The short: 5/5 ✦. An fast-paced, exciting, horrifyingly fascinating epistolary novel that rocks the stars as much as the genre.
I was super excited to read this book. I love epistolary novels, and this one is sci-fi? GET THINE WORDS INTO MY BRAIN. And lemme just say now:
I was not disappointed.
I think the blurb does one’s expectations a disservice: yeah, the main character, Kady, does break up with her boyfriend right before an invasion of their planet, but it’s totally not at all the main point of the book. It’s about innocent people getting caught up in a pointless war, about artificial intelligence gone haywire, about making difficult decisions when lives are on the line, about ████in’ zombies.
Sometimes, it’s a little difficult to understand what’s going on, especially in the beginning. The novel is supposed to be a dossier of what happened in 2575 (so since we have it here on Terra in 2015, doesn’t that mean time travel? 8D) and so assumes its “reader” has an understanding of the world. But no worries, it all gets explained over time, which is good if you don’t like big expository info-dumps. In fact, there’s very little prose in the book at all (obviously). It’s information and conversation and all other fluff is shaved away. I mean, I like descriptions as much as the next reader, but this type of novel is really serviced by straightforward dialogue, which here is both educational and funny.
The authors get the IM/email text perfectly. Those who deride “text speak” don’t quite understand how fluid it can be. Sometimes, ur feelin lazy and dun wanna type out alla words. AND SOMETIMES YOU’RE BEING INTENSE. sometimes you’re sad or contemplative and all the words just come spilling out and you put down written words in an attempt to relay your feelings. And sometimes, you’re being serious, and information needs to given in a concise manner. It flows and ebbs as much as verbal conversation, and Kaufman and Kristoff nail it.
They also nail mixing tech speak with layman talk, and making AIDAN related to HAL 9000 without being its twin. Also: ZOMBIES. I swear, my stomach clenched every time I read about someone getting the Shakes or worse, saying: “Don’t look at me.” Oh heavens, it’s basically the “Don’t blink” of literature and now I’m scared of Weeping Angels AND Phobos. (help)
Look, if this style of book doesn’t appeal to you, then you probably won’t like it. If you’ve never read a book like this before, then this is an excellent one to start with. There’s so much to enjoy, especially just journeying along with the characters. Kady and Ezra are just shy of stereotypes but luckily get the development they need and deserve. Pretty much all the others are awesome in their own way. And as for the plot? Well, it really is best to go in blind. 😉
Header image: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, published October 20th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers