Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Allen & Unwin on November 1st 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Source: My copy
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One moment, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have nothing bigger to worry about than each other. Specifically, avoiding each other in the wake of their messy break-up. In the next second, their entire world falls apart.
The year is 2375 and one of the mega-corporations that control much of deep space has just fired the opening salvo in an intergalactic war, destroying Kady and Ezra's planet. Forced to flee on a small fleet of crippled rescue ships alongside thousands of other refugees, the fear of enemy warships chasing them down is at first all-consuming but soon becomes the least of their worries. A deadly plague is ravaging the refugees on the ships; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be an enemy; and High Command is refusing to acknowledge that there may be a serious problem. As Kady plunges into a tangled web of data in search of the truth, she realises that Ezra is possibly the only person who can help her save the refugees before it's too late.
When the mining colony on Kerenza IV is attached by the BeiTech mega-corporation, only three ships escape carrying civilian refugees as well as their own crew – the Alexander, the Copernicus and the Hypatia. Overcrowded and damaged, the ships are chased towards the nearest hyperspace jump point by the BeiTech ship, the Lincoln. Can they make it there before the Lincoln catches them, or before they succumb to other dangers such as disease or the Alexander‘s failing AI system?
This is a very difficult review to write, partly because Jay and Amie are two of my current favourite Aussie authors and I love love LOVE their other stuff. The other reason is that this book has been hyped beyond belief in the blogosphere from way back before BEA-time (May?). I wanted so much to love it as much as everyone else seems to, and while I did actually find it very well written and enjoyable to read, it didn’t quite blow me away as much it did for others.
I suspect this may be the case because, while the rogue-AI/diseased/monsters on spaceship/space warfare storyline is pretty unique in the YA “market”, those elements are pretty standard fare in your more adult-targeted hard sci-fi. Maybe not all at the same time, but in combinations, certainly. Being similar to other stories is no bad thing, though, and if those things are what you enjoy about other Sci-fi books, films or TV series then chances are you’re going to love Illuminae as well.
The story itself is told through a collection of files – documents, email transcript, chat logs and graphic artworks that show each stage of the story. This epistolary format is quite unique (and even quite beautiful at times), but it doesn’t really allow us to get inside any of the character’s heads, except maybe the snippets from Kady’s diary or the sections where the AI, AIDAN is telling the story. While I really like Kady’s strong, determined attitude, I didn’t think much of Ezra. He seemed like a love-sick puppy most of the time, despite his fighter-pilot status! Also, who stops in a ventilation shaft while being chased by crazy psychopaths to chat to your boyfriend on messenger? There’s no way I would be able to type coherently in half the situations Kady was in, let alone remember to capitalise AIDAN every time!
The action on the Alexander gets pretty brutal and grisly at times, and while the document format takes a little while to get into, it’s a really interesting way of showing the action. I was beside myself with worry towards the end, and heartbroken for the refugees all the way through. I’m really looking forward to reading more in this series.
– I really enjoyed reading this story, but not as much as some other people did! A rather terrifying account of civilian refugees struggling to survive in deep space.
What’s next? If you enjoyed Illuminae, you might enjoy other science fiction such as the Aurora series by Amanda Bridgeman (another Aussie!), the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, and even (arguably) the greatest “insane” AI story, 2001: A Space Odyssey by the Arthur C Clarke. Or you could watch Battlestar Galactica!