Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

One moment, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have nothing bigger to worry about than each other. Specifically, avoiding each other in the wake of their messy break-up. In the next second, their entire world falls apart.

The year is 2375 and one of the mega-corporations that control much of deep space has just fired the opening salvo in an intergalactic war, destroying Kady and Ezra’s planet. Forced to flee on a small fleet of crippled rescue ships alongside thousands of other refugees, the fear of enemy warships chasing them down is at first all-consuming but soon becomes the least of their worries. A deadly plague is ravaging the refugees on the ships; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be an enemy; and High Command is refusing to acknowledge that there may be a serious problem. As Kady plunges into a tangled web of data in search of the truth, she realises that Ezra is possibly the only person who can help her save the refugees before it’s too late.


My reaction to Illuminae can be summed up in these words: “HOLY [EXPLETIVE]!” I saw people rave about this book on Instagram and Youtube, but I had no idea how cool this book was. The format is extremely unique and for someone who doesn’t read science fiction, I found the plot creative as well. I tried to listen Illuminae as an audiobook, but it was hard to follow along because of the format. The audiobook features a full cast and the narration is great. Unfortunately, I had to ditch it for my physical copy. Plus, I realized my reading speed was faster than the audio.

I’m blown away by the fact that Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff used emails, chats, briefing reports, and surveillance footage to tell this story. It’s a unique concept and initially, I feared the format would keep me from connecting with the characters or the story. I’m happy to say I was wrong. However, it did take a while for me to care about the main characters. Ezra seemed like another asshole YA love interest, Kady reminded me of Lila Bard from the Shades of Magic trilogy (badass heroic character with little personality), and I wasn’t particularly interested in the romance because there was no buildup. However, once the story picked up around page 200, I became invested and immersed in the story.

What I enjoyed most about Illuminae was the storytelling, the plot, and AIDAN, the artificial intelligence. I think the side characters were one of the strongest aspects of this book. AIDAN took me an emotional rollercoaster and some of the best scenes in Illuminae involved him. I think AIDAN was the most complex character in the book. His scenes with Kady humanized her in a way the writing had not done so before their interactions. I also enjoyed McNulty, Zhang, and Captain Ann Chu. I loved the humor, wit, and leadership of these characters.

I enjoyed Illuminae tremendously; however, there are just a few minor aspects that I wasn’t completely in love with. Sometimes, I felt utterly confused by the language. I’m not into science fiction and I don’t know much about coding so the coding language and technical aspects were lost on me. In one scene, Kady described how beautiful “the Vortex at the heart of the Alexander’s jump drive” was. I wish I understood the technical aspects enough to have enjoyed the description of the vortex that followed. Of course, this is a reflection of my genre preferences and it may not mean anything to someone who enjoys science fiction and coding.

The other aspects of Illuminae that I wasn’t completely in love with were the romance and the ending. Unfortunately, I never became invested in Kady and Ezra’s romance. Nothing about it made me excited. I think I would have been more interested if the circumstances were different. I like the characters individually, but I wasn’t interested in them together. While I liked the unexpected ending, it felt rushed and a little underwhelming. The format didn’t give it as much “oomph.”

Overall, I think Illuminae was a fascinating and surprising read. I’m glad I gave it chance.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? Thanks for reading!

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