“I am not good. Nor am I evil. I am no hero. Nor am I villain. I am AIDAN.” CBR11 Review 18-20.

UnknownI feel like I’ve been reading these books forever and that’s not necessarily a criticism. These are books are seriously big, and I definitely got invested in the story and the main characters (I quickly learned not to get too attached to anyone who wasn’t a beautiful teenager or a creepy computer). But my god, these books are long.

The three books take place hundreds of years in the future (I think? There are many references to our life on earth: religion, history, poetry, etc. No specifics on what happened to life on earth, but not really necessary), and start off with a huge and evil corporation bombing (really, obliterating) an entire mining planet that had been doing some illegal mining on the side. This nasty company – BeiTech — didn’t care if there were innocents living on that planet, just bomb, destroy, erase the evidence. Bomb the mines, the schools, the daycares, the hospitals. Pretend it never existed and make sure nobody is left to tell their story.


But the plan doesn’t quite work out that way. Refugees from Kerenza make their way onto rescue ships and escape ships, heading for a waystation where they can jump into hyperspace (or…something?). Families and friends are separated, but at least they are safe. For now.

The first book of the trilogy, Illuminae, lays out the background for the reader. How the attack happened, and the mayhem that ensued. How the survivors were split up and ended up on different rescue ships, all hurtling toward Hypatia Jump Station while being chased by BeiTech fighters who only want to destroy each and every witness to their horrific crimes. The second book, Gemina, takes place more or less at the same time as Illuminae, but on Hypatia Station. BeiTech has invaded and brutally executed the leader of Hypatia, taking the rest of the population hostage while they attempt to take over the jump station so that they can control who goes through. The third book, Obsidio, mostly takes place back on Kerenza, told from the point of view of the survivors left behind, and their fight to survive.

Here’s what I loved about this trilogy: these books are unlike anything I’ve seen before. They are pieced together as “The Illuminae Files,” presented as case files to use as evidence against BeiTech in a trial. They include video and audio transcripts, online chats, emails, journal entries, maps, drawings, and handwritten notes. Sometimes the text is easy to read, and sometimes it is presented artistically, sweeping across pages, creating subliminal images. And all cursing is redacted, so there are tons of huge black marks on every page. BECAUSE TEENAGERS LIKE TO SWEAR.

One of the main characters across all three books is the artificial intelligence AIDAN. AIDAN claims that every action he takes is for the survival of the crew, but it turns out that he only has “eyes” for our main character, Kerenza refugee and all-time great computer hacker/programmer, Kady Grant. AIDAN sacrifices the lives of thousands (including Kady’s own mother) in order to let Kady survive and get to safety. It’s all very Hal 9000. As the story continues, AIDAN struggles with his lack of humanity and his “feelings” for Kady, and pretty much has a nervous breakdown, which is by far the most interesting plot of all of this.

These books are YA, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you that each book has a very attractive, very brave, super cool couple with amazing hair fighting for their lives and for the future of the Kerenza survivors. Yes, sure, they may only be 17 or 18 years old, but don’t underestimate this team when it comes to their tactical plans and their programming skills. They spend a lot of time crawling through air ducts like John McClane, and still look fabulous. And don’t forget that even if their lives are at stake, there will always be time for some kissing. They aren’t particularly interested in any of the adults who are in positions of authority, unless those leaders are willing to go along with plans concocted by this wily bunch. Really, their age and corresponding confidence level was the only thing that sort of bugged me about these books. Sure, I get that in desperate times, leaders may come from unexpected places. Of course. But these very very very special teens really were a bit much. The greatest programmer. The best fighter. The savviest. The cleverest. I totally get why there was an attempted mutiny in book three. If I was an officer on one of these surviving ships, I’d be pretty annoyed about this bunch of meddling kids, too.

And, SPOILER, BUT REALLY NOT IF YOU HAVE EVER READ A BOOK BEFORE…like on the most recent Game of Thrones episode, I found it absolutely unbelievable that all of our main characters INCLUDING THE GOLDFISH survive.

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