Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review/Discussion

Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published: October 20th, 2015
Pages: 599

Guys, I don’t even know where to begin with this book. Let’s start with a brief synopsis of what this whole thing is about. 

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.

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.

Small disclaimer, I actually edited the full synopsis that is listed on GoodReads. After reading the book I think it gives a little too much away, and this is a book where you definitely benefit from going in blind. If you’re on the fence or want to know more anyway, you can check out the full synopsis here.

I am not new to the Science Fiction genre as I have watched lots of TV series and films in this genre, but I believe this is the first science fiction book I have ever read. Don’t quote me on that though. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but got an epic space adventure that I absolutely loved!

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of character driven books (which I enjoy) so it was nice to read something with a complex plot with lots of twists and turns. Many of the twists I did not see coming, and one had my jaw drop! Mad props to Amie and Jay for weaving this epic space opera with so many layers and being able to do so with just documents, IMs, interviews, and written surveillance footage. The typography in this book is excellent and at no point confusing.

The characters in this book are also so great. Kady and Erza both leap off the page even though we don’t get to know them typically. There are not descriptions that describe how they exactly react to things. We mostly read the IMs to each other, diary entries, and interviews. The are so clearly well developed that you are able to paint a picture of with all that we are given.

There were very few things I did not like about this book. One thing that annoyed me was the voice the surveillance was told in. I wish they showed less personality (unless this was on purpose for a reason I am missing) because it was distracting from the action. It also did not come off as a real person noting surveillance for important documents. I also felt the middle book was a little slow. This could definitely just be a me thing as I am a very hard person to please pacing wise.

Overall, I honestly loved this book. It had me laughing, crying, on the edge of my seat, shocked and many of the themes still stick with me. I absolutely cannot wait to read the second book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an epic space adventure.

Below I’m gonna talk spoilers and get into more of my in-depth thoughts on some of the things that happen. There will be MAJOR spoilers so definitely do not continue on unless you have read the book.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Please do not continue reading unless you have read the book.
You have been warned.

Alright, so I want to talk about AIDEN because, even though it is an AI it/he/she becomes an important character towards the end of the book. I love the transformation AIDEN goes through and found it so interesting to read. Not only do you get the beautiful typography, but your perspective changes when we get entries for the computer’s core showing more of it’s motives behind its actions. The computer goes from evil, to batshit crazy, and then at the end we’re rooting for it to succeed. I thought it was brilliant how Amie and Jay developed this character and made the reader go through many conflicting feelings as they read.

One of my favorite themes of the Science Fiction genre is the idea of what it means to be human. Often times in this genre we see humans compared to an other. Usually it is an alien or robot. I did not think the author’s would explore this theme but was pleasantly surprised to see it explored through AIDEN as the computer develops some human qualities. Seeing AIDEN question itself and its motives was just so interesting and added such depth to the story. At the end the computer begins to care about Kady like another human (Ezra) would. It’s like after reading all of their transcripts and seeing their interactions AIDEN fell in love with Kady for the same reasons that Ezra loves her (minus all the history). The AI’s devotion to Kady at the end when it’s trying to help her survive against the odds was beautiful. As the computer is dying and getting weaker you mourn for it like you would morn for a human. Or at least I did. There was definitely a lot of crying coming from me.

Another thing I commend the authors for doing is not holding back in this book. They killed a lot of people, like James McNulty (who I still mourn for), and were not sorry about it. I will get to the whole Ezra thing in a bit, for now we’re talking about all of the people that truly died. I have not read a YA book in a while that was as grim as this on. Hell, lots of TV shows and films I watch are not as grim as this book was. Nothing was held back because of the younger audience or because people would not like it. For example, let’s talk about what happens with McNulty.

After seeing McNulty get trapped, I honestly thought we were going to see him return in the end. Yes, we did see him but not the way I thought. That suicide scene was gut wrenching (of course I sobbed here too) and completely surprising. I feel like not so great authors would have had him survive this whole incident. Hell a not so great author probably would have left some survivors and not killed everyone (minus Kady, Ezra (sort of), and AIDEN). Also what happens with Byron is also crazy too, who goes from a teacher role to mad man. Watching the final scene between him and Kady was heartbreaking. It is the first and last time we see them face to face in person. God. At the rate they kept killing people, I honestly thought that nobody was going to survive. I probably would have thrown the book across the room had that been the case.

Now let’s talk about Ezra. My mouth dropped when AIDEN tells Kady that he “died” and that it was AIDEN who had been communicating with her since the first encounter with Lincoln. Did you see that coming? I certainly did not! I’m not sure how you feel about him still being alive at the end. Personally, I did not mind it so much because I want to know more about his mom and that whole thing. There is more to his story so he cannot die yet. Plus him and Kady are too adorable. She needed at least one person she loved/trusted to survive.

That being said, the very end was a little confusing for me. I’m specifically talking about the chat between Kady and Ezra’s mom. I sort of wish it gave us more concrete information because all it did was confuse the hell out of me. It’ll probably make more sense when I read the next book, but I wish that it could have been a little more concise.

Those are all of my thoughts on Illuminae. I would love to hear your thoughts on this epic book. What did you think of AIDEN? How did you feel about Ezra still being alive? Any idea what’s coming next? Let’s chat in the comments. 

4 thoughts on “Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review/Discussion

  1. […] 2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff I’m sure you’ve heard of Illuminae. If you haven’t you either might be living under a rock or don’t read YA? Which good for you, but this novel definitely deserves all of the hype it has been getting and you should probably pick it up. It is so unique in it’s format, but the story also takes you on a roller coaster ride. The twists were surprising and I could definitely not predict the end. If you’re into science fiction and like epic space adventures, go pick up this book. To hear more of my thoughts on it, check out my review here. […]


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