Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Bookmas Day 8 — Illuminae Review

On the eighth day of Bookmas, the book blogger gave to me, a review for the reading, a bit of Hide & Seek, some festive reads, a post about films, reading recipes, comic book thoughts, a list of writing tips and a book rec for a mystery

Hello and welcome back to My Words Are Arrows for Bookmas day 8! Are you all sick of me yet? I must keep popping up in your newsfeeds and emails every day... oops! I hope you're all enjoying the content :) Also, yesterday I mentioned my Hide And Seek snippet post linking to today's post... my bad! It doesn't. That is tomorrow's post. Sorry!

Today I have for you a good old-fashioned review. Yes, it is back to basics for day eight of Bookmas! I have been posting lots of different sorts of things, so I thought it might be nice to pull back and just discuss a book again. Today I will be reviewing a book I really, really loved, and it might just be one of my favourite books this year. This book is Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

The hardback version of this book is incredible. I honestly cannot even describe how cool it is, but I can say it's got the most beautiful see-through dust jacket and intricate cover design. I had originally planned to get myself one of these perfect hardback copies, however, I happened to stumble across the paperback first. Ordinarily, I would've held out and bought the hardback later on, but this paperback was, wait for it, signed by BOTH authors *collective gasp*. So I actually ended up with the paperback, but if anyone would like to buy me the hardback, winkwink, feel free too ;)

Anyways this book is the most unique, strange thing. It's actually a dossier, a collection of different phone conversations, IMs, field reports and etc. You'd think it'd get tiresome when there's no actual traditional prose perse, but in fact, it's not boring at all. The entire thing is enthralling and gripping. It's a sci-fi set in the future. And here is the synopsis:
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.
It's an incredible book and not only was it incredibly entertaining and moving, it also opened my eyes to all the possibilities of writing outside the usual story writing formats and conventions. However, don't think that because it's a dossier-style story, it doesn't have killer lines and awesome prose. It so does. This book is incredibly moving and there are some things that hit you right in the feelz.

I would highly, highly recommend it, especially to fans of Amie Kaufman's other series, written with Meagan Spooner, The Starbound Trilogy. It has a very similar space-opera, romance feel to These Broken Stars and This Shattered World (and presumably the third book but I have not yet bought it... Though I plan to read and review it in January!).

Without further ado, I shall kick off the review! If you haven't read Illuminae, I would recommend you leave this post for the moment, grab yourself a copy, read it, then come here to discuss. You can do some further research into this book by reading through its goodreads page here.


Wow. Illuminae was just wow. As soon as I saw blurbs from Scott Westerfeld, Marie Lu, Laini Taylor and Veronica Rossi, I knew this was going to be good. It's pretty rare for Australian YA novels, even if they are amazing, to get that much international attention.

So firstly, let's address the biggest plot twist. The Illuminae Group was, in fact, led by Kady. I didn't see this coming! I was so wrapped up in the story I didn't actually guess it at all. I was constantly wondering who this Illuminae Group was, and where they fit into the story, but I didn't guess they would be Kady's group. And the last few pages were just incredible. The conversations between Kady and the Executive Director/Ezra's mum, followed by the last bit of servelliance footage and the image of Ezra and Kady, and then the NOW RUN message — the whole thing was a perfect end that also leaves room for the next book.

I also didn't guess the second biggest plot twist, that AIDAN was pretending to be Ezra for a good half of the book. That really took me aback, so much so that I actually went back a few times and read over conversations, trying to pick up any differences I should have noticed before.

The storyline with AIDAN was really interesting. It started out as your typical robot-wants-to-help-and-therefore-must-destroy-humanity sort of thing, but I never thought it would become more than that. But, of course, like so many things in this book, it took me by surprise that AIDAN actually became almost a friend to Kady. That he actually started to be a bit humane. Also, there were some amazingly funny lines in the conversations between Kady and AIDAN that had me laughing really hard.

I found that the art and typography used in the AIDAN files worked really well. It was clear that every single letter had been placed where it had for a reason, and that careful thought equated in a really expressive series of pages with few words. It was so interesting and gripping to see AIDAN's emotions, perse, portrayed through these odd little words and drawings.

The entire book's formatting is just breathtaking. I had enough trouble formatting my book into standard text when publishing my book, I honestly can't imagine the time, planning and effort that went into designing Illuminae, but I'm so so so glad that the authors and designers went the extra mile, because it really sets the book apart from other books and makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Kady, our main character, is spunky and sure of herself. She's strong-willed and selfless, but she's also a young girl and we see a perfect balance of these things within her, especially in her diary chapters. We discover that she feels very alone, and as she slowly loses her family, we see her become more torn apart but also more independent and strong for it. Kady is a complex character, but the authors really did a spectacular job of characterising her for us and showing just how multi-faceted she really is.

I actually really ended up rooting for Kady and Ezra, which is odd because ordinarily I don't fall in love with the main romance in books. I was really quite invested in their relationship working out, even though it was unconventional and unlikely. Ezra was a hilarious character to read, but he also was a multi-dimensional character. He liked to make jokes and poke fun at Kady and his friends, and he enjoyed a good laugh. But at the same time, he was dedicated and selfless, and very strong-willed. During their conversations, it wasn't hard to imagine that the characters were real and you were just reading through their direct messages.

There were some really emotional parts of this book that I actually phsyically bookmarked with little tabs. One of these moments was James McNulty's death. That whole page made me feel the feels. This was the bit I bookmarked:
"McNulty gave us a salute. I could still see his smile. No fear in his eyes then. Just duty.
 He'd have made a good dad. 
 "Hey, LT," he said as the doors cycled closed.
"Yes Sergeant?"
"You see Ezra Mason around, remind him his first kid's name is James. Or Jamette." He patted his breast pocket. "And tell him not to worry. I've got Astro-Princess to keep me warm." 
"He'll know what I mean."
I'd prefer a thousand bullets to a moment like this.
"Roger that, Sergeant."
"Take care, LT."
And that was the last we saw of him.
I am officially recommending Sergeant James McNulty for the Silver Star for Bravery." 
That part was just heartbreaking. I hadn't cared that much for McNulty previously, but that whole scene broke my heart. Especially the dad part. I can't deal. Tears. Let's move on.

I thought that the censoring of the swear words was a very clever technique. It definitely added more impact to the words and made them more comical, and it added a layer of extra to the words that would otherwise have not been there. One such example of this, another one of my very favourite lines from the book, was a conversation between AIDAN and Zhang:
""True," Zhang pauses, glancing into the emergency supply cupboard, gaze lingering on something inside. "But I have something you and protozoa don't."
"Hands, mother            .""
I laughed very hard at that point. The fact that the words aren't there just makes it even funnier than if they actually were there, for some reason.

I am so excited to see where this series goes in the future. I believe it is going to be a trilogy, which I'm super psyched for. I am desperate for the next book, and you can bet that as soon as it comes out, I'll be grabbing a copy.

Feel free to share your thoughts on Illuminae below in the comments, or via any of my socials. If you'd like to contact me for business, book recs or just to say hi, you can also use my socials, or my email, mywordsarearrows@gmail.com.

I hope you are enjoying Bookmas, and I'll see you tomorrow with another post!

Lily xo

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