Monday, December 21, 2015

Illuminae by Aimee Kaufman & Jay Kristoff


Illuminae by Aimee Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Book 1 in the Illuminae Files trilogy

4.25 stars


This should be a breakup story, but instead it’s a story of sci-fi corporate war that results in millions of lives lost. Kady broke up with Ezra and next thing she knows her planet is invaded and Kerenza is destroyed by a multibillion dollar company looking to take out Kerenza’s resources for personal gain. The story doesn’t follow Kady and Ezra trying to escape their falling planet, but the documents that surround these characters after they’ve been rescued by the Alexander and Hypatia. This novel is huge- both physically and by the amount of hype this novel generated throughout 2015. I suspect this novel will continue to get a lot of attention in the following years especially with the fact this is a trilogy. Illuminae is very different from other novels. It’s told in epistolary form in a collection of data files, messages, e-mails, AI memories, and other forms. This novel is truly striking visually. It’s probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever purchased and I’m glad that I pre-ordered it. I originally received this for an e-ARC, but upon opening the file I realized that my reading experience would be extremely hindered by e-book format. I think the only way to truly become invested in this novel is to hold between your hands. It’s an amazing format that I can’t fathom all the time and effort it took to put together every single page and photo. Of course, visual effects alone can’t carry out a novel. If that were the case I would automatically give this five stars, but I can’t do that.

“In short, ladies and gentlemen, we are bleeding badly and there are sharks in the water.”

One of the things I loved about Illuminae is how it isn’t a novel, but a classified file that chronicles events that occurred during a corporate war. These types of situations cause many casualties and are not black and white events. Nothing in Illuminae was glossed over and all the tragedies were showcased. There are pages dedicated to civilian casualty listings and photographs of them. It’s quite sad because even though this is a work of fiction, war is real and lives are lost constantly. It’s a truly beautiful section that I think is touching and shows that Kaumfan & Kristoff thought about every little detail.

“Most readers of Unipedia are probably wearing tinfoil hats in their mothers’ basements…”

One of my favorite things that could be in a novel is satire. If I pick up on brief satire material, I flip shit and a book could become an instant favorite. The satire in Illuminae is more prevalent at the beginning of the novel, but is sprinkled throughout this hefty book as the story progresses.
“Sure, the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it, right?”
This quote happens to be one of my favorite lines in Illuminae, because I feel like it really captures the essence of our time. If you look on the TV there are thousands of shows with violence and sex, but if anyone says fuck it is blocked out. I loved that Illuminae mentions the problems with society in a subtle text. Also the quote from Orwell thrown it really says, “Fuck you, censorship.” There are even propaganda adds to help ease the minds of the rescued families on the fleets with movies for kids. If that isn’t obvious satire then I don’t know what is.

Sadly the formatting in this novel became a little bulky. I loved looking at the pages, but sometimes I would rather look than continue to read. I found that around the 400 page mark this novel really started to drag and it became more of a chore than an adventure. One of the most conflicting aspects of this novel for me was the AI or AIDAN’s “PoV”. The parts that are told from AIDAN’s POV are beautiful and lyrical, but they can be incredibly dense and unnecessary after certain periods. There were times when I felt like AIDAN needed to be left out of the story for a while because his voice became suffocating.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4

Funky Format Scale: 5

The main female character is Kady. Kady is a character I’m not sure whether I like or not. She’s strong, smart, and level-headed when she needs to be. She’s a genuinely complex character on the outside, but because we never got to truly know Kady besides her diary entries and interactions, I’m not sure how I feel about her. Kady doesn’t take Ezra’s sob stories, but at the same time once she accepts him she accepts him very fully. This is one of the bad things about not being in a character’s head because we don’t get to see Kady’s emotions play out from distrust to love again. While their flirting is cute, it also doesn’t seem palpable (but it still made squeal because I’m cheesy). Kady can definitely keep a secret because there was one reveal I hadn’t been expecting. Kady’s resilience is an admirable trait. Through all the shit she goes through she remains strong and doesn’t want to become like the corporations who walk all over other lives. It’s a trait that I definitely love about her.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 4.25

