I am a geek and happy to admit it. I love science fiction stories, whether it is in book or movie form. There have been some great sci-fi stories for teens published in recent years, my favourite being Beth Revis’ Across the Universe Trilogy. A few months I was hearing alot of hype about a new YA sci-fi series that was going to blow everything else out of the water. That series is The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The description of the series from the publishers, Allen and Unwin, was ‘Battlestar Galactica meets 10 Things I Hate About You,’ which hooked me in straight away (Battlestar Galactica being my all-time favourite TV series). Luckily the hype was totally deserved as this is one incredible book!
The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way onto the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But the warship is the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results. The fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what the hell is going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Illuminae is an out-of-this-world, sci-fi thriller that is absolutely addictive! It has the elements of all the best sci-fi stories (giant spaceships, fighter pilots, an artificial intelligence, corporations fighting for control) but this story is told in a completely different way. The book starts with the attack on Kerenza by BeiTech, the escape of the survivors on board the Alexander, Hypatia and Copernicus, and follows the events as they spiral further and further out of control. The protagonists are 17-year-olds Kady and Ezra and we follow their story, which is interspersed with emails, chat transcripts, action reports, laboratory reports and various other communications.
One of the things I really love about Illuminae is that it doesn’t hold back. It’s violent, bloody and pretty freaky in some places. The body count is huge, from the thousands of people who die when ships are blown to pieces to those who succumb to the Phobos virus. The tension of everyone on board the ships is taut and you can sense it in the way that people react to the disastrous situations they find themselves in. It’s not surprising that soldiers are trigger happy or that commanders find themselves ordering people to be ejected out of airlocks. Who would want to be a leader in their situation? Not me that’s for sure!
Amie and Jay are brilliant at building the suspense. I found it very difficult to put the book down, especially near the end. You are just never sure how the story is going to end and who is going to make it to the end of the book. There were times when I really was on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what would happen next. I felt like I was right there with Kady as she was making her way through the almost-abandoned Alexander.
Kady is a brilliant character who is gutsy, determined and incredibly sarcastic. She’s the sort of person you want by your side in a crisis. Some of my favourite parts of the story are her interactions with the AI of the ship, Aiden. Aiden is an intriguing character itself. My perception of Aiden changed completely over the course of the book but I never quite knew whether it could be completely trusted.
Illuminae is an epic read that left me desperate for more. It’s the start of a trilogy, so I know there are two more books to look forward to. I just hope that I don’t have to wait too long to read the rest of the Illuminae Files.