The reader learns at the end of Illuminae that Kady and Ezra make it out alive. And that’s fine. Book two introduced new characters whose fates were uncertain, so there’s still plenty of tension and suspense. Then partway through book three the reader learns Nik is the analyst who transcribed most of the video transcripts, including some that he couldn’t have if he and Ezra had died when their Chimera was shot down (and OMG the stupid parachute thing was soooooo telegraphed). So the reader knows Nik lives, and what could have been some awesome natural drama when Kady thinks they’re dead turned into painfully manufactured drama. Blerg.
After the analyst reveal, the only characters left with uncertain fates are Ella (though I thought it was strongly implied she’s one of the Illuminae Group’s hackers, and I’m pretty sure Mr. Biggles II is immortal), Hanna (who lives at least long enough to illustrate a few comic panels), and the couple du jour, Rhys and Asha. (And, of course, all the periphery characters and faceless masses that the massive death tolls of the previous two books taught the reader not to get attached to.) Though they were main characters, I didn’t get as attached to Rhys and Asha as I did to the other couples, probably because they got a fraction of the page time and I’d already spent two books thinking of Asha as the dead cousin. Basically, K&K threw too many frogs in the cauldron and screwed up the magic formula. I mean, if they can make me not hate the idea of shipping a spoiled princess and her drug dealer, something’s gone wrong if they can’t make me ship young lovers torn apart by circumstances and reunited years later on the other side of the known universe. (“What are the odds???” she asked sarcastically and rhetorically.)
The lack of a horror element also threw off the magic formula. Book one had a mutating bio weapon turning ordinary folk into psychotic super humans a la Firefly’s Reapers (Phobos is basically Pax, let's face it). Book two had the psychotropic facehugger aliens. Book three’s self-proclaimed monster is AIDAN, and it just does not cut the mustard. They might as well have brought vials of Phobos or lanima babies onboard the Mao. The outcomes would have been at least scarier, if no less predictable.
Also, I’m kind of pissed off that “Greater Good” AIDAN the Serial Mass Murderer got to end the book by announcing its continuing existence. Second chance my ass. It already got a second chance. And what did it do? Save two universes. Okay, fair enough. I can see giving it a third chance off the back of that. And what did it do with chance #3? Murder two people at the first opportunity, followed by the murder of two thousand more once it had refined its technique. It murdered five hundred or so more when it got its fourth chance (sorry, Churchill crew, all’s fair in love and war), so it’s actually on its fifth chance. [Edit: No! It’s on its sixth chance! Its second chance was when it murdered ¾ of the Alexander population.] I hope that pop song malware from book two infects its new servers and corrupts it so badly it spends the rest of its operational life singing about licking some guy’s lollipop. [bleep] you, discount HAL.
And lastly, things that bothered me throughout all three books:
I have to say that while the cute little YA Author Easter eggs were kind of fun, they were also distracting. The emotional impact of casualty lists and the like was greatly diminished by the compulsion to look for familiar names of living authors.
The inexplicable psychic ability to see other (often dead) people’s thoughts displayed by AIDAN and the “analysts” ripped me out of the story every single time.
Nothing to do with the writing, but these books stink. Literally. Thanks to the illustrations and stylistic renderings of reports and chat logs and AIDAN’s masturbatory literary allusions, they reek like a stack of newspapers fresh off the press. The ink smell was so strong on Obsidio (the newest one) that it actually gave me headaches and I had to read in short bursts. Ye gods! I almost wish I got ebooks instead!