Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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.


Lifespan of Starlight by Thalia Kalkipsakis

I love books, movies and TV series about time travel.  The Back to the Future trilogy are some of my all-time favourite movies and I love Doctor Who.  I love a good wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey story, especially when it’s fresh and unique.  Thalia Kalkipsakis’ new book, Lifespan of Starlight, is exactly that and it’s incredibly exciting!

It already lies dormant within you: the ability to move within time. In 2084, three teenagers discover the secret to time travel. At first their jumps cover only a few seconds, but soon they master the technique and combat their fear of jumping into the unknown. It’s dangerous. It’s illegal. And it’s utterly worth it for the full-body bliss of each return. As their ability to time jump grows into days and weeks, the group begins to push beyond their limits, with terrifying consequences. Could they travel as far as ten years, to escape the authorities? They are desperate enough to find out. But before they jump they must be sure, because it only works in one direction. Once you trip forwards, there’s no coming back.

Lifespan of Starlight is an amazing book that had me hooked from start to finish.  Thalia’s vision of time travel is unlike anything I’ve come across before, which is what hooked me in.  Thalia builds the suspense and tension throughout and I had to keep reading to find out how it would end.

Scout is an illegal.  She has lived her life sharing her mother’s food and water rations and living ‘off the grid.’  If anyone found out that she was illegal she’d be in serious trouble.  Her life changes forever when she finds a strange woman in her sanctuary (a secret cave in a park), a woman who takes her last breath just minutes after Scout meets her.  This woman has the chip of a citizen and Scout takes it, hoping it will give her opportunities she’s never had before.  However, when Scout trawls back through the woman’s history, there are gaps where she seems to disappear for large chunks of time.  Scout’s search for the truth of the woman’s identity leads her to Mason and Boc, two teenage guys who believe she holds the key to time jumping.  Scout sets up a new life for herself using her newly acquired chip and life starts to look up.  As Scout and her friends start to understand time jumping they become able to time jump for longer and longer, from minutes to hours to days.  The more they test the limits though, the more dangerous things become, until they have to make a huge decision.

Unlike so many sci-fi books for teens there is no romance in Lifespan of Starlight.  This means there is no complicated relationship to get in the way of the story.  The difficult decisions that Scout has to make mainly relate to her mum.  Her mum has helped protect her and made sure that she has everything she needs to survive, so Scout has to think about how her time jumps affect her mum.  When Scout gets the chip her main thoughts are how she can repay her mum for all the food she has shared with her.

Thalia leaves you on the edge of your seat with a cliff-hanger ending.  I certainly can’t wait to read the second book in the trilogy!

YA Sci-fi Giveaway

Like many of you, I can’t go walk past a bookshop without going inside to have a look.  Often I emerge minutes (or hours) later with books that I don’t have the money for or time to read, but I now have new worlds to explore and friends to make. While walking past a chain bookstore this morning I noticed their sale table had some awesome books on it for a fraction of their normal cost so I grabbed some to give away here on the blog.

YA prize

I have 2 sets to give away of:

  • Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
  • This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
  • Flip by Martyn Bedford

All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Friday 10 May (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners are Lynley and Annie.