Oh Illuminae. Illuminae. Illuminae. Illuminae.
Where do I even begin with this book?
I was fortunate enough to attend the Melbourne release party of Illuminae in late October of 2015, where both Amie and Jay did an incredible job of introducing the audience to the world, and breathing in such a small space full of so many people. The night was so special. I met so many people I’d never met before who I bonded with over a big bundle of bound paper in my hands. I was early in line to meet Amie and Jay and have Illuminae signed, and even managed to take a photo with them (photo below). I couldn’t imagine a better way to send Illuminae out into the world, even if it’s a world that Illuminae doesn’t necessarily…. take place in. So how would I describe it?
An epic inter-galactic science-fiction book written by two incredibly talented authors? An entirely original and wonderfully chaotic collection of files, documents, e-mails, letters, surveillance footage reviews, warning posters, countdowns, and an all-consuming, mind-boggling artificially intelligent super computer that you simultaneously loath, sympathise and want to get a restraining order on?
When does the sequel come out again?
I thought I would be confused going into this book. I thought that the scientific aspects of it would completely overwhelm me and that I wouldn’t follow a single moment of the storyline. Granted however, I think that of every single science-fiction novel I read. BUT THIS BOOK. Holy wow. If I could describe the plot of this book in five words, they’d be: action-packed, fast-paced, (I think those two are cheating somewhat… hyphens don’t excuse everything these days), thrilling and inter-galactic cat-and-mouse. Okay I totally cheated, but I can’t restrict it to only five. You can’t make me. From page one until page 599 this book kept me on my toes, turning every page in eager anticipation of knowing what would happen next as soon as possible. There were so many points throughout the book where I thought I could guess what would happen, but I was actually glad to have been (almost) entirely wrong. Amie and Jay truly did a fantastic job of keeping the storyline compelling throughout the entirety of the book. The format of the book itself also made sure that my interest was constantly piqued, but not knowing whether or not the next installment would be an e-mail or a case file or an instant message or interstellar spaceship transmission gave me heart palpitations. I so badly wanted to know what was happening throughout each sub-plot that without even realising it, I’d read almost 50 pages in the blink of an eye and I had my answer. This book is so incredibly easy to read, I flew through it.
The characters were easily my favourite aspect of this book. Our two main characters, Ezra and Kady have a pre-page one love story (does this technically count if they sort of break up on page one?), and it makes the progression of their relationship throughout the book all the more stressful. You know they’re meant to be together, but seeing as how they literally can’t be (this takes long-distance relationships to a new level folks), it makes you want to tear your hair out, reach through the pages and just push them together so that they’re forced into each other’s company (whether they like it or not, but I think they would).
Kady was such a refreshing female protagonist. She’s not your typical ‘helpless and hopeless’ damsel. This girl knows how to take care of herself. Sure, at the beginning she’s a little shook up, but if your low-key home planet was invaded by unknown enemy fleets you’d be pretty unsure of yourself too. Kady was so kick-ass! She almost makes me want to dye my hair pink, learn how the hell computers work and join some underground elitist hackers club. On one page I could be cheering for this girl, and on the next I would be crying for her. But on all 599, I admired her. She was selfless and honest and brave. Kady did what had to be done regardless of the cost to herself. She knew who mattered most and fought for them the hardest. I can’t wait to see what she has planned, and what she doesn’t have planned for that matter, in the next book.
Oh Ezra. A true gentleman. The much-needed comedic relief. Whether he was making some sort of dirty joke, making a typo in his instant messages or just completely face-bashing his keyboard, Ezra was such a delight to read from. The boy has a way with words, even when he doesn’t use all that many (especially when he doesn’t and instead uses images, if you know what I mean). In the beginning, Ezra’s a broken-hearted teenage boy who’s still pining for his ex-ish girlfriend, and while his humour is his most obvious layer there are so many more layers to explore (that sounds kind of dirty, am I secretly Ezra Mason?) I love this guy. He needs his own TV show.
But with all the being said, there were so many other characters I adored in this book, some of whom I can’t even mention without spoiling anything. If we saw them for a larger section of the book or only for a few pages, somehow Amie and Jay made us feel all of the things for everyone in this book. How do they even do that??!!
