Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: Science Fiction, Epistolary Novel, Young Adult
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 2018
Hardcover: 615 Pages
Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?
Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.
With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.
How did we get this book: Review Copy from the publisher + Bought
Format (e- or p-): Print
And now we come to the end of a trilogy that has been hands down one of the most brilliant, innovative Science Fiction YA series I ever had the pleasure to read and I am astonished at how Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff pulled it all off.
Everybody is back in Obsidio for one last stand: all of our beloved characters a well as all of the monsters. I started sobbing my heart out from page 429 and when I closed that last page I had tears down my face as well as the hugest smile you can imagine. They did it again, I thought. To say I had high expectations for Obsidio, after loving the first two novels in the Illuminae Files series so damn much, would be the understatement of the century and yet here we are. I did have them. And they were surpassed.
Obsidio is once again following the same formula as the other two books in the Illuminae Files trilogy: a mix of a Science Fictional high concept in an epistolary narrative with visual cues that add extra layers to the narrative and with characters to love and root for. Both Illuminae and Gemina were as close to perfection as novels could be and with Obsidio, we see the culmination of all the different threads, the climax of the ongoing conflict, the resolution to the arcs of those beloved characters (and the introduction of new ones), all leading to a perfect ending to the series.
Last time we saw them, we left Kady and Ezra, Hanna and Nik meeting up after escaping the attacks on Heimdall station and the two couples are now part of a huge refugee rescue mission onboard the starship Mao. With the jump station gone and resources running low, their only option is to return to where it all started: to Kerenza. Kerenza, where the initial BeiTech assault took place, and where unbeknownst to them all things have gone from bad to worse in the past seven months since it happened. Because there were survivors. Survivors that have been enduring the oppression of an occupation force that sees them all as expendable and with a ticking clock above their heads that say: the moment BeiTech fixes their local jump station, they will kill all. Of. The. Remaining. Survivors: leave no witness behind, it’s the motto.
One of those survivors – and a resistance member – is Kady’s cousin Asha who has no idea Kady is still alive or that help is on the way. She has been doing her best to survive, to help those she can help. And then one day, a new group of soldier lands on Kerenza and with them, her old boyfriend Rhys. Now, on opposite sides, Asha and Rhys reconnect – and what a shock it was to see each other again. And Rhys who up until then had no idea of the crimes that had been committed, will have to pick a side now that he has witnessed the worst.
This book once again pulls no punches – it is after all, part of an ongoing story about fighting an evil corporation, with the aid of an amoral AI who will do everything it can to help those whom it deems worthy. There are moments in this book where things escalate, and along with a mutiny, unthinkable betrayals and a last stand to death, it was almost unbearable in terms of high stakes, tension and the suspense of not knowing who lives or who dies. Who tells your story is another thing: we know from the get go, that the narrative is a collection of files put together by the Illuminae group to prove the BeiTech crimes and to bring the culprits to justice. Up until this last book, we didn’t quite know how they came to be and who was putting them together. In here we finally learn that and it was the coolest thing – just another well thought-out feature of the series.
Another one of the most impacting aspects of this book and of the series overall, is how the adults – or at least some of them – underestimate these teenagers and are constantly proved wrong. These are kids prepared to fight, who are willing to their best for the greater good, to sacrifice themselves and get out there.
In terms of romance – and this is another important side of the series – we didn’t get so much of the Asha-Rhys romance like we did with the previous two couples. It made sense since as this is not only the series’ climax with a lot of events taking place but also because we see so much of Kady and Ezra and Hanna and Nik (who had not even kissed by the time Gemina ended so to see their own romance blossoming here was awesome) too. On a separate note: although I have loved all of the couples in the series, it would have been so cool if at least one of those three couples in the series had been queer. This is perhaps, my one less than enthusiastic note for the entire series. What’s on the page is so awesome and I have no major criticism to offer but sometimes what is NOT on the page matters too.
In the end, I loved Obsidio with all my heart. This book, and the series overall, are a heady combination of so many things I love that I often have felt that these books were made for me. And finding that level of personal connection and that type of experience is what I love the most about reading.
I, too, had high hopes for Obsidio–having devoured, been absolutely blown away by, and madly enamored with both its predecessors Illuminae and Gemina, Obsidio had a tall order to fill. Not only did the book have to live up to the two brilliant volumes before it; it had to end the saga in a manner befitting our extraordinary heroes (and villains). That is a lot of pressure and expectation to put on a single book.
Obsidio, for the most part, delivers on that promise–with a few exceptions.
