Illuminae Book Review — Despite YA pitfalls, a unique format makes for a page-turner

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This was reviewed from an advanced copy from BookCon 2015.

If you would have asked me a few months back if I would be reading a Young Adult, graphic novel about intergalactic warfare and budding teenage romance, I would have probably scathingly laughed at you. I guess you would be laughing now because I sure did read it, and I have to say that “Illuminae” was a quick-paced, intriguing story of a small but illegal mining colony Kerenza who comes under attack by BeiTech. After their home is destroyed, the survivors flee towards the dark abyss of space in three ships, The Alexander, The Hypatia, and The Copernicus. Months away from any form of salvation, their pursuers aboard The Lincoln tail them in order to wipe our the last surviving witnesses and victims.

To add to this precarious scenario, our heroin Kady is separated from her mother and the cliche “it’s complicated” ex boyfriend Ezra, who are all aboard one of the aforementioned survivor ships. To boot, The artificial intelligence on Alexander, called Artificial Intelligence Defense or AIDEN for short, is as certifiably crazy at Britney Spears circa 2007. But wait! There’s more! For just one payment of $9.49 on Amazon, you can expect to read about an additional bio weapon that was unleashed upon a section of Kereza before those survivors boarded The Copernicus. So cue bio-virus, and we have a ship that is infested with ravenously murderous individuals dubbed “The Afflicted,” all of who become quite angered if they catch your gaze rest upon their raging, uncouth form. What becomes the survivors’ biggest hurdle is the AI that is entrusted with the task of saving their lives, but this emotionally devoid AI that has a personality cleaved by the strain of his inability to feel and his yearning to do so becomes enemy number one for some time in the book.

What you will first notice about this novel is that it is constructed after the events have taken place. A company by the name of Illuminae is hired to find any lasting evidence of the previous scenario for its boss, who desires to squelch any murmurings of what truly happened. The novel is comprised of documents, emails, chat logs, audio transcriptions, and security camera summaries that were compiled by the company Illuminae. I have to admit there are some intriguing renditions of  artwork among the pages (pictured above).

I did enjoy this story, but I do believe that certain changes would have made the novel a much more enjoyable read. First of all, the Young Adult theme does nothing to this story but dilute it with frivolous texting acronyms (which is V annoying) that would be obsolete by the time this story actually takes place so far into the future. Secondly, the juvenile and immature dialogue just seemed to negate any suspense in the story, and if I had to read the word “chum” one more time, I may have thrown myself directly at the mercy of the sinister, villainous Lincoln itself.ill

Thirdly, the “romance” in this book was completely unnecessary and actually infuriating, at times. I mean, does every Young Adult trilogy really have to desperately cling to the idea of true love at the age of 16 or 17 amidst cataclysmic events killing your entire family? Seriously, have we learned nothing from Frozen? Kady needs to listen to “Let It Go” and let Ezra go. Did Elsa’s lesson that not every heroin needs a knight in shining armor to save her go unnoticed?  Well, it certainly appears that way because the romance in this novel, in my opinion, actually hinders the plot. This novel seems to afraid to veer off the cookie-cutter path of most YA trilogies, and it fails in leaving a lasting impression in my mind with its predictable and slightly disappointing end. Such an intriguing story with a unique way of telling, and it is really going to be squandered on “lol,” “chum,” and the cliche points of every other YA novel?

Will I read the second book within this series? Yes, I enjoyed it enough to warrant buying the second book of the trilogy upon release. Will I be expecting any serious, hard-hitting literature that will brake away from the YA norms? No, I do not think so. If you are looking for a fun, light read (though the novel is almost 600 pages, it contains a lot of sparse pages), then this novel may be for you. If you are not disturbed by the horrid texting acronyms and conventionality of the romance, then I would recommend “Illuminae” as an intriguing, page-turning book.