Hi there. I actually finished reading Illuminae weeks ago but it took me a while to get to the point where I was ready to write my review. It is such a unique book, and sci fi is not even usually my genre. But this. This is sheer genius, and I think everybody should give it a try. So without further ado, here is my **SPOILER FREE** review of Illuminae.
At the beginning of this book, we join our two main characters, Kady and Ezra, as their home–a little ice-covered speck of a planet–is destroyed in an unexpected attack by an evil corporation. What follows is the story of their escape from the destruction, and then how they go on to try to survive through some terrible odds, including a virus that turns people into zombies; an onboard AI system with a razor sharp sense of morality which may not be so moral after all; and a deadly spaceship that is chasing them as they attempt to escape to a remote space station, which may be their only hope of safety.
What makes this book unusual is not actually the plot, though! Rather than a straightforward, Point A to Point B, he said-she said style of narrative, the story is actually told in the form of a dossier of documents that have been hacked from ship computers and video footage. Based on the advice of several fellow book nerd friends, I actually read the physical copy of this book while listening along to the audio. And oh my goodness, what an incredible and rich experience that proved to be. The audio is tremendously done, with different voices for each of the characters, and clever ways of narrating documents that are mainly visual in the actual physical book.
Here’s what I loved:
The main characters, Hanna and Ezra, are entirely loveable. They are snarky and sassy as only teenagers can be, with enough angst to sink a small ship. But they are also smart and kind, and I grew attached to both of them within the first few pages. Hanna has pink hair and is good with computers. Ezra is strong and capable, the consummate high school athlete. On the first pages of the book, they have just broken up. But was that a good choice? Do they belong together? You’ll have just as much fun as I did cheering them on, perhaps even yelling at them a time or two to NOT BE SO STUPID, but all with a whole lot of love in your heart.
The side characters are also wonderful, and here, I would say that AIDAN completely steals the show. The person who narrates his voice really brings his pages to life, but even without that, he is equal parts maniacal machine and philosophical dreamer, and this combination is something I devoured. I could not get enough of his parts of the story, and at every turn, I found myself hoping for him to figure it out and do the right thing. I won’t say more because this is spoiler-free, but if you read this, you are gonna love AIDAN, I think.
The plot. The plot is just fantastic. It is twisty and turny, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on how things are going to go, and how they are going to get out of this sticky situation, WHAM, things change. I felt like I was always one step behind, and in this case, that is a good thing. I love when books surprise me, and I was guessing until the very end with this one.
Final verdict? This is one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2018. I can’t wait to read Gemina [actually, I’ve already started it as of writing this] and Obsidio. I had the pleasure of getting to hear Jay and Amie talk and then meeting them at a book signing here in Seattle last month, and they were just incredible. Two very humble, very funny Australians doing what they do for all of us to enjoy. I hope you’ll go out and get this and read it (and listen along to the audio too).