& Reviews: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Published: October 2015

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Published: October 2015

The Book Itself: Picture’s don’t do this cover justice! The hardcover of the book itself is complex, with scribbled out, censored documents and schmatics. The jacket, a semi-see through plastic, only gives you peeks of this, the rest wrapped in a lovely space cloud in rosy hues. A lot of work went into it, as is the case with the rest of the book.

My ReviewThis 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.

From one of the authors writing the Starbound series (These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, with Their Fractured Light coming out this month!), I was hesitant but optimistic for this new series. I absolutely loved These Broken Stars (my review here), but was less than impressed with This Shattered World (review here). I will still be getting my copy of Their Fractured Light this month and devour it as I did the others…I’m just hoping it lives up to what I loved about the first installment.

But I digress.

Because Illuminae is a completely different kind of animal.

The book jacket (which is beautiful, by the way) tells you right off the bat that the whole thing is told in journal entries, interviews, transcribed records of video files, etc. This also made me cautious, as this can make a book really, really excellent, or lackluster, with flat characters and tepid storylines.

Thank goodness this was the former.

Illuminae is excellent. It is a brick, with over 600 pages, and it’s not about to fit in a small purse anytime soon, but I highly recommend a hard copy. First of all, that cover. Pictures don’t do it justice. The transparent, tinted dust jacket over the book cover, bedecked with censored file information and titles = amazing. And even though it’s huge, the storyline and format had me polish off the book in two days.

Just an example of the beautiful prose, told in the form of a space flight.

Just an example of the beautiful prose, told in the form of a space flight.

The amount of work that went into this book is staggering to me. The detail paid to make pages look like files, the actual artwork they do to illustrate battles in space, as well as tokens of love and appreciation between two people that cannot see each other because they are on different ships…it’s astounding. The book is a quick read, but I encourage you to take the time to appreciate all that effort. Kudos to Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff for making a book that not only holds a great story, but is gorgeous on the page as well. I could feature this as a coffee table book just as easily as I could review it as a regular book!

I’m gushing, and haven’t even really gotten to the story yet.

The Starbound series likes to connect to its young adult readers by featuring young, very accomplished military personnel at unfeasible ages (16-17). Kady and Ezra are the same, and at times I had to remind myself that these characters were supposed to be teenagers, and that what they were doing seemed way beyond their maturity level and physical ability. But I explained that away by reasoning that in these high pressure situations, they have to be faster, smarter, and stronger than their opponents or their circumstances. Theyhave to be mature beyond their years, not only for their job, but for the situation.

So angsty teenagers doing unfeasible things aside, wow was this done well. Twists and turns abound, and I turned pages until the wee hours of the morning, hooked on what was going to happen next. It’s a little bit of Walking Dead, with just enough gruesome to make you cringe, and some I, Robot (or insert book/movie/franchise in which robots rise up against humankind here). When you have a super advanced artificial intelligence AND and virus that causes aggression/violence/cannibalism in your fellow man working against you…you’re going to have a bad time. I think these two authors balanced these two “bad guys” well. And honestly, if one or the other were the sole antagonist in this story, I think it would have suffered. With both seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the stakes are ratcheted up incredibly high, and it makes for an intense but very gratifying read.

I can’t say enough good things about it, basically. I’m so glad it’s going to be a series, and I am getting the next installment the first day it is out on shelves (if I can’t get my hands on an advanced copy…although a digital version would lose a bit of the magic, I think).

Not only would I place this above the Starbound series in terms of readability and wow factor, but I would mark this as one of my favorite books I read all year…maybe even one of my favorites of all time.

My Grade: A


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