Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | Book Review + Discussion (with spoilers)

Title: Illuminae 
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Pages: 599 pages 
Release Date: October 20th, 2015
Source: ARC from Bookcon 
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Young Adult 
Rating: 4.5/5 stars 
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.

Buy it now!
On a scale of 1 to Kady Grant, how far would you go to save the one you love most? My answer would be probably closer to 0 and nowhere near Kady’s level, lol.

Illuminae is an excellently crafted collaboration between two ingenious authors, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Although I was at first largely intimidated by the sheer size of Illuminae (almost 600 pages, people!), the plot and the concept of an intergalactic space battle orchestrated by an animated artificial intelligence with some added romance makes it no secret that I ultimately gave in and tackled this beast of a “book” – actually, is it considered a book? It's more of a dossier of random, chaotic files.

Like everyone else, Illuminae will be one of the most physically and emotionally unique books you'll ever read. Besides the intriguing plot about two separated teenaged refugees, who are trying to figure out the secrets that the commanders of their spaceships are trying to keep hidden, while attempting to flee the enemy fleet and subdue a psychologically damaged artificial intelligence system, there is little that will keep any reader browsing the shelves away from considering Illuminae. Warning: this is in no way going to be a light adventure.

And within minutes of picking up the story, not only was I extremely indulged by the situation at hand, but I also found myself quickly at page 50 because the pages of Illuminae are not regular novel “pages”. The bulk of Illuminae consists of interviews, narrative reports, hacked messages, and love letters, and the alternating documents are little puzzle pieces that all end up fitting perfectly in a large puzzle, also known as the truth.

Yet, even though I would highly, highly, highly, praise Illuminae for its wondrously fresh new concept, and would recommend this book to any reader of YA, I give this book an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. The main reason for this is that it took me a rather long time to really get into this book and to start to care for the characters. Yes, I admit, at first, it was extremely difficult to connect with these two very different characters. I was confused by the first interview (partly due to the fact that I went into Illuminae blind without reading the blurb) but nevertheless I ventured forth. In the end, I loved Illuminae, and I have grown extremely attached to two of the characters (one of whom is Kady Grant). This universe that Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff built is so diverse and truly yearns to be explored further.

Overall, would I recommend this book to you? It depends on who you are, really. If you like science fiction, intergalactic travels and warfare, mystery and deceit, and possibly descriptive gore, then by all means, go ahead, this may be your favorite read of the year! And if you have the book sitting around on your shelf, and have heard more than fabulous raves about it, and want a rather short-and-fast-paced read, also go ahead! It'll be an adventure. I'm extremely excited for Gemina and I can't wait to dive back into the world of Illuminae!

Spoiler-filled Discussion


Alright, so…getting straight into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about the characters in Illuminae. These are some of the most…physically diverse cast of characters I have ever read –when one of these characters is a literal personified artificial intelligence system, you're breaching diverse. However, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff also write ethnically diverse characters. There are Caucasians, Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and all any other ethnic group you could possibly name, who really make this character cast so colorful. But besides having diverse characters, the main cast of characters in Illuminae all have extremely vibrant personalities.

As I said previously, I found it difficult to really connect with the characters at first. From the opening pages, I thought Kady was going to be one of those typical “badass” YA heroine wannabes (let's be real, we’ve all read one of those). But boy, was I SO WRONG. I don't know when I started falling in love with Kady and opened my eyes to her story, but it was probably at the part where she was messaging CitB (Byron Zhang) and her sarcasm made me take a good long minute and laugh till I nearly rolled off the bed.

Kady Grant is not your typical pink haired, sixteen year old, who had just dumped her long term boyfriend, saved that now-ex-boyfriend’s ass from being killed that same day, and is now a refugee on a science vessel spaceship, trying to hack the main computer system for some hint as to what’s going on. Or maybe she is. All throughout Illuminae, Kady made me feel a roller coaster of emotions. Her texts with Ezra (and then with AIDAN) cracked me up, made me weep, and swoon a bit. Her courage –or recklessness and disregard for safety- is truly awe-inspiring. Even when she was on the verge of being attacked by psychotic serial killers and hit with radiation, Kady was still able to do more damage and have more success than the entire Alexander Fleet with the UTA officers. Give this girl the universe’s biggest cookie and a standing ovation. But in seriousness, did anyone else realize the irony that while Kady was never (and avoided being) scripted into the UTA as a computer specialist, she ended up saving the remains of the UTA Alexander Fleet.

