Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review for "Illuminae" {by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff}

Book Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Number of Pages: 599
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction


This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she'd have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that's little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra--who are barely even talking to each other--are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what's really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents--including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more--Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Our star rating:

4.4 stars

Book Club review of Illuminae

Amie Kaufman is best known for her young adult space romance, These Broken Stars. She lives in Melbourne, Australia and also wrote This Shattered World and Their Fractured Light.

Jay Kristoff also lives in Melbourne, and is the author of The Lotus War series and The Nevernight Chronicle series.

The Book: 

(Caution: spoilers ahead!!)

Most of our book club members loved this book (including many who were positive they wouldn't enjoy it, based on the description). 

We loved the 'found document' style, and the way it kept us engaged and reading so quickly. Some members agreed that it was a bit hard to get used to (especially if listening to the audio!) but we adjusted to it as we kept reading.

Those of us who listened to the audio loved it, but agreed that the most effective way to enjoy this book was by listening to the audio while following along with the text -- that way, we got the benefit of the different readers and narrators, while still enjoying the unique style of the text with its pictures, photo documents, and unique text layout. We all loved the visual expression on the page, especially in some of the dogfight scenes. A quote from Jay states that the "typography helps express the chaos of the moment," and is a sort of shorthand for the events taking place.

One of our favorite factoids from the authors was on the blood-splattered page typed by doctors on the Hypatia. We learned that Jay actually filled his mouth with red paint and spewed it out on the paper to get an authentic blood splatter look. Now that is author dedication!

We learned that as Amie and Jay worked on this book, they were told that science fiction was a dying art, and not selling the way it once did. They decided that if they were going to go down, they'd "go down in flames" by including every mind-blowing, exciting, crazy plot twist that they wanted. And we loved it!

We spent time discussing the captain who flushed a bay of survivors into space upon learning that one among them might be exhibiting virus symptoms. Some of our members agreed that this was the right choice in protecting the passengers of the ship from any risk of the virus, and could sympathize with the captain and understand her decision. But some members felt like this was akin to murder, since it was not yet clear whether the passenger was experiencing true symptoms or perhaps aftereffects of shock. This book opened up discussion for many moral and ethical dilemmas, especially in regards to authority figures and how they ought to handle crises.

We also discussed one of our favorite characters, James McNulty, and his fate. McNulty was exposed to the virus and quarantined, and killed himself instead of letting the virus take over. We wondered how difficult this decision must have been, and how much determination it would take to carry through with a suicide when the instinct to survive can be so strong. What would you have done? Chosen your death, or waited for the virus to take you?

The majority of our time was spent discussing AIDAN, the ship's artificial intelligence system, and his ethics (or lack of them). What makes something human? AIDAN exhibited original, human-like thought, and even expressed some empathy for characters. At what point does he cease beingartificial' and become human? Or is he always just a string of code? We were so interested in how AIDAN changed throughout the book, and how he developed a survival instinct of his own. He even came to view humans differently as the book progressed. 

We speculated on AIDAN's role in the next book, too -- some members thought he could become something of a hero, while others predicted that he would become the villain.

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