When Kady Grant got up in the morning, she thought breaking up with her soon to be ex-boyfriend, Ezra Mason, would be the most eventful thing to happen. Living on Kerenza IV, an illegal mining colony on the edge of the universe and farthest from anything exciting means routine is the norm. And then the ships came thundering out of the sky, bombing the mine and destroying anything else they could target. As upset with Ezra as she is, Kady can’t leave him to die at their school. The two of them take her truck to get away. She wants to go to the hospital where her mom is a Doctor. Ezra wants to get to the mine where his dad works. They separate, knowing that either, or both, of them may die before the day is over.
Kady and her mother are eventually evacuated to the Hypatia, a science vessel that was in orbit when the distress calls went out. Ezra is evacuated to the Alexander, a battlecruiser that came in response to the attack. Joining the Hypatia and the Alexander is the Copernicus, a nearby freighter that has taken on survivors.
All of the ships are damaged from the conflict and filled with Kerenzan refugees who have suffered casualties. They flee the system for Helmdale Station, the nearest place for assistance and supplies, but it will take at least six months to get there. And they are being pursued by the remaining enemy ship, the Lincoln, which will destroy them all if it catches up.
A worse situation is taking place as some of the refugees begin to show symptoms of an unknown illness. It may be the result of a gas that was released by the hostile ships. The symptoms are difficult to diagnose until it is clear that something is terribly wrong and the patient becomes violent. If the medical personnel are correct, the infection is mutating as quickly as it is spreading.
Once aboard the Alexander, Ezra sends a message to Kady, who had said she never wanted to speak to him again. When she finally responds and they start comparing notes, things do not add up. As bad as things seem, Kady and Ezra are about to find that the situation is worse than they ever could have imagined.
In Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff tell a story of loss, determination, investigation and love, all conveyed through emails, IMs, various types of files and direct data dumps from an AI that might be insane. The art direction is marvelous, and combines a wonderful sense of gritty realism with a sense of beauty and whimsy in the way some pages are displayed. Everything works together to intensify what the words are expressing (even in the cases where there are only a few words on a page).
The characters are fully realized and believable. Kady Grant is an exceptional young woman with extraordinary talents as a hacker, almost inhuman determination and all too human loyalty and devotion, and she will be challenged to maintain these attributes. In addition there is a wonderfully diverse array of supporting characters: the survivors and the crews of the starships, and the command staffs of two of the vessels.
A heart-pounding, heart-breaking, mind-blowing novel that is original in content and form. It is the first of a new series with no release date for the next book.