A Review of Illuminae and a Word on Acknowledgments

With the arrival of summer comes more freedom and possibility, like exploration and discovery through the medium of literature. Book-reading has always been a great past time of mine, especially in the summer months when I’m not so busy. There’s just something so satisfying about returning from the library with a bag full of books, knowing you can read them at your leisure and not be forced to study them for an assignment.

My most recent conquest was the first installment of a sci-fi/action series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Illuminae Files. Book 1, Illuminae, is very uniquely formatted, with 599 pages of chat logs, emails, classified documents, data reports, video footage summaries, the stream of consciousness of a psychopathic AI, and more. In fact, because it is so unique, it can be very confusing at times, which is why for the first 200 pages I was generally very lost and just trying to enjoy the ride until things became clear.

(Thankfully, they did. I just had to be patient.)

This is not my first experience with one of these authors. In the past, I’ve read the first of Kristoff’s Lotus War trilogy, Stormdancer. A fantasy novel set in feudal steampunk Japan, it has historical elements combined with thrilling fantasy lore, like griffins and flying ships. Unfortunately, I was too busy at the time to continue the series, despite its good quality, but perhaps this summer I’ll start them again and finish.

Amie Kaufman has also co-authored a series before, the Starbound Trilogy. I cannot attest to its quality, having never read it, but I assume it’s good because it is a New York Times bestseller.

Anyway, to say that Illuminae was emotionally stirring is an understatement. This book was a wild ride from start to finish, even if I didn’t always understand what was happening. But the beauty of it is that I didn’t need to fully understand the sequence of events taking place to feel the love, excitement, terror,  panic, and hope of the characters. It’s a good quality to have in a novel, Young Adult and otherwise, because it’ll keep people engaged until the very end.

I won’t summarize the plot too much, because the less known about it, the better. But basically, it’s set in the year 2575 and features a pink-haired, headstrong heroine named Kady Grant, her smarmy ex-boyfriend Ezra Mason, and two megacorporations at war over the planet Kerenza, which—guess what?—happens to be the planet the two protagonists live on. I guess you could say it’s a story truly out of this world.

…anyway.

Wonderfully written, I highly recommend giving it a read. Yes, because of its length, it could take a good deal of time to finish, but I can assure you that once you really get into it, the end will come faster than you think.

And this brings me to my next point, which is the beauty of acknowledgements and the realizations they bring. Because at the end of this book, the two authors took the time to thank their editors, advisers, agents, artists, family, friends, and other contributors. The list of people involved, whether it be to proofread rough drafts, provide emotional support, or offer insight into the realm of astrophysics, is so lengthy that it spans multiple pages. Though some acknowledgements were fairly standard (“Our families . . . thank you for your constant support”), others were surely unique, praising specific doctors for giving medical knowledge and engineers for giving computer knowledge and even a certain Christopher Guethe for giving a tour around the NASA Jet Propulsion labs.

It reminds us, the readers and amateur writers of the world, to not only be humble and grateful for all the help given to us, but also that writing a book is not a one-man act. Of course, we don’t usually think this to be true. The reputation of a writer is that of a loner, one who sequesters his or herself from the world for months on end to pour their heart and soul into their latest work. Throughout history, the most famous writers are often characterized as social pariahs and tragic, lonely individuals, and this is certainly true.

For the most part. But not always.

You don’t have to be an expert in the field of thermonuclear astrophysics to write good science-fiction (even though it’d certainly help). What you need to have is a good team of friends, family, and experts who can help and support you until the very end. It’ll help produce a higher quality of work and will also help you finish (sometimes the hardest aspect of part of the writing process).

And remember: just like how reading is a form of exploration, writing is a form of escape. Even if fictitious stories have realistic aspects in them, they can still be used by the writer to escape reality, and this is a wonderful thing. So while the whole mentality of “writing what you know” is true to an extent, it doesn’t have to be true.

Those are my thoughts for now. I’ll be updating more frequently now because, as I mentioned before, it’s summer and I’m not so busy. I hope I’ll be able to continue to read and review great books like Illuminae in the future.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

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