…buy this one!
Illuminae was being heavily promoted at BEA and BookCon this past May. And when I say heavily, I mean HEAVILY. (It was the book featured on the stairs, if you know what I mean. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture. I always feel weird taking shots of strangers, and there were always multiple people on that staircase.) I saw a stack of ARCs against a wall at the Penguin Random House booth, asked if it was okay to take one, and immediately fell in love with the cover and its slew of redactions. (Also, it was a hardcover ARC. I’d never seen that before.)
It was one of the first books I read when I got home, and I could not put it down. It’s about six hundred pages, but it never feels long or boring. Everything in this book is necessary; there’s nothing in this doorstop of a novel that doesn’t need to be there, that doesn’t contribute to its sweeping space-travel-love-story-biochemical-warfare-starforce-battle bundle of awesome.
The format is brilliant: the book is presented as a dossier of evidence compiled after a large corporation attacks (and annihilates) a small space colony. There are chat transcripts, spaceship schematics, staff memos, personal journals, and many other methods of presenting information. And they work together brilliantly. The world-building is invisible, seamless, and perfect. Futuristic slang and ways of life are just absorbed and never explained; these authors are magicians, and I can never catch them working behind the scenes.
Illuminae is unlike anything I’ve read before, and I mean that in the best possible way. Every time I thought I knew where things were headed, the plot twisted in a new direction. It kept me guessing — and invested — and awake — for hours on end, and I loved it. The characters are great; I loved Kady, Ezra, James, and Byron, and AIDAN terrified me. The psychotic, power-tripping AI made me wonder if I could continue to trust Siri to navigate me in new neighborhoods. (An overreaction, I know, but when you see what AIDAN does, you might understand where I’m coming from.) The dialogue is crisp, funny, and heartbreaking. And the pages of photos after the incident on the Copernicus…a breathtaking choice that stopped me in my tracks both times I read the book.
In case you’re not getting the picture yet, I adored this book. It was just as good the second time around as it was the first. And, although I’ve already made good use of my advance copy, I plan to buy the finished copy as well. This is the kind of book I want to see in the world; it’s entertaining and smart, and I just…SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! [Basically, although I’m on a limited book-buying budget and I technically already have a copy of this book, I think it’s important to support the sorts of projects you want to see more of. And I want to see more things like this.]
All in all: I heavily recommend this book. It made me laugh, tear up, hold my breath, and get goosebumps. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the trilogy is headed.