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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) Hardcover – October 20, 2015
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Kady Grant has typical problems: school, parents, and a boyfriend she just dumped. But life spirals out of control when Kady's planet, Kerenza, is attacked by an unknown enemy. As destruction unfolds around her, Kady manages to escape her planet on one of three ships. Kady is considered lucky, with her mother on one ship and her ex, Ezra, on another. As the convoy flees Kerenza with the enemy close behind, it is clear that the problems have just begun. A deadly virus is spreading through one of the ships; AIDEN, the onboard computer of the lead ship, has gone rogue; and the enemy is in close pursuit in an attempt to destroy the last witnesses of the Kerenza catastrophe. Using a nontraditional writing style, Kaufman and Kristoff craft the narrative using illustrated screen shots of spaceship blueprints, interviews, data, and messages that make up the "Illuminae Files." Despite the minimal presence of conventional paragraphs, there is a surprisingly natural flow as elements are seamlessly woven together to create a satisfying dossier-style reading experience. The characters are immediately real and with harrowing accounts, unexpected twists, and gut-wrenching selflessness, they become even more endearing over the course of the book. While reminiscent of the works of Isaac Asimov and Orson Scott Card, this work is a distinct piece that stands alone. VERDICT A great recommendation for middle and high school science-fiction fans.—Paige Rowse, Syosset High School Library, New York
"Prepare yourselves for Illuminae."
"One look at a hard copy of Illuminae and you know you're not in for an ordinary novel experience. . . . Illuminae is a wholly ambitious work that never sacrifices emotion or story for its unique form."
"A truly interactive experience for the reader. . . . A fantastically fun ride."
--Booklist, starred review
"Stunningly creative. Smart, funny, and romantic. This is the book I've been waiting for."
--Veronica Rossi, bestselling author of Under the Never Sky
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
-- School Library Journal
--Beth Revis, bestselling author of Across the Universe
"Brace yourself. You're about to be immersed in a mindscape that you'll never want to leave."
--Marie Lu, bestselling author of the Legend trilogy
"An edge of your seat thrill ride that left me breathless. Genre: Undefinable. Novel: Unforgettable."
--Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of Beautiful Creatures & author of Unbreakable
--Shelf Awareness, starred review
-- Romantic Times, Top Pick Gold
"Not only is ILLUMINAE a twisting, heart-pounding story moving at the speed of light, but it is a truly beautiful novel that redefines the form. I have never read anything like it. And it certainly filled the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA shaped hole in my heart."
--Victoria Aveyard, bestselling author of Red Queen
"An exuberant mix of space opera, romance, zombies, hackers, and political thrills, told with eccentric aplomb. ILLUMINAE is both the weirdest and most heartfelt thing you'll read this year. "
--Scott Westerfeld, bestselling author of Uglies and Zeroes
Top customer reviews
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Instead of narrative, this book is presented through transcripts of interviews describing events, email conversations, reports, graphic elements…it’s very odd. At first I found it intimidating, and wondered if I would be able to read a book in this manner, but after maybe 30 pages, you’re well into it.
Because of the format, it’s not truly like reading a 600-page book. The copy is very loose, since it mimics the format of the communication type instead of being running body text.
As for the story: Kady and Ezra have just broken up when their planet is attacked. As their ships attempt to escape from their long-term pursuers, Ezra is drafted into becoming a fighter pilot, and Kady becomes a hacker. They're trying to put together what is happening, why the artificial intelligence seems to have gone haywire, and a deadly disease is spreading among the survivors. Can two teens save them all, while getting their romance back on track?
You may be thinking, "This sounds like every sci-fi movie I've ever seen rolled together. Why should I read it in book form?" I promise, the story is really, really exciting the way it's told. Also, there are some twists and turns along the way. I went from "What IS this book?" to "Yep, get me the sequel, NOW!" once I had finished. Sequel will be an auto-buy, and can't come fast enough.
Little do they know, their problems are just beginning. Not only is a virus spreading and causing those contaminated into attempt to harm others, but the corporation who invited their planet is hot on their tail trying to wipe out any remaining survivors. The commanders of the ships are remaining tight lipped about all of the details, so Kady decides to take things into her own hands by hacking into the computer systems. It turns out that the one person who can help her uncover the truth is none other than her ex-boyfriend, Ezra.
Told through a series of case files, IM’s, emails, interviews, and more, Illuminae is a fast paced story about two regular teenagers forced to step up in order to save themselves and the ones they love.
I am a huge fan of epistolary novels, and will basically read anything told in email/text/IM format. I think they are fun and unique, and I just love reading them. That said, I was a little hesitant to read Illuminae, because generally sci-fi is not my thing. After seeing so many positive reviews coming in from people I trust, I decided to give it a try. I bought the book, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for probably 9 months. I finally decided to pick it up, and I was instantly hooked. I read the book in two sittings!
Initially, I did find myself confused until about 100 or so pages in. It took a little bit for me to understand the language and learn who the different characters were and how they related to each other, but once I got that part down, I flew through the book. I stayed up way too late reading it during my first sitting, but I was dying to know what would happen!
I really loved all of the characters. It was refreshing to not see another YA book fall down the “insta-love” rabbit hole. Instead, we see a couple who has been together for a while, but opted to break up. They’re mad at each other, but you can tell there are still feelings there. The feelings develop and change throughout the book, and I liked seeing the relationship change sort of in the reverse of what I normally see. I found Kady to be a wonderfully competent character. I hardly ever read books where a woman is into computers, coding, hacking, and other technical skills, so I loved that it was Kady who played that role and not Ezra.
