Thursday, November 19, 2015
Illuminae is a science fiction tale set in the far future where man has colonized the stars and interstellar travel is commonplace. It's also a YA novel written in an unconventional format- the story is told entirely from reconstructed emails, IM's, and files put together by the Illuminae group, an organization that is tasked with reporting incident that happened a year ago. Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are two teenagers on an illegal mining colony that comes under attack from a rival megacorporation. Survivors of the attack are taken onto a military battlecruiser, the Alexander, and a science vessel the Hypatia. Along with a third ship, the group flees to reach a jump gate so they can return to inhabited space. Pursuing them is the megacorp that damaged the Alexander.
Things go from bad to worse when the enemy ship closes on them at the same time as a mysterious virus runs rampant, causing people to go nuts. Compounding the problem is the AI (artificial intelligence) on the Alexander, known as AIDAN. Damaged in the assault, the AI begins to behave erratically, putting everyone at risk. Against this backdrop, Kady and Ezra (who are on different ships) try to stay alive and rekindle their relationship.
This is one of the more interesting science fiction books I've read. Much has been made of the unconventional format of the book, and it's interesting to say the least. Schematics of the ships along with emails and documents present a dossier- like narrative that is truly original. Some have said this detracts a bit from getting to really know the two leads, and I agree with that to an extent, but by and large the writing is good enough that we still can engage with these characters. In fact, it becomes quote compelling at times, and I really felt for these characters at times of moral complexity.
The story is harrowing at times but also funny. Kady is a hacker and some of the stuff she does, especially early on, made me laugh. The action begins right from the first page as we learn about the initial attack, and things really get intense just before the halfway point. Not that it's boring before that- far from it. It's just that the intensity level shifts into overdrive in the second act.