How do you even create a world that’s constantly travelling through hyperspace and on the run from enemy spaceships? I haven’t got the slightest idea, but Amie and Jay nailed it (unsurprisingly). The first world that we’re introduced to in the book, Kerenza, is the home planet of our two protagonists. Although we don’t stay in Kerenza for very long, what we learn about it is that it’s also a victim of mega-corporative rivalry. Kady and Ezra essentially lose their home in the space of a few pages, and the repercussions of it is felt throughout the rest of the book. Even the way the two of them have to establish themselves, and settle themselves into new lives on the Alexandra and Hypatia is crafted so wonderfully.
The blue-prints of the ships that are incorporated throughout the book also help. It introduced a new dynamic to the settings we’re exposed to, especially in moments of danger. The gargantuan size of the Alexandra and the Hypatia aren’t realised until you’re actually, visualising it. It added such an atmosphere to the book, and constructed another layer of world-building within a world nowhere near our own.
Do I even need to talk about this? I’ve read Amie’s co-authored Starbound trilogy (which is also incredible by the way, read that too) and as with Illuminae, the writing in those novels left me absolutely floored. It’s sad to admit that I’ve never read any of Jay’s currently published works, but trust me when I say that by the end of 2016 there won’t be a Jay Kristoff book that I haven’t read. The writing in Illuminae was phenomenal, and although I was somewhat hesitant about it (mostly because of the format of the book itself), I was ultimately stunned by it. The dialogue is so realistic and seamless, although I can’t exactly say I’ve been in any sort of similar situation to these characters. In particular, what really grabbed my attention and what really made me notice the writing as a character of it’s own was AIDAN. For an artificially intelligent super-computer, the thing completely creeps me out. I constantly have nightmares that revolve around one simple phrase: “Am I not merciful?” If you’ve read the book you know exactly what I mean when I say that, and I can imagine the chill that’s running down your spine because I’m feeling it too. The writing is so eerie and chilling, but on the next page it can be so light-hearted and humorous that it’s almost hard to believe that both pages are part of the same story. I have to give credit where it’s due, and Amie and Jay deserve a shit-tonne of it.
“Am I not merciful?” Okay I’ll stop, sorry.
I can’t say I’ve ever read a book that starts out with the two main characters breaking-up. It’s almost like the opposite of insta-love, and goodness knows we don’t need any more of that. How can two main characters, who have just broken up, break my heart as well? I know there’s an inter-galactic crisis occurring in this book, and that that should probably capture Kady and Ezra’s attention the most (and mine as well to be frank) but they’re teenagers. I’m a teenager (for three more months at least). I need a little romance, and I won’t apologise for being a little boy-crazy (or girl-crazy, if you’re Ezra and/or if you swing that way). I think that Amie and Jay blended the perfect amount of romance and heartbreak into an otherwise thrilling and action-packed storyline. The romance added just that little bit more tension that the characters needed in their otherwise entirely tension-free lives (….), and I was a complete sucker for it (oh my God I know I can’t spoil anything right now but I so want to, you don’t even understand). I still don’t know how these two authors managed to make me stop caring about a brewing war and potential death, to focus my attention on two teenagers who aren’t even together anymore, but they did it. They totally did it guys.
I need the sequel. I need Gemina right now. WHY DON’T I HAVE GEMINA RIGHT NOW?
OVERALL ENJOYMENT: ★★★★★
I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment I spent reading this book. There was never a dull page, and whether it was the storyline that kept me turning the pages or the next style of story-telling to experience, I was captivated. Even though I read this during my exam period last year, and it made me want to neglect every single form of academic responsibility, I had to know what was going to happen next to my beloved characters. This book made me smile, it made me laugh, it almost made me go into cardiac arrest but I loved every single second of it. I have no idea what Gemina will do to me, but Illuminae definitely got the ball rolling for this epic series.
FINAL RATING: ★★★★★
So basically, I adored this book. It was one of my most anticipated of 2015 and (as you have probably already guessed) the sequel, Gemina, is pretty high up there on my most anticipated of 2016. We know almost nothing about it as of right now, but you can bet that I’ll be putting it in my Countdown app as soon as I can. I couldn’t give this book anything less than a full 5 out of 5 star review, but if I could give it every star in the galaxy, I would.