Review: Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

21 October, 2015 Reviews 6 comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie KaufmanIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Pages: 608
Genres: Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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.

If you are remotely involved with the online YA community, you’ve probably seen a bunch of people freaking out recently over this book called Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. I can confirm that the freak outs are totally justified. It is amazing, witty, tense as all fuck and will probably ruin your life. You should totally read it.

I initially picked up Illuminae not actually intending to read it at the time, I just wanted to check out the mind-bogglingly cool formatting. The story is told found footage style and it’s absolutely incredible. I started flipping through and then scanned the first few pages and ended up so totally absorbed I didn’t put it down until I was done. Whoops, I also completely forgot to take notes and couldn’t express my feelings beyond WHAAAAAAAAAAAATFGDJHDLKFJFGHEFJSHKLDGJBNVDC (which, while a fairly accurate summation of the reading experience, is not actually all that helpful from coherently articulating why you guys should all go out and grab copies for everyone you know with a passing interest in scifi/action/awesomeness/excitement/whatever perspective).

Never fear, that’s what rereads are for, right? Well. Sure, generally. Unfortunately, when you have a book as compelling and off the wall as Illuminae and you are also me, you end up getting completely sucked in all over again and once more basically deserting the documentation plan. Somehow this book is just as intense of a read when you know all the plot twists. Obviously, some sort of witchcraft is involved.

I was immediately won over by the main characters Kady and Ezra. Kady for her snark and fuck you I do what I want you’re stupid anyway approach to all her problems, Ezra for being the kind of adorable dork I will never fail to fall for. She’s a Gryffindor with a belligerent streak, he’s a goofy Hufflepuff and I want to snuggle them off someplace quiet and give them hot chocolate and hugs and protect them from their creators who seem to take extreme joy from dropping them into horrifying scenarios.

An extra round of kudos to Jay and Amie for making characters superhuman levels of real and compelling predominantly through chat transcripts. If you consider all of the extra personhood that gets lost in translation via text-based communication, I feel fairly confident saying Kady and Ezra would have been too much to handle if I’d actually spent the book with windows into their heads. I was not expecting the formatting to work as well as it did. I was concerned it would be distancing and hahahahahahahahahahaha oh god I wish some distance might not have been a bad thing for my poor, abused nervous system. Illuminae strikes a really good balance between official documents and transcripts/personal logs. I still felt like I got to know the characters and was able to follow the plot (as much as you’re supposed to, anyway, there’s a hell of a lot of WTF?! going on).

Illuminae is actually somewhere around three books in one (and somehow only the first book in a trilogy, which, I can’t even comprehend that). It’s one part space opera, one part corporate espionage thriller and also a spoiler (I considered talking about the third element but I had no idea the book was going to go there and as it is one of my favorite genres it was the best surprise so I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves).

One thing I love about this book is it’s less plucky rebel teens vs the evil adult overlords (though there are shades of this) as it is scared, seeking outlet/escape for/from their own PTSD teens vs terrified, in over their heads adults. The adults aren’t lying and covering up for malicious intent (though I would argue that killing people to keep secrets crosses many a line) as much as they’re trying to hide how much they’re losing their shit and have no idea what’s going on either and they’re trying to keep mass panic from killing everyone. It makes everything that’s happening an extra layer of tragic.

Finally, I’ve never had cause to comment on this in a review before but holy shit, the design of this book is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I took to carrying it around and showing it to everyone I could make hold still long enough (many of whom did not care at all) (though they did when I was done) (or at least faked it really convincingly so I would go away). I can’t actually talk about the stylistic typography on some of the pages without immediately devolving into guhguhguh noises and helplessly petting the pages. (For those of you that have read it, THOSE BATTLE SCENES THOUGH).

You can tell that everyone involved in putting this book together had fun with it and I love that. There are so many clever and/or silly little details that add an entirely new level of awesome to the book. I’m not sure who was responsible for the Unipedia page interfaces, but I love that the first language on the available language list isn’t English, that the login link is “Who U?” and that one of the main navigation tabs is “Yon Days of Yore” (what’s on that page?).

So, Illuminae. It’s haunting, it’s creepy, it’s hilarious, it’s smart. It’s somehow an incredible amount of fun while still tying all of your emotions in a messy bundle around your heart and ripping the whole bloody mess out through your nose. IT COMMITS HORRIBLE BETRAYAL THAT I WILL NOT FORGET AND WILL NOT FORGIVE. I don’t know what to tell you. Read Illuminae. You’ll probably regret is but also you won’t at all.

Meg Morley

Meg Morley

Co-bloggery at Cuddlebuggery
Meg is an all-around book nerd who just really wants to talk about books, preferably with other people but by herself will do. Find her on Goodreads.

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