Saturday, June 9, 2018

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman | Who Needs A Heart, Anyways?

The Illuminae Files #1
Date Read: April 21 to 25, 2018
First Published: 2015
Hardcover, Kindle
Young Adult, Sci-fi
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.
BRIEFING NOTE: 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.
Hey, I actually loved an extremely hyped book! SCORE!

Clearly, I was a tiny bit hesitant to start reading this one. Which is code for EXTREMELY SCARED TO. Like, the hype is daunting af. What if I end up not loving it the same way everyone else does? With this kind of Captial H Hype I tend to go the Schrodinger's cat route. Just don't open the box. With this one, it was so easy to go there because it's also a massive piece of literature. 600 pages are no laughing manner, but my inability to open big books is.

*singing* I'm scared of big books and I cannot lie.

Obviously, I have bested the fear and opened the book. And you know what? THE CAT IS ALIVE!

This book is such a strange amalgamation of formats and styles and voices, and what's even stranger is that it works. And not only does it work, it works gloriously. It might take you a couple of files to get into the rhythm of things like it did me, but once you're in it, you're in it.

I think it's a testament to these two authors' skills that each character managed to shine through and have its own voice, even though very little of it is told through their eyes or in a direct manner. And I'm not talking just about our mains Kady and Ezra, I'm talking about the side characters as well, from friends to co-workers to captains and commanders.

And not only will you get a very firm grasp of the characters, you will also get a heavy case of the Feels. Mostly very painful feels, feels that will make you wonder if you really needed your heart for something because clearly it's gone and hopefully that didn't damage something too vital. FEELS for DAYS.

Okay, wait, let's talk a minute about the details of the story. Because it's one of the most terrifying things I've ever read of. It's a combination of all the things I hate the most because they make me so fucking terrified. But at the same time, I couldn't look away???

Nitzan's "I Hate This!" Checklist:

  • The Big Bad is a giant corporation - ✓
    Really, I prefer supervillain stories or even tyrant stories and things of that nature because you can just kill the man and it ends, and because things are usually more out in the open as opposed to secret schemes. But corporations tend to be sticky, sneaky business that always feels so much harder to truly kill. They're kind of like hydras. Blah

    Oh, goody. My favorite thing. Not. Gosh, it brought literal chills. Bioweapons are such terrible things no matter their iteration, and this one actually turns people into monsters. Like, NO, please.
    (side note- I do hope they explore this topic more in Gemina though because it was very strange that everyone, on the one hand, reacted "differently" to it and had different psychosis and on the other, they all suffered similar specific symptom like the "don't look at me" part. What is the virus attacking to make them all averse to that?)

  • A.I GONE MAD - ✓
    Like, whhhhy? Wasn't it scary enough before the artificial intelligence that controls everything lost his mind and overrode all safety protocols in a crazed attempt to follow his core directive, no matter the consequences? WASN'T IT?!
    (*whispers: I kind of liked AIDAN, though, the psycho*)


Seriously, this is like someone wrote this book just to scare the bejesus out of me.

And you know who're facing these gigantic mega-sized problems?? TEENAGERS! TWO LOVE-SICK TEENAGERS! I'm going to have a heart attack!!! Oh, this book is EXCELLENT in making you see the other people working around it (i.e the grownups and commanders), but unfortunately, those people are not the main characters so for the most part, their fate is unguaranteed. Or guaranteed to be bad. The ones who are going to sort-of-maybe-in-a-way beat it are the teens. And it... works? It does. Fantastically. Amazing.

Although, let's be honest for a minute. Ezra Mason is kind of a secondary main character. THIS IS KADY GRANT'S STORY. The guy is there, and maybe he'll have a bigger part to play in the future (actually, that's almost guaranteed), but Illuminae is 100% Kady's heroic journey. SHE'S the one who does everything, the one who is focused on, the one we get to see the world through her eyes on occasion. She's the one we watch grow into herself, and more importantly, grow to mean something to other people around her. Heck, the final 20% or so of the novel is pretty much Kady on her own. 

And you know what? I get it. I get people falling in love with this girl. I get her being the main character. She is fierce, she is smart, and she is unyielding. She is strong and loyal and near unbreakable. She is willing to sacrifice for the greater good, but she doesn't do it blindly. In fact, she follows nothing blindly, except maybe her own heart. And she's also a pretty teenager with pink hair so QUIRKY. If this was an anime just the pink hair will be a glowing red arrow proclaiming "this is the protagonist". 

In comparison, Ezra Mason is just a cool guy. He's loyal, charming, a good friend, and is very much in love with his ex even six months later. He's an athlete with good reflexes who is comfortable following orders. A rebel he is not. And that's most of what I feel like I know about this guy. 

Which is where the half star went. The least well-developed part of this giant work of art is Kady and Ezra's relationship. We didn't get to see any part of it, which sucked big time because it's the motivation for this entire book. Like, seriously. We meet these two after the breakup, and what's worse... we barely hear about their shared past as a couple. We don't get to experience anything of what made them fall in love or why. We don't even really get to understand the scope of their emotions to one another.

Don't get me wrong, their banter was a winning point, and I was all here for it, but... I still didn't quite get it. Why they loved each other so much to give up so much. I want to be right there with them. To feel like I would sacrifice myself in their stead as well because of how powerful their love is. Instead, all of that was locked behind things that had already happened but weren't shown to me, so I was kind of left to assume that it was justified.

Final note, in relation to the size fear thing. Illuminae is pretty much a 300 pages of a "traditional" story, told in a graphic manner spanning over 600 pages. It's a visual experience that can be read extremely quickly. some pages are made of one sentence or a word in a stylized manner that gives it more force or meaning. So, even though it's 600 pages, it flies very quickly and doesn't feel the length. 

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