Book Review: Illuminae

Posted October 15, 2015 by Kara in book review, Kara / 4 Comments

Book Review: IlluminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th, 2015
Genres: science fiction, young adult
Pages: 608
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. 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 enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

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 realize how incredibly lucky I was to be able to read an ARC of Illuminae. That said, before I get started on my review, you should know that I was only able to read it in PDF form on my laptop, and some of the fonts were small. I couldn’t zoom in, and so things like maps and tiny fonts during crucial scenes were practically impossible for me to read. I almost threw in the towel, but I wanted to read it so badly that I pushed on despite my issues. I blame the publisher for poor formatting and preparation. Because as a result, I do believe my reading experience was a bit more disappointing than it should have been. I did still really like it though.

Thing is, I see people giving this five stars left and right, so I kind of feel like a black sheep for only giving it four stars, which is a weird feeling and something I have never experienced before. It was a great book, but I just wasn’t blown away by it like others were. If I had no issues with my reading experience, that might have been different. Shame.

It sounds incredibly gimmicky. The entire book is told in journal entries, reports, interviews, emails, etc. You wouldn’t think something like this would work–that the writing would keep you at a distance and be very surface. That is simply not the case. The way this book was written is brilliant. The style really works and it flows brilliantly. It is not difficult to believe that all this information was put into a file and you are reading the story from front to back. It all works in a way that I never thought it could.

The story was one that I found compelling from the very beginning. It starts with a pretty much one-sided war with the people of Kerenza (an illegal mining colony on an ice planet) fighting back with no chance of victory. Then Kady ends up on a ship called the Hypatia. There are two other ships in the fleet: Copernicus and Alexander (there are blueprints in the book for all of these ships–just one of the things I had trouble seeing in PDF). These ships are trying to flee from a ship that’s chasing them–the one ship that survived the war on Kerenza. This ship (Lincoln) is much faster and as the days pass, it is slowly gaining on them. Then there are the sort-of zombies. But I will leave those for you to discover yourself. Needless to say, this book is super tense and exciting. It sounds like a mish-mash of stuff that would probably not go together in the hands of anyone else. But these authors can handle it. I loved These Broken Stars and Stormdancer. Truly.

I still feel like the characters were a bit hard to get to know due to the format, but I still really, really liked them. Everyone seems to be loving Ezra, but for me, it was Katy who stuck out. I am really, really thankful the authors wrote someone like her. Though her talent as a hacker/computer whiz is a little difficult for me to believe, she was FIERCE. Devoted, intelligent, compassionate, and driven. I loved being in her headspace. And I did adore her relationship with Ezra and how it developed.

As far as atmosphere and world-building goes, I have been looking for a book like Illuminae for a long, long time. I am really hoping that interstellar Sci-Fi is on the rise now. I need more books in space. They are fast becoming my favorite, and there are very few with the quality of Illuminae.

I definitely am going to have to buy a copy of this when it comes out so I can reread it. I want to be able to see the blueprints and tiny fonts on the illustrations that I missed. Oddly enough, I never felt like I missed any part of the story so I’m not sure they were that important, but I just want to go back and consume every work. This is a trilogy I’m invested in.


4 responses to “Book Review: Illuminae

  1. This might just be one of my most anticipated books of the year. I’ve heard a lot of great things about it and I love the unconventional format the story is told through. I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is a book that should be read in it’s physical format and quite a few people have had trouble with the pdf version. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book.
    Lois @ My Midnight Musing recently posted…Review: Six of Crows by Leigh BardugoMy Profile

    • Yes! Most definitely read this in a paper book. Epistolary form is ALWAYS better when read from actual pages, and I hope I learned this lesson for the future.

    • Thank you! I’m sorry you didn’t get one too! But physical ARC was the only proper way to do this one and those were fairly scarce.

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