Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2015 by Oneworld Publications  

Pages: 602

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I’m not sure how to approach this review as this book is so different from other books I’ve read. All I can say for sure is that I absolutely loved it. After I finished it, all I could think was wow. I had to wait a while before writing this review so I could process how I felt about this book.

 Illuminae is told in an epistolary style through a mix of interviews, reports, emails, diary entries and more. This makes it a unique reading experience, which does make it hard to compare to other books. It’s very visual as well. The artwork makes it really feel like you’re reading a file of documents.

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick this book up as it’s just the kind of unique thing that I would like. I think I did have reservations of whether the style would actually work and whether I would connect to the characters, which is perhaps what stopped me from picking it up in the past. But I really did not need to worry about that. Even though it’s told in this fragmented style, all the various documents flow really well so that skipping between different reports and emails and conversations didn’t feel fragmented, it felt like one long narrative. I also really connected with Kady and Ezra, and even many of the other more minor characters, even though the novel isn’t written in a traditional style. The voices of all the characters really pop off the page.

Another thing I wasn’t sure would work is the suspense and action, but Illuminae had me hooked all the way through. It’s quite a quick read as not all of the pages are full of text. I didn’t want to put it down as it’s so suspenseful. I went through so many emotions while reading this book which is what I loved. When you connect with a story emotionally, it really makes a book great.

There’s a lot of technical, sci-fi sounding terminology thrown all over the place, most of which I didn’t understand, but that didn’t affect my reading experience. It made it sound authentic to me. I don’t need to completely understand the ins and outs of hacking a spaceship, but if the character comes across as knowing what they’re talking about then it makes it believable. The authors must have done a lot of research.

This book won’t be for everyone. I’m sure some people wouldn’t like the epistolary style. But I found it refreshing. It made for a change of pace from reading ‘normal’ books. I found it captivating and thrilling and I will absolutely be reading the rest of the series. I couldn’t decide how to rate Illuminae as it’s hard to compare to other books, but I went with my gut instinct and gave it five stars. When I finished, I couldn’t think of anything negative to say and it just blew me away. So it absolutely deserves each of those five stars.

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