My rating: 5 of 5 stars
4.5 stars. Illuminae is YA sci-fi done right. It’s a funny, smart, sassy outer layer wrapped around a core of questions about morality and a nicely balanced love story. The book itself is also beautiful. The page design does as much to tell the story in places as the text does, and it’s a real pleasure to read something so creative and immersive. Don’t be intimidated by its size (600 pages!) or the unusual format, this is not a difficult read.
The story is told in the format of a dossier filled with files. Many of the pages have notes or annotations from the ‘researcher’ who has compiled the documents. These notes make you feel like you are reading a journalists notebook or police case files as you slowly begin to understand more and more about what has occurred. The story is presented in a variety of different formats, from interviews transcripts, chat logs, public bulletins from on board various spaceships and even data from the artificial intelligence inside one of the ships. The information is presented in chronological order, which helps make it easier to follow the story of Ezra and Kady as they venture through the twists and turns of the story.
“I should have told you I loved you every day. I should have given you the stars.”
I don’t want to say too much about the plot, other than that there is a disaster on Ezra and Kady’s home planet on the day that they break up, and that the story unfolds from there. Usually in a YA novel you would have the main character meet the love interest, and then develop the relationship from there, and I loved seeing a different take on it, with the couple discovering they have to navigate an invasion and a break up at the same time. This is helped along by the humour that pops up throughout the novel, breaking the tension with much needed levity in some of the darker moments.
It does sometimes feel like ‘my first sci-fi’ just touching on the edges of many of the various deep space sci-fi tropes. There are the remote planets that are little more than glorified outposts. There are corporations that compete for resources and control advanced technology. There is even a rather overbearing military force with strict procedures and unforgiving decision-makers. And of course there is a semi-sentient AI system who might just be more than her controllers give her credit for.
“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Illuminae and look forward to reading the rest of the series as it is released. If you are looking for a terrific introduction into the world of sci-fi, or if you are long-time fan who wants a lighter read this is an excellent choice.
Suitable for ages 15 and up, as all the swearing has been ‘censored’ throughout.