Illuminae

Unknown.jpegI’ve been meaning to read this book for ages… like since it came out. Heh.

When I bought it, the sales assistant was very pleased for me. She warned me that she’d got to 200 pages, worried that she wasn’t enjoying it, gave it another 50 pages… and then finished it at like 3am the next morning. So it was good to know that at least one other person found it a bit hard going and then BANG it got better.

That’s kinda how I found it too.

The overview: this is written in a ‘found footage’ format – emails, reconstructed IM chat, reports, etc. It’s reconstructing the events which have happened over the last twelve months from the moment that a bunch of space ships suddenly opened fire on a colony, and just a few people manage to escape courtesy of a UTA (United Terran Authority) ship that happened to be nearby. The focus is Kady Grant and her ex-boyfriend Ezra, whom she helps to escape because dude, she’s not that cold.

As I alluded to, there was definitely a bit of a dead patch for me; I was finding the interaction between Kady and Ezra a bit laboured. But it seriously picked up, and while I didn’t finish it in one sitting I came very close (about 80 pages one night, the rest the next day). I can completely understand why this has already been optioned for turning into a film.

I really liked the format. Although something I’ve very bad at is keeping an eye on the dates of things like emails or reports, it was an important thing to try and remember because checking the progress of events was sometimes vital, so I found myself going back a few pages sometimes to check on them. I loved the inclusion of things like the space ship specs, and there were a few sections where the authors and designers did some wonderful things with typography and format and it really added to the atmosphere and aesthetics. Giving the AI a very particular look – white type on black (except its direct speech, which was grey) was brilliant. Obviously this isn’t going to work for everyone, and it would be really dangerous to see this overdone – it would be so easy for it to become a cliche (maybe it already it is and I haven’t seen it? It’s still fresh for me) – but for now, I’m loving it.

As well as some fairly excellent action scenes, Kaufman and Kristoff also engage in some philosophical issues. The main one is that of AI sentience and how humanity might deal with it, deal with it going against their instruction/commands/ demands. It’s just slightly off-central – the plot doesn’t work without it but they could have had less introspection; I’m glad they didn’t, though, because for me it lifted the book just that bit into not-just-rolicking-fun.

Things I suspect Kaufman and Kristoff are fans of: Battlestar Galactica (the reboot); the Expanse series by James SA Corey; Arthur C Clarke’s 2001.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Firstly, on formatting: having all of the names of the people who died on Copernicus actually listed? Slayed me. And then followed by pictures of the same? Magnificent touch. And then when I started picking out names of my friends from the Australian spec fic scene? SHEER BRILLIANCE I LOVE YOU.

So then there’s the twist. Oh. My. I really didn’t expect it: that the AI, AIDAN, has been mimicking Ezra for simply hours to lure Kady over to the Alexander to fix the problem it has that only ‘meat’ can deal with? That’s magnificent. I loved it. Because I’d been getting a bit sick of those two – and indeed I’m not completely over my annoyance at their relationship, although the revelation of why they broke up made it slightly better for them to get back together – and to then discover it was actually a ploy… Kaufman and Kristoff, NICE WORK.

I still don’t entirely love Kady and Ezra as a couple. I think this is partly an issue with me being old and cynical, because I think “17? 18? really?” – which is mostly my problem. But I’m not going to not read the rest of this series. I fully intend to read the heck out of the next book, that’s for sure, and shove this book into the hands of whoever I can find that’s just about old enough to appreciate it.

5 responses

  1. […] When I read Illuminae, I was immensely pleased with the found-footage style, but thought I wouldn’t want it to […]

  2. I really enjoyed this, agree with you about the dead patch – I was soso about it and then couldn’t put it down (which is what lingered for me when I reviewed it). I also found Kady and Ezra annoying and *loved* the twist – also appreciated in the very final part where Kady was clearly doing the protecting of Ezra which was a nice twist. I am definitely looking forward to the next book (and hoping that there’s more to like about Kady and Ezra’s relationship).

  3. […] Finished Molly. Triton, Samuel Delany; Wicked + Divine; Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay […]

  4. […] is the sequel to the brilliant Illuminae. Intriguingly, though, it could definitely be read as a stand-alone book. There’s an entirely […]

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