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Illuminae is an action-packed space adventure that will hold you entranced until the last page, with clenched fists and gritted teeth; it’s an intense roller-coaster of a read.
Whilst the premise may sound nothing new: a malfunctioning AI, zombies, teenage angst-romance, hackers, politics, the structure is entirely fresh and original. (Also, the zombies aren’t really zombies at all, but that’s a different matter entirely). Instead of a straight third-person narrative, what we have here is a collection of transcripts: interviews with the protagonists; emails and IM chats between them; the protagonist’s written records of events (with subsequent censoring); accounts written by an objective observer (allegedly watching security footage) and some really nifty action scenes where the pages, almost literally, come alive with dynamic text that will have you barrel-rolling the book to read it.
The story starts with Kady and Ezra, a teenage couple in an illegal mining colony in the far flung reaches of space. In the morning, they broke up; in the afternoon, their world blew apart beneath an assault from BeiTech Industries. After a harrowing escape, the two find themselves evacuated to separate vessels: The Alexander, a heavy battle-carrier and Hypatia, a scientific exploration vessel. Joining their fleet of refugees was another ship, a freighter called Copernicus.
These overloaded, under-supplied ships begin the laborous trek towards the space station, Heimdall, where a jump gate will carry them back to civilisation. However, not only are they being hunted by BeiTech’s dreadnought, the Lincoln, but something has gone very, very wrong with Alexander’s AI, AIDAN. When Copernicus is destroyed, and a terrible virus brought aboard Alexander, things start to get very, very bad indeed. In the thick of it are our heroes: Ezra as a pilot working to protect and defend Alexander against the hunting dreadnought, while Kady’s computer-tech and hacking skills become an essential key to the survival of all aboard.
With its unconventional structure, Illuminae may be a bit off-putting to some readers. However, if you want something fresh and original that will have you biting your nails with tension, then this is the book for you.
Also, I can’t wait to see the movie (it’s been optioned by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment).
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published by Allen & Unwin