I also loved that the story was told from both Ezra and Kady’s points of view, based on which one of them was IMing or interviewing at the time. It felt like it made each character more developed and well rounded, and I really enjoyed that.
Despite the fact that I’m generally not a huge fan of sci-fi, I loved this one. I felt like it was done really well, and written in a way that didn’t feel confusing on insanely far fetched. I found myself wanting to know more about the times they lived in, and to learn more about their planet and the way things worked in this new world where space travel is possible, so I actually really liked that aspect of the book, which completely surprised me.
The book was really fast paced, and there was a ton of action! The end of the book was so intense and I just loved how everything played out. Illuminae did leave on a cliffhanger, so if you plan to read it, make sure you have Gemina ready to go!
I highly recommend this one, even if sci-fi isn’t usually your thing, give it a chance and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Kady - computer hacking, pink-haired girl with a chip on her shoulder and a penchant for not following the rules (read: she would've fit in anywhere in the 90s).
Ezra - a sweet buffoon with good spatial awareness and fast reflexes (read: jock).
AIDAN - An AI system that has had A FEW TERRIBLE DAYS IN A ROW, ALL RIGHT? JUST - JUST DO NOT TEST IT. DO NOT QUESTION IT. DO NOT LOOK AT IT SIDEWAYS. And, AIDAN? No matter what you tell yourself, NO, YOU AM NOT MERCIFUL.
Space zombies - I believe this is self-explanatory. Only instead of brains, they were particularly interested in eyeballs. (I guess that is the zombie version of a foodie?)
Lots of other people - Let them remain nameless. It's easier that way.
What I enjoyed:
Totally original method of storytelling. It took my brain a while to adapt to the format, but once I did, I was right there. (Sure, there were some pages that I had to twist around as I read them, but still, major points for originality.)
Truly unexpected plot twists. It was a lot of fun seeing how the story unfolded, finding out who was toast and who made it - maybe - maybe they made it - OH, COME ON! ...Total thrill ride.
Space zombies are always welcome. These were particularly fun. Note: If someone is covered in blood and screeches "DON'T LOOK AT ME!" - then maybe don't look at them, friend. There are other things to look at! For example, ANYTHING ELSE! DO NOT ANGER THE SPACE ZOMBIES!
I liked the concept of mega-corporations running entire planets. There's something so isolated and huge about this book. It takes place (briefly) on an icy mining planet, and then on enormous spaceships. But even though the spaceships were huge, even though there were thousands of people around - at any given time there's only a bit of metal between you and nothing. LOTS of nothing. It's such a fun setting for any type of story, but I think it fits especially well with stories like this - part horror, part romance, part space opera.
What I didn't enjoy:
Certain elements of the story felt very familiar. Granted, when an AI goes murdery, it's impossible not to think of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And when a human-made drug unexpectedly creates ultra-violent zombie-type people and the story takes place in space, it's impossible not to think of the reavers from Firefly/Serenity. But because those two elements were a huge part of the plot, the story felt a bit derivative.
Sometimes the science was hand-wavy SORRY. I'M SORRY. I'M SORRY. I CAN'T HELP WHO I AM. Hand-wavy science is BY NO MEANS a deal-breaker for me, but when I read those parts I just got this stab of annoyance. And towards the end of the book, annoyance was stabbing me every few pages or so.
No spoilers, but I did not appreciate the major plot twist at the end. Now, I am ALL FOR plot twists; but in this case, I was so frustrated. Because this story is told via files that were compiled after the story occurred, there was no reason for the plot twist whatsoever - other than, of course, the whole, "Ha-HA! Surprised??" It's like the authors were hiding behind a tree, smothering their giggles, waiting for me to get to That Page when I find out The Big Twist. I guess I'm saying that the plot twist was contrived so that it was a plot twist, but didn't need to be one for the sake of the story. YES I KNOW THIS IS VAGUE BUT JUST IN CASE YOU READ IT I DON'T WANT TO RUIN THE STORY FOR YOU.
I didn't really like Kady or Ezra - which is fine, because I still rooted for them. I didn't actively want them to die. But they seemed like cookie-cutter characters. Smart girl with chip on her shoulder! Lovable jock who just needs to be told what to do! Would've loved a little more depth from both of them.
It's possible that the method of storytelling hurt the characters here - while we see the characters IM-ing each other a lot, SO MUCH of communication is in what doesn't get said. When Ezra said something sweet, did Kady blush? I don't know - I have no way of knowing. When Kady said something mean, did Ezra sigh in exasperation? Did he screw his mouth to the side? I HAVE NO IDEA! So all I know of the characters is what they typed to each other. (And we all know we are 100% honest when we have time to filter the things we want to say.)
In summary -
This book was very fun and very frustrating. I am totally on the fence about it. If you look at the book's reviews on Goodreads, you'll see that it is wildly popular! So the chances are GREAT that you'll love it! I rrreeeeaaallllyyyyyyy wanted to love it. But I am... just sitting here on the fence. Three out of five stars.
Recommend to people who enjoy having NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING! Recommend to people who love spaceships and high stakes. Don't recommend to people who have no patience for turning the book upside-down for the swirly pages.