Sunday, 23 August 2015

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a book I've had an unusual relationship with. The authors asked me to check their science/physics which meant I read an earlier version of the manuscript last year. I've now also read the final ARC with the proper typesetting. This is sort of a review, but not really a proper one. I can't be impartial since I've read and dissected an earlier version and even reading the final version in a more relaxed way, it's impossible to form the usual sort of opinion.

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.

Illuminae is an epistolary novel in the modern sense. Rather than containing any letters (well, there are some emails), it's composed of transcripts of interviews and security footage, chat messages, data dumps from the computer (which are much more readable than they sound like they should be), military reports, and a lot of creative topography. There's not a lot of traditional narrative — about half the forms I just listed might fall into that category — and the story is moved along through information being revealed in a judicious order. It's not a random order; obviously this is a book that was planned and intentionally written. But there are also plot reasons for the information appearing in the order that it does.

If you like spaceships, conspiracies, zombie-like plagues and explosions, this is possibly the book for you. If the idea of the the format tickles your fancy then also definitely pick this one up. On the other hand, if you hate text messages and non-linear typography, this might not quite be a book you'll enjoy. It's definitely different to a lot of YA I've read of late (in format, above all), and hey, I approve of the science. ;-p

First published: October 2015, Random House (US), Allen & Unwin (AU)
Series: Yes. Book 1 of 3 in the Illuminae Files
Format read: Um. Most recently a US ARC (in actual hard-covered paper), but also an earlier draft last year for science-checking/advising purposes
Source: The authors, see above
Disclaimer: I read an earlier draft to provide science advice, see above.
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge, Australian Women Writers Challenge

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