Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations 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, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. 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’s really 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.
BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
I don’t like sci-fi. I will probably repeat this to you when I am old and decrepit on my deathbed, leaning in for another sip of chicken broth as I grab you by the lapel, yank you close and hiss, “I don’t like sci-fi” into your face with my gross, old lady mouth. Wow, that was a little too much even for me. Sorry, guys.
Illuminae, though? It took all my expectations of what a sci-fi book means and slammed them into the ground so hard that they shattered. “You think sci-fi is boring?!” it yelled, doing the Cha-Cha Slide on my heart. “Not today!”
If I had any preconceived notions of what the dynamic duo of Kaufman and Kristoff (K squared?) were calling sci-fi, I was pleasantly wrong in all ways possible. I figured this would be Titanic in space. Boy, was I wrong.
How I’d Describe This Book to My Friends
Take your favorite sassy couple from any book of your choice. Add in life-threatening peril, a lifestyle of living in space not unlike the one from Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and a pinch of zombie virus, and you have the beginnings of Illuminae.
When we first meet our heroes – Kady and Ezra – they just broke up. Terrible timing for them as, unfortunately, not long after the split they get caught up in a major attack on their little, remote planet. Kady ends up on one rescue ship, and Ezra the other. With the enemy bearing down on them, options are rapidly becoming smaller and time is running out. If that pressure wasn’t enough, what initially seemed like PTSD from survivors of the attack rapidly morphs into the start of a zombie-like virus, with deadly – and disgusting – results.
And just in case that isn’t enough pressure for you, let’s just go ahead and say that the AI that runs the ship Ezra is on it uh … a bit less than savory in his ethical actions, and is becoming worrisome as time goes on.
What follows is an action-packed book, told in everything from emails and IMs to ASCII art. I am a sucker for a good epistolary novel, and this is no different. I loved my time with Kady and Ezra (especially Kady, a badass young woman with an amazing skillset of coding know-how) a lot, so much so that I bought Gemina (book #2) immediately upon finishing Illuminae, and I was at a hotel in Tampa, Florida. I could have been at the pool, or even better – asleep. But instead I finished this book. That alone should tell you something.
If you don’t really like sci-fi stories, but you do enjoy snark and the good clean fun that comes with it, you cannot pass up on Illuminae. The romance is realistic, the scary parts appropriately bone-chilling, and I never felt lost or confused, just nervous and anxious for our beloved star-crossed lovers. Please give this one a try, sci-fi haters. I promise you won’t regret it.