The moment I took Illuminae out of the mail package, something about this book inherently excited me. It’s a chunky monster, with this really interesting plastic semi-sheer cover that peeks at what looks like censored documents underneath.
And when you open it up, the book is sheer artistry, with pages devoted to the most interesting, chaotic, and artful typography. This is more than a reading experience, it’s a visual experience.
I love the premise of this book — told through the literary equivalent of found footage, these are the chat transcripts, censored documents, security reports, and streams of AI artificial consciousness that, cobbled together, tell the story of an unexpected attack on an illegal mining planet and three ships of survivors’ subsequent race through space for safety — a journey impeded by a deadly virus breaking out, a command AI suddenly deciding not to take any more commands, and a deadly vessel chasing the fleet with intent of total annihilation.
Books that play with visual format are my very favorites. This reminded me Patrick Ness’ The Chaos Walking Trilogy, where the chaos of Noise was visually demonstrated by a commotion of words crashing across the page. But the story itself, that was a delightful, SUSPENSEFUL combination of a thousand elements — 2012: A Space Odyssey, Moon, Battlestar Galactica, even a lil’ bit of The 100 (basically, I pictured Clarke and Bellamy as Kady and Ezra, heh.)
Yes, this book is suspenseful. Yes, the characters are surprisingly well-fleshed out, considering the unconventional way we meet them — through transcripts, chat logs, emails, and the occasional diary entry. But what I most want to talk about is how beautiful the writing is. This book could’ve sailed by on the strength of its outstanding production quality, but it didn’t: the words on these beautiful pages are gorgeous in and of themselves.
I devoured this book in a matter of two, maybe three days. I almost wish I had taken more time to savor it, especially considering how lovely the writing is, but I needed to know what happened! If you like sweeping space operas, suspenseful sci-fi, mysterious viruses, space politics, space battles, space everything, not to mention hacking, casual LGBT representation, awesome female characters, and an artificial intelligence system manipulating its own human creators — and if you love gorgeous writing and stellar (heh) visuals — you’ve got to read Illuminae. It’s SO much fun.
5 / 5 stars