Publication Date: October 10, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 599 pages
Over the holidays, I asked my twitter followers what I should read next and gave them a choice of some fantasy YA novels. I'm a contemporary girl and I just can't seem to get why everyone loves fantasy so much, which is exactly why this year I'm going to read more of it and expose myself to something so many people love. So before you read this, note that I'm not a fantasy lover, I'm not very well aware of the books that are out there and this, obviously, might influence my review.
Illuminae is the story of a war between several planets/galaxies and the circumstances which place Kady right in the middle of it. Kady is a teenage girl who broke up with her boyfriend, Ezra, one morning, only to find her whole planet destroyed mere hours later. She's put on one of the two shuttle ships that are used to transport some of the remaining citizens to a safe place. Kady turns out to be a coding genius and is able to manipulate the systems and most importantly to find out why the AI, the core of the fleet, is suddenly disabled.
The thing that has made this book so popular amongst readers is the layout. Instead of a narrative told by Kady, the reader sees transcripts of chats, official documents, battle plans and the recorded inside data of AI. This means that the reader is constantly puzzling things together and finding out whose documents they can trust and whose are a bunch of lies. While I enjoyed this idea a lot, I think so much focus is on this narrative gimmick that the voices of the characters get lost. During all the chat conversations, everyone has the same voice, even when it's Kady, a teenager, talking to one of the highest officials on the fleet, someone who must be 40 or older. I doubt they would talk in the same way and use the same expressions, but that's what this book offers.
However, the book is a quick read and if you can put aside the generic voices of the characters, you'll find an amazing plot. The fact that there is no direct narrator means that the authors really can play with your expectations of the plot and then turn it around completely whenever they want. You can never predict what will happen next and that is what makes this story so very interesting.
I wasn't as blown away by Illuminae as most readers seem to be. When I put the book down, I was definitely left with a "what the hell??!!" feeling and I did thoroughly enjoy reading it. However, the characters aren't memorable due to their generic voices and I feel like some parts were too dragged out just so we could see the skill of the person designing the pages. Sometimes less is more and I'm hoping they'll show us that in the next Illuminae book.