In this third novel, we are introduced to another pair of love interests and main characters: Asha Grant, Kady’s cousin and a girl with A Past who was sent to the ill-fated Kerenza colony to be a medical intern and atone for her wild child ways; and Rhys Lindstrom, a BeiTech technology specialist, sent down to Kerenza after the initial purges as a backup soldier, and who happens to be the reason for Asha’s familial exile because of the bad decisions the pair made a few years back. This relationship between Asha (rebel fighter) and Rhys (BT soldier) is important to show the rebellion and war from Kerenza planet-side, and to show that war makes monsters of everyone, and offer a deeper humanity to the BeiTech folks on the ground in this fight. And yet, easily, this was one of the most disappointing aspects of the book. There is so much going on in Obsidio; we didn’t need a third romance pair at the heart of the story to push this book forward and there wasn’t really time to build up either Rhys or Asha because there’s a war happening on several different fronts. To me, this relationship felt forced, unnecessary, and pandering–there doesn’t have to be a central (het–as Ana says, this is a frustration, too) romance with a new pair of leading characters each book. Readers already have Kady and Ezra (and AIDAN), and Hannah and Nik, and oh yeah that whole WAR thing going on. I would have felt more invested in the Kerenza storyline had Asha and Rhys simply been people on two sides of the same fight, instead of Lovers With A HISTORY, adding a whole layer of melodrama to the affair and unnecessarily detracting from the real story.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, in all other respects, Obsidio fucking rules.
The things I loved about this third book are the things that I’ve loved about the series since its beginning: the experimental, epistolary style of the narrative; the raw emotional connection to teenagers who are placed in situations so much larger than than they are, and who have to make decisions that will change the fate of their worlds; and of course, the highest of stakes with a Big Bad corporation trying to cover-up its mistakes, and the people who fight against it.
I loved that this third book brings together all of the characters we’ve met and have grown to care for in Illuminae and Gemina–I love Kady and AIDAN and Ezra, and I love Hannah and Nik and Ella separately; when they get to meet and work together in this third novel it’s like AVENGERS HAVE BEEN ASSEMBLED LET’S DO THIS THING. Yeah. That level of excitement, people. Beyond the awesomeness of the team coming together, I loved two other very specific things in Obsidio that aren’t really in the previous books. First, there’s the fact that these teenagers are now being questioned by authority. Kady and Ezra become leaders of technology/systems and the Mao’s dinky airforce squadron, respectively–and while Kady’s is a behind-the-scenes job (and no one really can rival her, except for Ella), Ezra is not given a warm welcome. In fact, the fighters he’s supposed to get into rigs and train–most of them former ice drillers, and non-combat fliers–have a big problem taking orders from Lt. Babyface, and don’t want to follow him into battle. Similarly, Nik and Ella’s past catches up with them as they are appointed into positions to help the Mao on its desperate play to reach a jump point; as the kids of a notorious mafia family, no one trusts the Malikovs (and Nik reacts, understandably, in kind). This tension wasn’t seen in previous books because everyone was focused solely on survival, sneaking around air vents, avoiding collapsing universes and parasitic hallucinogenic alien worms and/or rogue AIs hellbent on destroying the fleet. In Obsidio, though, there are consequences for these actions. This is really cool to read, and I’m thrilled that Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff went there.
My other favorite aspect of Obsidio comes in the form of a tertiary character. Not even tertiary–a random character. At one pivotal part of the story, one woman–no one really important to the narrative otherwise–saves the future, of every life in the balance. An ordinary person, in an extraordinary circumstance, making an extraordinary decision. This is really the power of Obsidio–capturing, tallying these moments of extraordinary from normal people, for better or for worse. I loved that, in one dramatic scene, we see that BeiTech aren’t all faceless stormtrooper goons; we see that one pilot upon her death has been reporting the atrocities committed by her leaders and wants justice for the deaths on Kerenza, for example. I loved watching the dramatic scene in which another character celebrates his birthday with a selfless act to delay BT from harvesting enough hermium to jump away (and buying every civilian left on Kerenza more time). This sense of scope and breadth was utterly fantastic, and I appreciated the care that both authors put into showing all sides of this war.
Now… while I loved Obsidio, there’s only one other thing I have to mention before signing off. There are multiple fakeouts that happen in this third novel, especially in its closing 50 pages or so… and that was a source of incredible frustration. I wanted some of those things to be real, instead of oh, GOTCHA! moments a few pages later. To me, this felt like emotional exploitation for no reason other than melodramatic effect. How much more powerful would this story had been if any one of those fakeouts were actually real? If we had a Rogue One, Band of Brothers style of storytelling, instead of this metaphorical parachute saving everyone important?
Like I said, your mileage may vary. And even with these frustrations voiced, Obsidio is a damn fine novel, rounding out a damn fine series. Absolutely recommended.
Ana: 10 – Perfect and a 10 overall for the series too
Thea: 8 – Wonderful, but not without flaws
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