Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, Book 1)

Monday, March 19, 2018


Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, Book 1)
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, 2015

Read Harder 2018 Challenge: The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle-grade series

Premise: When a remote mining colony is attacked, teenagers Kady and Ezra are among those picked up by a rescue ship. Before they can reach a civilized part of the galaxy, though, they'll have to not only outrun their pursuers but also deal with whatever is causing problems with the warship's AI.

I really wanted to like this book. It's so pretty!

The gimmick is that the book is a dossier put together after the fact, chronicling an "incident." Said incident involves an attack on a remote mining facility by a rival corporation. The documents follow the specific experiences of Kady and Ezra from their initial interviews after the attack to psychological assessments to their communications with each other and with others onboard their respective ships, and the story is expanded with other perspectives and logs from the AI system.

This presentation means that you are seeing schematics, reading chat logs and memos, seeing posters and photos, etc. It's a neat presentation.

Unfortunately, it's just a gimmick. While it was an interesting experience, I saw almost no reason that this story was better told in this format than in a more traditional format.

It bugged me a little when the authors cheated as well. There are "descriptions of surveillance footage" written "by analysts," but if this were in fact a dossier, the actual footage would have been included. To me, it just feels like an excuse to stick in some more traditional description of action to break up the format.

To be clear, the big third act twist would have been more challenging to deliver in another format. However, I'm still kinda pissed about this.

I saw the twist coming, although not too far in advance, and I really liked it. I was enjoying the book okay, but the twist really upped my engagement. As I got closer to the end of the book, I was getting interested in where the series would go next. I thought of a lot of interesting possibilities. And then the authors went with the most uninteresting option by undermining their own plot and reducing the whole several-hundred-page exercise to a pile of fluff.

I was looking for sci-fi mystery/thriller, and I got a YA romance. But not even a romance. The book told me that Kady and Ezra had been together and that they loved each other, but I never read a page that convinced me of that. I don't know why they got together. I don't know what they like about each other other than that they're the same age. Kady is a tech supergenius and Ezra is... a jock, I guess? I don't know why Kady's a supergenius, she just is at the start. He "loves" her, but I know as much about their relationship as I do about the couple in a jewelry ad.

So I had a lot of trouble giving a rat's ass whether these two kids could get back together.

I've seen a lot of love for the thriller parts of this, but, come on you guys. It's the metaplot to Serenity with less interesting characters. The AI stuff was fine, but I've seen better.

I just... I am not the audience for this book, maybe.

1 Star - Didn't Like It, Mostly Due to the Dumb Ending.

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