Long Illuminae

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman Jay Kristoff

Illuminae
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

When their planet is attacked, Kady and Ezra figure that the worst is over after they’re rescued by the Hypatia and the Alexander, a science vessel and its hulking warship of a bodyguard. But the Alexander lost crew in the fight. Crucial systems were damaged. And it’s carrying secrets.

Kady, with a talent for cracking code, sets out to dig up everything the Alexander is hiding, while Ezra is conscripted to become a fighter pilot and flies right into the chaos of what Kady is trying to uncover. She could just ask him for the answers. If she hadn’t broken up with him right before the bombs started dropping back home.

I inhaled this novel. Six hundred pages long, and I raced through it in one day.

The novel is delivered as a series of data files, interviews, and transcriptions complied by an investigator looking into an interstellar “incident.” The authors had no fear in playing with text and format, and that alone would make me recommend the book. There is a whole aerial battle given in a two page spread of patch-work text turned in every direction, which brilliantly imagines the tumult, urgency, and confusion of a dog fight.

But I also adored the characters in this book, from Kady and Ezra who are delightful examples of what happens when you give teenagers access to million-dollar technology, to the pilots and geeks that they work beside, all the way down to the artificial intelligence that maintains most of Alexander‘s systems.

I laughed. And I actually cried, which is rare for me, and something I did not expect from a novel that started out such good fun.

And I made a face like I was on The Office when I realized I had been tricked into reading about zombies again. Again.

The Long War by Terry Pratchett Stephen Baxter

The Long War
by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

I read the first in this series, The Long Earth when I was on a road trip in the northwest United States. Wandering through Montana and Wyoming, it was the perfect time to read that book. It chronicled a changing world after the designs for the “Stepper Box” was leaked on the internet, giving everyone access to a device that would allow you to flick a switch and step sideways onto an alternate Earth. All you needed to power the device was a potato, and everyone could get their hands on one of those.

It was a science fiction western, a story about what happens when humanity suddenly discovers that their world is wider than they thought, and that there are valuable things on the edges. It was about exploration. The slow, steady pace of it was beautiful, as it dragged you out of your world with the pioneers and the wanderers, cracking open new landscapes as if you were walking them yourself.

I don’t think that pace served The Long War as well. To be honest, I spent most of the book believing that I was watching the precursors of the war click together, watching tensions rise, accidents fall, humanity line themselves up to react. I was happy to watch, believing something more was coming, only to realize that I had been in the middle of the war all along when a character breathed out a sigh of relief that, “it was over.”

Despite that disappointment, I still enjoyed the novel. All my favorite characters returned, along with new places to touch down on this strange frontier. I will definitely be continuing with the the series in The Long Mars, which promises a few space ships in my wild, wild west.

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