Tag Archives: Young Adult Ficiton

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.

 

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Guest Post: Catherine Bruton on Pop! Part 1

It’s my pleasure today to host Catherine Bruton, author of Young Adult novels We Can Be Heroes and, her latest book, Pop!  Catherine has written a couple of fantastic posts for me about how Suzanne Collins pipped her at the post and how Pop! came to be.  Thanks Catherine!

Why I should have written ‘The Hunger Games’  – or how Reality TV and the novel have been getting it on for years!

I should have written ‘The Hunger Games’! No,  seriously,  it should have been me!   Suzanne Collins – Schmollins.  I should be topping those best seller lists and tripping down the red carpet to film premieres (although I haven’t a thing to wear!)  Cos  it was my idea, you know!  Well, sort of… I mean, I totally… practically… well almost thought of exactly the similar-ish plot.

OK, here’s how it was:  I’d been reading ‘Lord of the Flies’ whilst watching ‘The X Factor’  (yes, at the same time – I know, weird)  and I thought,  ‘Oooh! I should write a novel about a reality TV show where the contestants have to kill each other.’  I got a little way into plotting it too  (I have the notes in an old ideas book which I unearthed recently  in order to prove myself that I had basically written a best seller – sort of) but  then I remembered that I don’t much like blood. Or gory bits in books. Or killing off my characters really. And I’m rubbish at writing dystopian fiction.  And that’s as far as it got.

Only it didn’t – not really. Cos The Reality TV bit stayed with me, nagged at me – in that way certain plot lines tend to do. I think  it was Frank Cottrell Boyce who said that some plots  hunt you down, relentlessly   – like a predator, on your tail night and day until you get them onto paper. And that’s what this one did for me.  And as it went along it got muddled up with a load of other stuff:  oil refinery strikes and  kids with Olympic dreams and ‘Shameless’  and ‘Billy Elliot’ and Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’ via  Richard Armitage (him from ‘Spooks’ – swoon!) and ‘Glee’ and my sister making me pierce her ear with a fish-finger and my friends and I starting a girl band when we were seven  (we made dresses out of bin-liners) …  and somehow my ‘Hunger Games’ turned into a totally different novel which  eventually became ‘Pop!’ It’s still about Reality TV  – after  all it was the perfect cover for my BGT/ X Factor obsession – and it’s even got a love triangle but more it’s more  ‘Millions’ than ‘Mockinjay’. Less murder and more mayhem and madness , basically!

Cos I might be a bit too much of an optimist to  write dystopia but I do love a bit of Talent TV. OK I admit it – I’m a Talent TV addict. In fact some of the key moments of my life I associate with Talent TV. Novels got me through childbirth (yes, seriously: ‘Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix’ for child no 1 – it was a long labour – and ‘Wives and Daughters’ for child no. 2 – I still haven’t finished it!) but  ‘Pop Idol 2003’ (and ‘Pop Idol Extra’) got me through the new baby sleepless nights phase and ‘BGT’ was there for me the day  my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Stavros Flatley – better than Valium. God bless those little chubby river-dancers!

And I’m going to go  out on a limb here and declare that the editors of shows like ‘The X Factor’ and ‘BGT’ are some of the best story-tellers around today.  Yes, storytellers. Think of those perfect narrative arcs they script for the characters (sorry contestants); the heart-rending back stories; the will- they won’t they moments; the rollercoaster rides;  the butterfly from the cocoon makeovers; the nail-biting cliffhangers; the tearjerking  goodbyes and the edge-of-you-seat grand finales. It’s fictional gold dust!

Yes, there’s an element to which the editors have to relinquish control of their scripts to the voting public, but if you ask me that’s just a bit like one of those ‘fighting fantasy’ adventures – you know the ones you read when you were a kid (if you were a kid in the eighties, like me!) where you get a choice what to do at the end of each chapter. But the thing was that no matter what you chose they’d scripted a possible outcome for you – just like they’ve got every possible ending lined up in the Talent TV the edit suite, ready to roll out when the phone lines close. Honestly, those Talent TV bods know how to write a good story – and that’s what gets me hooked every time!

But I wanted to invent a kid who could see the narrative clichés of Talent TV and set out to exploit them. So my main character, Elfie Baguley, reckons she knows the ‘Rules of Talent TV’  inside out.   Her  useless –good-for-nothing mum is celeb obsessed  – and she watches so much Fame TV Elfie’s sussed out the ‘winning formula’.   So when she and her mates decide the only way to sort out their rubbish lives is to enter ‘Pop to the Top!’ (my fictionalised – and barely disguised –  version of The X Factor’!)   Elfie knows exactly how to ensure they get all the way to final – and if that means making up the odd whopping great lie and landing her best mates in a whole load of trouble along the way then  what can you do?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Catherine’s guest post tomorrow.  Pop! is out now in NZ so grab a copy from your library or bookshop.

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