from bad to supremely insane, the strengths and the weaknesses of these people are brought to the fore. Each is well-written and none are ghosts of what could have been. The tale gets crazier and crazier, and yet it works. Every emotion is felt here – fear, anger, sadness, happiness…even love and devotion. In many cases, it’s visceral – for the characters AND the reader.
Illuminae is book one of a trilogy, and I highly recommend you jump on the bandwagon now. It would not surprise me in the least if this book ended up on the big screen. It’s currently in the top 10 on the New York Times Bestseller list, and it looks to stay there for the foreseeable future. If you love science fiction, zombies, space, battles (both deadly and of wits), even books with a touch of romance – then grab a copy and settle in for a while. Maybe not on the computer though…you never know about those. You might find that, well, it’s only got your best interests at heart…and that may NOT be a good thing.