I’m so happy to finally read one of the hyped books that book bloggers have been recommending to me… check out what I thought…
The Illuminae Files #1
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published October 20th 2015
by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Kady and Ezra live at the edge of the known world (which is more advanced and is no longer limited to our galaxy) in 2575 on a secret mining planet. They broke up that morning not realizing that a few hours later two rival megacorporations would go to war in the space above their heads. The fleet that helped the miners and their families to escape is evacuating with a damaged ship AI and an enemy warship chasing them down. With the after effects of a biological weapon to deal with in the vacuum of space, the people aboard the Alexander, Hypatia and Copernicus may never understand what really happened…
I heard this was about an epidemic and that piqued my interest… I didn’t really know much beyond that except that so many book bloggers really loved it. And that many readers ship Kady and Ezra. So when I first started to read I was quite puzzled. It took me a bit to grasp that I would be reading everything through these documents. It was quite an adjustment and I while I really enjoyed the interview that started the book (with really great dual POVS) we quickly moved away from that format.
At 15% I thought: “Okay this book is crazy… I’m not sure if it’s in a good way or not… the narrative is working… I’m piecing what happened together… it’s a little obvious… but maybe the point is for the reader to think they know what happened?!”
The main characters are not on the same ship and so it makes for a rather light romance. I was totally intrigued by what may be coming but the beginning relied heavily on the typical methods the military utilizes and so I was left wondering where this was going. Conclusion: the beginning is slow.
Compare this picture to the one in this link; that was the difference in size!
As we got to the schematics I was really bummed to see that the graphics are only half the normal size no matter how I turned the ereader. I got the gist of what I needed to see from the ship diagrams but by no means was I able to pour over the drawings. A HUGE mega part of the interaction with this book is not the story but being able to see all the ways that the authors managed to break down the story into documents. Some of my favorite pages were the fanciful ones with the lines of text swirling across the page. Conclusion: the ebook is massively hard to read.
“Most people would say I’m pretty cold, but I think of it more as…private. People are always saying “how are you?” to each other, and I guess I don’t see why I should answer such a personal question for just anyone.”
Then about 50% the setup is clearly over! I am really sympathizing with Ezra (which was essential due to where his part of the story goes to in the end) and I am admiring Kady for standing up for what she believes in the face of all opposition (basically I could relate so strongly to her even if I didn’t always agree with her POV!) I’m not really sure how a narrative shown through created documents was able to capture my heart, but I was locked in see where they ended up. I CARED!! This connection to our two protagonists blew me away!!
“What you do when stuff like this happens is you LIVE, you survive it, that’s how you honour the ones you lost.”
The other characters that populate these events contributed so much to why I came to love Kady and Ezra. McNulty was the first one to help humanize Ezra and give us a glimpse into what his friend his feeling. His POV through the IM chats was absolutely ESSENTIAL to the story. And he was a vital red herring later in the book. Byron was another favorite of mine. The unique best friend to our hacker Kady who also played the role of mentor. I loved how he went against how you wanted him to look physically – that made him so real to me. His place in the story was another essential one and also brought home to me the dual nature of each of these characters as at one heroes and villains, no one falling into one group or the other. Torrance was another character that was incredibly human to me as the commander of the fleet, and the man who had to make tough decisions. He had rules and regulations he had to follow as well as tons of people he was trying to protect and in this mob situation with materials and manpower strained secrecy really is the way ALL commanders would have chosen. This incredible humanity was teased out through the events illustrated in these documents.
“All he cares about here on the edge of forever, is her. He does not want to die. Not because he is afraid. Simply because he cannot bear the thought of leaving her behind.”
AIDEN, the damaged ship AI is perhaps every reader’s favorite character. Neither good nor bad he has specific routines he must follow free of guilt. Every character had a relationship to this AI and he was at the heart of every character’s end. Kady’s relationship being one of the pinnacle ones as she refuses to bow down to the AI. I LOVED the freaky voyeuristic POV we get from him near the end, it gave the story a real power! He is also at the center of the twists in the story. Some of his pages got a little long winded to me. But in the end I really liked that his POV was one of the chief ways we learned what happened.The twists will floor you…
“THE UNIVERSE OWES YOU NOTHING, KADY. IT HAS ALREADY GIVEN YOU EVERYTHING, AFTER ALL. IT WAS HERE LONG BEFORE YOU, AND IT WILL GO ON LONG AFTER YOU. THE ONLY WAY IT WILL REMEMBER YOU IS IF YOU DO SOMETHING WORTHY OF REMEMBRANCE.”
Last but not least I found the futuristic world incredibly compelling. AIDEN is a bit of a stretch, in fact even the biological weapon is too but it was written in such a way that it is soooo believable. Part of why the science was so good is because each bit of it that was revealed was linked to an intimate and personal relationship making our knowledge of the technology essential to the story. The hard science is well done!
BOTTOM LINE: A dossier of hacked documents that will keep you up at night pouring over the interviews, schematics, IM chats, emails, diaries, reports and surveillance…
As a writer I wonder at the decision to have Kady and Ezra broken up at the start of the book. To me this made their later reconciliation contrived and feeling along the lines of instalove (even though obviously they have previous history). To me it makes for a more compelling start (which was slow to begin with) if they had simply been angry at one another. It doesn’t even have to be about their previous history but could arise from their time on the fleet. Ezra could be upset that Kady wouldn’t use her skills openly to help the fleet escape while Kady refused to reveal her motivations for hacking to find the truth.
She could use his own secrets as her reason to feel impelled to learn what is happening and he feels like he can’t argue because he won’t reveal his secrets at first either. In the beginning then they don’t talk because of these difficulties instead of it being quite natural for them not to talk because they are no longer dating. To me this way has more tension and there is more riding on this situation resolving itself so that this pair of lovebirds can work through their differences.