THE ILLUMINAE FILES – the best sci-fi book of the year (the last five years? the decade?)

Nothing like a gorgeous new book to finally inspire me to write a blog post. This month was the release of GEMINA – the sequel to ILLUMINAE by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, a NYT bestseller. But before you get to GEMINA, you have to read ILLUMINAE!

For those of you who haven’t held it in your hands – you have never seen a book like this! It is what the first word processor was to typewriters, what the iPhone was to the Blackberry, what a bottle of Laphroaig is to a Gin Tonic. A totally new type of reading experience, one that will change the way books are written and read.

There is no narrator. The book is a file compiled from various sources to tell the story of Kady and Ezra – a couple of teenagers, whose planet becomes a victim in the war between two intergalactic corporations. The documents in the file include chat records, ship intercoms, secret diaries, surveillance footage (transcribed by the funniest video technician you’ve ever met), excerpts from Unipedia (the 25th-century space version of Wikipedia) and even the (in)human thoughts of a supercomputer. Told this way, the story becomes so immediate, so real, that you start wondering whether Mr. Kristoff and Ms. Kaufman didn’t just get these files faxed down from space.

The main character is Kady – a teenage hacker prodigy – who, after the attack on her planet, is forced to escape to a fleet of spaceships together with several thousand survivors. The evil corporation’s dreadnought chases the survivors through space, trying to destroy them and any evidence of the massacre it committed. There is a mutating killer virus, a psychopathic mega computer, secrets, conspiracies, betrayals, space fights, sacrifice, heroism, love and hate. The characters are so real, so loveably flawed, smartass and witty! It grips you by the throat from the first page and keeps squeezing and squeezing until you can barely breathe with excitement. My heart was literally beating madly in my chest near the end as if something very personal was happening to me.

Get hold of a copy of ILLUMINAE! Not the ebook (unless you have one of those extra large readers! I read it first on my regular Kindle, and it’s such a waste, it’s like watching Avatar on the screen of your cell phone.) Enjoy! And know the sequel is already out.

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Stephenie Meyer has a new book!

The Chemist

http://stepheniemeyer.com/project/the-chemist/

Released: November 8, 2016

Little, Brown and Company

Kindle Edition, 512 pages

 

After years and years (and years, and years) of hoping and waiting for a new book by Stephenie Meyer, I had given up. Had stopped checking her website for updates and stalking her rare interviews. Imagine my euphoria when, one Tuesday morning, I found out there was a book already OUT. It was like waiting for an update on your best friend’s plans to get together, and instead finding her standing at your front door.

My daughter was in daycare. My plans for the day were immediately deferred. I loaded the book on my Kindle and jumped on the couch, drooling in anticipation.

It’s always difficult, if not impossible, to meet the high expectation after creating a worldwide phenomenon. I was aware of this, trying to be patient with the new genre and give the book the benefit of the doubt. But the first 20% were hard. Slow, heavy, with zero the magic that both Twilight and The Host had.

There are some basic rules of starting a story to capture the reader’s fascination – minimum backstory, get right into the conflict, make the main character relatable and sympathetic. Stephenie Meyer broke them all. The result – if this book didn’t have her name on the cover, I wouldn’t have purchased it after the sample ended.

She starts with a lot of backstory. Pages and pages written in past perfect tense. The sheer amount of “had” verbs tires the brain. It’s a rookie mistake that any aspiring author knows to steer clear of. I’m sure Stephenie Meyer knows that too. She just hoped she could make it work. It didn’t work for me.

There is a lot of detail. The first 20% could be a handbook of how to survive if government assassins are after you. Quite useful if you need this information. Not that useful if you want to hook the reader. It’s also very difficult to care for the main character because instead of learning who she is, we keep finding out what she does in order to survive. Slightly robotic, not very likable.

After the 20 % mark, the book gets readable. At about 25% it gets really interesting. That’s when the author touches the area she is a master of – romance. The characters become more believable, we see cute and funny sides of them, the action gets nail-biting. The story picks up speed very quickly after that and develops into a really good thriller.

There is one problem with that – Stephenie Meyer’s audience is not really a thriller audience. We are, all of us, romance suckers, and she was able to play the desperately romantic strings of our hearts like a virtuoso. In The Chemist the romantic part is there, driving the story, but it is overshadowed by action, assassins, shooting matches, deadly poisons. It is a good thriller. But not the best in the genre. There are much greater masters of thriller.

 

I wish Stephenie Meyer would stay with what she’s good at and give us a love story again soon.

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