Moving on to my second favorite character and possibly my favorite literary Artificial Intelligence, AIDAN. I think out of every character in Illuminae, the range of emotions AIDAN made me go through is larger than the distance from Earth to Kepler 2.0.  I had so many trust-issues regarding AIDAN, and I swear, I trusted AIDAN, and then AIDAN “betrayed” everyone and I thought it was the antagonist, and then it was an anti-hero, and then I felt betrayed by AIDAN again, and then I started to hesitate trusting AIDAN, and then I felt myself sympathize for this machine, and then at the very end, I just loved AIDAN, fully trusting it and seriously loving the Kady-AIDAN relationship. SO MANY EMOTIONS YOU GUYS, AND FROM A FREAKING AI!!!!

Byron Zhang is another character I was extremely intrigued by. Byron was such a good person, even at the very end. His relationship with being Kady’s mentor throughout the book and helping her learn about the truth of the Copernicus incident and Phobos A and B was so emotionally beautiful. The two characters were so humorous in their early encounters and when Byron was taken over to the Alexander, I cried so hard for him because it was just like imagining a father being ripped from his home, his family, his kids, and being forced to fight in the front line. Seeing Byron deteriorate and be utterly destroyed by the Phobos B virus really hit a hole in that wee little sentimental part of my small human heart. To see the strong, undermined Byron go insane and nearly kill Kady with an axe was heart breaking to read. But the most heart wrenching scene –when Byron surfaced for just a moment, saw Kady, and saved Kady and himself, from himself. I think if that moment hadn't occurred, the whole mission, the entire Alexander Fleet, would've been utterly decimated, by either the Lincoln or Phobos inflicted Byron. So in a way, Byron really did help –and not help- save the day.

These three characters are the ones who had the most impact on me throughout the entire read. It’s been a while (and I mean since ACOMAF’s release) that I’ve read such a heart-wrenching story. About the damsel in distress who didn’t need saving, but did the saving. And although I love Ezra very much, if AIDAN were a real person, I would 1000000% ship him and Kady (c’mon fanfiction writers, wya). But I also like that Kady and AIDAN have a friendship, that is so unlike your usual friendships- one that transcends dimensions and realities. All in all, my last comments on this book would be that I wished the censored parts hadn’t been censored; do you know how difficult it is to try to fit words into the sentences sometimes?! But I loved this story, and all I can hope is for more from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

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  1. Oh, thank god I'm not the only person who thinks AIDAN and Kady would be great together! I definitely would ship them. If only AIDAN could find some way to be human...maybe technology is advanced enough for them to upload a consciousness into a comatose body? Actually, that's a scary thought, so maybe not. Regardless, AIDAN was by far my favourite "character" just because of the intense roller coaster ride of emotions I went through!
    Great review, and I have no doubts Gemina will be equally as amazing. Just a little over a month left...

    ~Erika @ Books and Stars

    1. YES! Another AIDAN and Kady shipper!! That thought of getting AIDAN an actual human body is creepy...especially when it's 12:30 AM but it is very interesting! What would happen if technology really did get that advance and consciousnesses could be transferred from bodies to bodies *pondering emoji* I'm so excited to read Gemina! I have an ARC of it, and once I get through Empire of Storms, if I'm up for it, Gemina is definitely going to be my next read :D

  2. I loved Illuminae! In the end. Like you I found it hard to start to really care for the characters until maybe half way through. I loved the format of this book, I thought it was unique, but at the same time it made it hard for me to connect with any of the characters because it felt like I was watching them rather than being involved with the story. If that makes sense.

    But in the end I loved this book so much!

    Jordon @ Simply Adrift

    1. That's the word I couldn't think of- watching! I felt the exact same way. At the beginning, with all the reports and interviews, and security camera footage reports, it felt like I was an outsider observing these event- which I am, but I really wanted to connect with these characters emotionally! I'm really glad you liked the book in the end :)

  3. LOVED Illuminae! Like you, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. It took me a bit to warm up to the plot, get used to the style and get to know the characters but man once it got going I could NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. And then by the end there, it was one explosive reveal after another until I was left reeling. I can't wait for GEMINA too :D Awesome review^^ xx

    1. I FEEL!! The story was so engrossing and each reveal became more dramatic and explosive than the last!! I'm glad you enjoyed Illuminae, and YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED IN GEMINA :D


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