The main male character is Ezra. Ezra is almost immediately showcased as not a human, but a weapon to the fleet against BeiTech (the company that destroyed Kerenza).
“The kid’s hostility toward BeiTech can be harnessed in a conflict situation. Throwing him into task-oriented activities in a social environment (combat training) may even prove therapeutic.”
Ezra immediately becomes a soldier and a valued member to the war against BeiTech, which is a hard boat to be thrust into at a young age. Again war is becoming a situation that many citizens shouldn’t be a part of, but are because of circumstance. Ezra is sweet. A little overbearing with his love for Kady, but he genuinely means well.
“you deserve every star in the galaxy laid out at your feet and a thousand diamonds in your hair. You deserve someone who’ll run with you as far and as fast as you want to. Holding your hand, not holding you back.”

While I have a conflicting relationship with whether I like Kady and Ezra as a couple these lines are sweet and just aw.

Swoon Worthy Scale: 4.25

The Villain- This war is not black and white. People on the Alexander as well as AIDAN pose threats to humans, but everyone’s agenda isn’t simple. The problems with AIDAN arise early on in the novel and it becomes worrisome that this AI will eventually develop a mind of its own and take over the fleet. AIDAN himself who is an artificial intelligence life form is hard to hate. There are moments when he feels just as real as Kady or Ezra. He has quite a lot of feelings. The slow decline of AIDAN is quite sad. It’s easy to hate him, but as the story moves along it’s also hard to not like him and want him and Kady to get out of the situation they are in.
“I am simply troubled she will end.”
There is a part that involves a crime scene were a father brutally murders his wife and kids. It was a pretty horrific, but simple report that really made me feel for the kids and not only that but we see a glimpse of what BeiTech has unleashed on the population of Kerenza- an airborne disease.
“It’s not the bullets that kill you. It’s moments like these.”
This disease is brutal; the acts that that the inflicted commit are horrifying to read about, but also incredibly plausible for what the disease does to the mind. It was one of my favorite aspects of Illuminae. It would be easy to say that General Torrence is a bad guy, but again he’s human and in that scene where AIDAN plays on his emotions with personal information about his family it’s hard to hate this man.

Villain Scale: 5

There is a lot of death in Illuminae. Almost the whole novel consists of constant loss of life and at the beginning of this novel there is a scene where Ezra talks about how when he was running during the invasion he realized that he was walking on people. It was such a simple statement, but it really stopped and caught my attention. This scene is so simple, but I felt like it was one of the sadder scenes in this novel. I think an important thing to remember about destruction is that birth still happens. In a simple moment a baby was born amongst thousands dying and it’s easy to forget that while countless die also countless are being born.
“How many human lives have ended in the time it took that light to reach her? How many people have loved only to have lost? How countless, the hopes that have died?”

There are countless characters in Illuminae, but Zhang is one that remained constant throughout most of the novel. I really enjoyed his entail and he was a witty character. There are so many characters introduced and they all play a huge role to this story even if they were only there for a few pages. It’s a really amazing thing to be able to make that work.

Character Scale: 4

The ending for Illuminae was great. It was something that made me excited to continue on with this trilogy. Not only that, but it was unexpected and not at all where I thought the direction of Illuminae was going as a novel and a series. This was a huge factor in me enjoying Illuminae a lot more and the ending was what made it easy to give this something over a 3.5 rating. Illuminae has its faults, but it's an overall superb novel. I definitely recommend buying a copy for yourself because it is worth it.

Plotastic Scale: 4.5

Cover Thoughts: The cover for this novel is cool, but once you look under the dust jacket that’s where the party happens.

Have you read Illuminae? What were your thoughts? Do you plan on buying a copy? Let me know down below in the comments!

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