Series: #1 Illuminae Files
Genres: YA Sci-Fi Romance
Released on October 20, 2015
This was a book that caught my eye immediately when I saw it in someone’s Waiting on Wednesday blog post and then my need to read it only grew as I read a few trusted blogger’s reviews (thanks Kimberly, Alyssa, and Velvet). I love Young Adult Sci-Fi, but the fact that this one was written more in epistolary format grabbed my curiosity and it was inevitable that I would read it. (Thank you to an angelic SIL who had a reader gal’s back)
And wow, I am still processing. I came to the startling conclusion early on that one can indeed become emotionally invested in a book even if it’s told from bits and pieces like transcripts, messages, memos, surveillance videos, etc. This story had impact right away. It was exciting, intriguing, twisting, horrifying, and all around amazing.
The story opens in the future on a planet far away from earth when seventeen year old, Katy gets a front row seat to the destruction of her mining colony home by a rival mining company before the evacuation by government ships who happen to be in the area on maneuvers. Three ships take in the mining colony refugees- a mining freighter, a science vessel, and a state of the art government battle carrier. Katy is a refugee on the science vessel and tells the government interviewer her story of being at school, upset after breaking up with her boyfriend, Ezra, and then observing the attack and invasion by the other mining corporation troops and vessels. Katy and Ezra watch everything getting destroyed and a noxious black gas released over the mine itself. They are separated from their families even though they try to get to them. It is catastrophic.
But the danger has only just begun because one of the rival corporations’ warships is hunting them and their battle ship took damages to its wormhole drive and artificial intelligence unit, AIDAN, that won’t allow it to move quickly. The Alexander must protect both the other vessels even while working repairs that will take too long. And if that isn’t enough, a plague is discovered on board the freighter because it houses the refugees that came from the mine that was bombed by that black gas.
Things are drastic so the general conscripts mining colonists who show any aptitude in the areas the military needs help. Ezra is trained as a fighter pilot. Katy is a brilliant hacker, but manages to avoid the conscription. She is concerned about how the military is keeping the civilian population in the dark. Ezra lost his dad and Kady is on her own too. She realizes her anger at Ezra serves no purpose now and they begin reconciliation.
As they work to escape the other warship, horrific events occur to leave Kady living in a nightmare. People are dying and everyone left is in a fight for their lives. Kady’s brilliance, fierce courage, and determination are all she has left to do what she can to help save lives, but she pays a dear cost to make it so.
Alright, this ended up being a late year read that will go on my unputdownable pile. As I pointed out earlier, I was amazed at how connected I felt with a story told in such a unique format. I took the advice of the other reviewers and got this in paper copy because of how it made some of the creative page formatting easier to read and the illustrations easier to peruse, too. There were pages where the words swirled around against a space background as it gave radio transmissions of fighters and the times that drawings made with words were easier to see that way.
The story was Kady’s, but many people including Ezra, AIDAN, other refugees and personnel took turns getting their point of view. Kady has a smart young girl’s arrogance, but she matures with each new hardship she faces. Ezra comes across as simple to read until his full background becomes known. Other characters are introduced to Kady and Ezra through their new community on the ships and it was neat how their personalities showed through even things like memoes. I think the character that most intrigued me was AIDAN and I can’t even say why without offering spoilers. I loved watching Kady overcome so much and Ezra was easy to love, but AIDAN wrenched a lot of consideration and emotion from me.
This is no easy book. There is so much loss and I cried a couple times. There are no guarantees and the life is hard. I wanted Kady to have her happy ending, but I wanted it for everyone I came to know in this struggling group. But there are twists on twists and so many fall along the way. The ending was breathtaking and magnificent. It was the type of last 25% that leaves the reader immediately diving back and rereading sections and going back to the earlier sections to see how new twists changed everything they thought. I am whimpering a little at how long I must wait to see what happens next.
So, yep, this is a definite recommend to YA Sci-fi Romance fans. I don’t think I would put it in the hands of younger teens because of the violence, but older teens and adults will find it a riveting and unique read.