Illuminae

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Review by KM

Typically I’d be waiting to post this review. The book doesn’t come out until October, and while you can totally pre-order it, there’s nothing like sharing a book and being able to have them grab it from their local bookstore that day. However, I’ve already told everyone in my life about this book — I’m serious; I work two jobs and all my coworkers at BOTH know about this book, the release date, and how amazing it is — so you’re all next. This is my favorite book of 2015 so far and that’s a really tough statement because The Walls Around Us and A Darker Shade of Magic were both released this year.

Summary

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

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 one of the 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.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Musings

Where do I even start?

I want to drown in this book, in the year of 2575, and die of a deadly plague because there is no way I’m tough enough to survive it. I have the biggest book hangover from this; one that I haven’t had since reading Howl’s Moving Castle for the first time.

This book has EVERYTHING: bio-warfare, crazy artificial intelligence systems, intense imagery, and space. Yet, it doesn’t feel like everything is crammed in there just to make cameo in the story, y’know? It all comes together fantastically. It took some of the most brilliant tropes from classic science fiction like Battlestar Galactica, 2001: Space Odyssey, and likely some cues from zombie films, merged them all together to make something new and courageous. The plot twists and spins, but it doesn’t feel like it’s going off kilter.

Now, this book is kind of crazy. You should open it as if you’re opening a manila envelope, filled with everything a database could come up with on this one horrifying event. There are interviews, chat logs, data files, summaries of video clips, and diagrams. Check your dates carefully; they tend to go in order, but some of them definitely are misplaced. The entire story is pieced together through this evidence. I didn’t expect to love this style so much, but it works so well.

I will admit there were about five pages through a new technology-based-character’s viewpoint where I got concerned: was this going to end up being cheesy? This character is given more personality than he would be in older sci-fi novels, but I think it fits.

Ezra makes me laugh like no one else. It probably says a lot about my personality that most of my conversations with my friends sound identical to those between him and his. It’s fantastic and enjoyably crude in those small happier moments. While I adore Kady, I would’ve loved to see the world through Ezra’s eyes more often.

I could go on and on about this book forever, but I’ll stop here before I spoil everything. I have no doubt that I’ll be doing some sort of give-away for this come October, but if you really want this book, preorder it now before you forget. You will not regret it.

From a Distant Star

by Karen McQuestion 

Reviewed by SA

Aliens. Did that catch your attention? I’m a sucker for a good alien story, and was so, so pleased to find From a Distant Star on my reading list. And boy, this book is CUTE. I think that;s the best word to describe it! It’s a romance with barely any romance; an action story with only mild action; it’s a story of love, friendship, and a quest for home. And it’s so amazingly sweet.

A brief summary

Lucas is dying of cancer.
As he nears the end, the impossible happens. An alien crash lands in his yard and uses his body as host in order to troubleshoot a way off of this strange planet known as Earth. Emma, Lucas’s longtime girlfriend, knows right away that the man who came back from the brink of death was not the Lucas she knew and loved. It doesn’t take long for her to piece things together, and determine something has to be done: the alien must be sent home in order for her to get the love of her life back.

Together, she and ‘Scout’, the alien who’s taken over Lucas’s body, must road trip to the one place they know must be able to help. But Scout’s arrival has not gone unnoticed: strange government agencies are on their tail, with nefarious plans for the alien being. Can Emma get Scout home in time, and bring her love back to life?

The premise of this novel is awesome. For once, the aliens who visit us wish us no harm, searching only to communicate and befriend us. Scout tries to slip into Lucas’s life, to quietly observe rather than taking over and trying to run it himself. He only wants to understand and learn. I absolutely love this. I’m so tired of the earth-hating alien trope!

As I said earlier, this novel is so cute, incredibly sweet. Scout and Emma form a bond you would not expect. They grow to respect each other, and even love each other, though platonically. They learn from each other and grow from their experiences.

The plot itself is a little bit… simple? This is not a bad thing, no, but the threats never seem that threatening. Scout has a certain advantage that doesn’t leave much room for deceit, so there’s never any worry whether a character is anything but who they say they are. There are moments of action, fight scenes, car chases, even threats and capture, but there’s never any doubt about who’s going to end up on top. It’s unrealistic that so many people would be so selfless in helping Scout and Emma.

Emma herself I actually feel divided about. On the one hand, she’s resourceful and smart, knows how to hold her own, and seems like a very believable characters. What seems less believable is her obsession with Lucas. It’s completely understandable that she’s in love, that she worships her boyfriend, but at times it was borderline terrifying. She mentions more than once that “other people can’t have him, he’s mine” (usually about classmates who find him very attractive, because he’s so hot) and that they both know they will be together forever (it’s been a year, and he’s been dying of cancer). While she manages to appear independent, there are hints of a co-dependent personality. She literally cannot live without Lucas.

Which only seems to make the book more interesting, because Lucas himself only appears for tiny amounts of time, in Flashbacks and so on. It’s a love story where the main love interest is being possessed for 99% of the time (or playing host to an alien entity, which is pretty different). So while Emma’s rants about undying love can be pretty obnoxious, the lack of clingy romance balances things out.

Scout himself is a fantastic character. He’s a non humanoid alien (huzzah!) who cares (sometimes called too sensitive) about people and just wants to learn and fit in. Sometimes he acts like a small child, other times like a wise old man, and always like an adorable alien who doesn’t know heads from tails on this strange planet. I would love to read more about him.

All in all, while a simple plot, this novel had great premise and was a fun, fast read. I recommend it for fans of YA who want something fun to devour. CUTE ALIEN ROAD TRIP, YALL!

Get in Trouble

by Kelly Link

Reviewed by SA

There is something magical about short fiction; the stories, instead of being self contained, seem like just22125258 glimpses into other universes, short windows into another wold, transporting you, somehow capturing all of your self in just a few pages. And somehow, the stories linger, still in the back of you mind days, months after you have finished reading it. Get in Trouble may however be my favorite collection I have read to date, with the stories still vivid in my mind, unforgettable gems of fiction.

Get in Trouble is a collection of nine science fiction and fantasy stories that spans from superheroes to pyramids to robot boyfriends. In “The Summer People,” the first story, a young girl tries to care for a home of mysterious people (?) while sick.  In “The New Boyfriend,” a friendship is tested when a teenager falls for her best friend’s robot boyfriend. There’s a man trying to reconnect with his former co-star/love interest, as she pursues Ghosts for a reality show; there’s both a superhero and a dentists’ convention in the same hotel; there’s teenagers hanging out in their own pyramids; ghosts stories on a spaceship; a woman with two shadows…

Each of the stories draws you in immediately. I would describe them as being set in the here and now, but shifted a few universes over. The rules of their world are the same, but not quite. By the time you’ve picked up one what those rules are, on where you are and what is happening, you are already entranced. You quickly fall in love with them, with the people you meet there: you want to know more. Many of the stories are quite short to read, and leave you wanting to know what happens next, forever imprinted on your mind. Switching from one story to another was a process, one which made me have to put down the book and revel on what I had just finished, before actually moving on.

While the style of the author is immediately recognizable, the stories show off her versatility. Different perspectives, different genres, one of the stories even a letter, Link manages to keep you reading not only with her remarkable plots, but also by the diversity of styles. Admittedly, some stories are better than others, but what is great about Get in Trouble is that there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Fans of Neil Gaiman will absolutely love her stories; I would honestly love to see what the two of them could write together.

If you’re looking for something you can read and know you will enjoy, pick up this book. It’s a great, fun read; one of those books that makes you feel that reading is magical, all over again.