Friday, May 13, 2016

Review: Illuminae

Illuminae (Illuminae Files, book one)
By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Kady thought her biggest problem would be breaking up with Ezra. Then their planet was attacked. Now, the two are separated and dealing with a ship run by a possibly insane computer program, an outbreak of a deadly virus, and, of course, their complicated feelings for each other. Can they figure them out and survive?

I think by now everyone knows that I don't like space. Yes, I'm appreciative of the fact that I live in space and am thankful for our planet and gravity and all that business. But science fiction stories set in space are just not my jam. That being said, there have been a handful I've enjoyed, including Kaufman's previously co-authored series. Couple that with a beyond glowing recommendation from my friend Amy (a space story fiend, but I digress) and my husband's need for a new book and I found myself reading this one.

For the most part, I enjoyed this. There is a lot happening here, but it's all fascinating and never gets muddled up. It's told in the epistolary format which, like novels in verse, is my kryptonite - I can hardly resist. My only problem with the way this is told is that, as this is a science fiction book, it's taking place in a world completely foreign to the one I live in. As such, it's a bit difficult to get oriented in this world through the interviews, schematics, and chat logs that comprise the story. That being said, though, I think you get enough of a sense of the world to know that there are some not great things happening and our main characters are unfortunately caught in the middle of them.

I thought both stories - that of the malfunctioning computer system and the virus that is turning people murderous - were really interesting and believable. Both were given equally page time and both had potentially disastrous consequences if left unchallenged. My husband kept asking me what I thought of the book and my only response was (and continues to be) "This is why we shouldn't be messing with artificial intelligence."

While overall I enjoyed the book, some parts of it were less successful for me. More specifically, I didn't buy into the romance AT ALL, which is actually pretty important because it is the driving force for a lot of the choices Kady makes. Perhaps it's because the romance has already happened and ended before the book even begins, or perhaps it's also a victim of the format in which the story is told. For whatever reason, I didn't believe it. Additionally, the ending was way too pat for me. With all the craziness happening throughout the 500+ pages of this novel, it seemed extremely unlikely that the book would end the way it did.

I'll be interested in seeing where the story goes from here, particularly as it seems book two will focus on a new set of characters. Definitely recommend this one to your science fiction and action fans.

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