By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Hardcover, 615 pages
The adventures of the Illuminae Files wrap up in the third book in the series. Familiar faces return as the surviving crews of jump station Heimdall and that other ship, whose name I forget, head back towards Kerenza, the illegal mining planet where everything began. There are survivors on the planet and there’s also a jump station, everyone’s only hope of getting back to the Core galaxy or whatever. Can the Illuminae Group defeat the remaining BeiTech troops and gather enough evidence to hold them responsible for the atrocities they committed? Does anyone care about the new couple that’s introduced? Can the evil AI Aidan be trusted? Can you tell I’m not really into the series anymore?
I’ll say it up front, because I’m sure my opinion will the minority for this popular, hyped series, but the conclusion was lackluster and I’m not impressed.
Let’s talk about what I liked first, so the fans don’t come at me with verbal torches and pitchforks. (Jk guys, I joke about this often, but no one’s ever attacked me for my opinions and I’m grateful for that.) Obsidio, no different than its predecessors, was fast-paced and easy to read. There’s plenty of action and while the story is composed of video transcripts and chat and email conversations, it still reads pretty much like a novel. I find the series to be visually interesting and entertaining and the books are well-designed – I especially love the transparent dust jackets. Together they make a beautiful set. You can check out my Judging posts for Illuminae, Gemina and Obsidio if you like.
Ok fans, you can pack up and head out if you only came to hear positive thoughts. Otherwise, read on.
At its core, Obsidio isn’t very different from the previous two novels in terms of character and plot points. I mentioned in my Gemina review that it hit many of the same beats as Illuminae (review here) and many of those were repeated once more.
Yet again, we have:
- Intelligent, battle-ready teens holding their own against trained military personnel with little assistance from adults (though this book probably had the most adult involvement)
- A fake villain
- A pair of teens whose relationship is a critical concern during life or death situations
- A race against the clock, complete with countdown pages
- Psychotic AI
- Character death fake-outs (TO THE EXTREME)
- A convenient ending that is convenient
Rather than experiencing mounting excitement and wondering how this series could end, I was primarily bored by the plot and wondering when it would end. After having spent some time away from both couples featured in the previous books, I realized I don’t give a shit about any of them. Nor did I care about the new couple. Lest we forget, everyone is very pretty/handsome, young and in love. This is often mentioned during critical points in the novel – but who knows, maybe a real life teen would be more concerned about their relationship status than whether there’s enough oxygen on the ship to survive, or something! There’s also a lot of levity as well – again, maybe people do crack a lot of jokes in life-threatening situations, but at times it felt overused.
Even Aidan lost his appeal. He’s done the psycho AI who wants to be normal, yet can’t change his psychotic tendencies deal before. I’m tired of his oddball poetry and his “mother knows best” attitude. Like the other characters, he was stale.
As the book is composed of documents in a file, there are occasional notes from the Illuminae Group who gathered all the evidence and at a couple points, they warn the reader that what comes next is difficult to read. I found these setups disappointing. I expected to feel some feels, after being warned like that, but instead I was delivered more predictable twists. I think if they hadn’t set me up with that little note, maybe the scenes would have been a touch more impactful?
I also have an issue with the censoring. Throughout all the novels, swears are blacked out. I understand, it’s a YA novel and maybe someone in the publishing house thought it would be more appropriate or sell more if there weren’t truly any swears within. Maybe it was a choice of the authors because swearing is traditionally blacked out during court transcriptions? I don’t know. If you want to do that, it’s fine. However, in almost all cases, it’s incredibly easy to tell what swear is being used and it makes the censoring ineffective. Especially when they only black out the base of the word and leave the suffix – it makes it even easier to surmise the swear! Example: —-ing is clearly fucking and —-ed is clearly fucked when read in a sentence.
I was particularly peeved by the end. I would like to go into detail, but of course, that would be too spoilery. I will say that I was highly annoyed by all the fake deaths in the series. After experiencing similar situations in the first book, I quickly became desensitized and it really killed (hahah) the emotional impact the following books could have had. The finale was no different and frankly, it left me feeling cheated.
As I progressed through the series, the books went down in star-rating. Overall, I’d put the series at a 3 out of 5. For YA sci-fi, it’s decent enough, but the usual YA elements that annoy me hampered what could have been a stronger series. All three books are easily readable, but so repetitive that the series weakens with each book. I don’t think I’ll ever re-read the series and likely it’ll be let go in the next purge, but I would read more from Kaufman and Kristoff, should they decide to team up again.