Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is the perfect entry point for young adult readers into science fiction. I think going into this book blind is the best, like I did, but if you want more detail read further on.
Kady and Ezra are having a rough day, not only did they just break up, but their mining colony is getting invaded. Both Kady and Ezra escape the invasion in separate ships but the small fleet of survivors are still being chased by the invaders. Things go from bad to worse when the survivor fleet realizes that the invaders used a chemical weapon that changed normal people into murdering psychopaths. Kady and Ezra have lost so much and realize that their love for each other, becoming a couple again, is the hope they need.
I liked this book because it is a fun science fiction book that is told uniquely. The book is told from a series of documents, recorded footage, and chat messages. This gives the book a very tangible feel of authenticity that heightens the reader’s enjoyment. Kaufman and Kristoff mess with the formatting of pages and even add pages without words, just pictures. This is probably the best alternative style formatting of a book since House of Leaves. It is a quick read but an engrossing read. My only issue is that the sections where someone is taking notes on a video they watched is a bit awkward.
I think the break up, get back together relationship is one that most teenagers will connect to. I enjoyed that they realized how much they meant to each other. I really liked how Kady was the techie hacker in this story. Girls doing science stuff should be in books more often. This is definitely a book that showcases her abilities and Ezra seemed more of a side character. The chat messages between the teenagers can be a little cringey at times but I can see where younger readers would giggle from it.
I absolutely loved the A.I. in this book and the idea of a damaged A.I. is one I always enjoy in science fiction. The virus weapon that is spreading ramps up the danger and tension nicely. Overall, it is just a solid plot that is told at a brisk speed. There is more complexity and nuance with things happening than what can be found on the surface and I think more experienced SF readers will appreciate that. This is just a solid book for new and old science fiction readers both.
18/25 Possible Score
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 3(Good)
World Building/Setting – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 4(Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 3(Good)