This scifi/YA story is told in the form of a dossier prepared by “The Illuminae Group” for an Executive Director Frobisher regarding the Kerenza disaster which began one year previously. As the fictional compilers note: “All visual and audio data are included in original form, along with written transcripts,” with “typographical and graphical anomalies” unchanged from the original files.
The story then unfolds in the promised mixed media format, replete with water marks, fingerprint smudges, I.M. transcripts, memos photocopies and more. The two main protagonists are 17-year-old Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, who had just broken up from their relationship before their interstellar mining colony was destroyed by a corporate competitor.
A couple of ships manage to make it off the colony before its total annihilation, with Kady on one of the ships and Ezra on another. Soon, they are communicating by IM, trying to figure out together what happened to the colony, and more importantly, what was happening on the ships. Because something was definitely not right, and all of their lives were still very much hanging in the balance.
Discussion: While the mixed media format approach is not new, this book is done in an exceptionally clever way. (I especially liked the Casualties report, the “Unipedia” excerpt, and the hidden image of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”) At first it seemed like the “cuteness” of the meta concept might overwhelm the story, but as one becomes more invested in the story, the media recedes and the message takes over.
The opening interview was a little silly, but the story quickly picked up both gravitas and believability. Also in the beginning, I thought the book might just be some updated version of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But Aidan, the main ship’s AI computer, was not Hal, after all. In fact, his character was developed in a quite interesting way.
There are some nice twists and surprises to the plot, including an unexpected romantic entanglement.
Kady is an exceptional character, and will make a great role model for female readers.
Evaluation: I think this book will greatly appeal to teens. I look forward to the next installment.
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, 2015