Illuminae (The Illuminae Files)
Illuminae is a masterpiece—an absolute work of art in so many ways. It is one of the most captivating and utterly addictive books I’ve read in a long time. I’m always wary when it comes to books that have extreme amounts of hype surrounding them, but now, I can’t believe it took me so long to pick it up. I feel like I have so much I want to talk about, so many thoughts, and yet I have absolutely no idea where to even begin. Suffice it to say, this book absolutely blew my mind and has easily become one of my all-time favorites. It was everything I love in a science fiction novel and so much more—it completely exceeded my expectations.
We are thrown into the action right from page one. At the start of the novel, a small, ice-covered planet called Kerenza is attacked by a corporation named Beitech. The planet is completely destroyed, resulting in the deaths of many of its citizens. However, three ships are able to evacuate those lucky enough to reach them in time. The refugees begin a long journey to safety, pursued by the only surviving Beitech ship, which is intent on wiping out all witnesses of the Kerenza attack.
But the danger is not limited to their attackers—there are darker forces at work among the survivors as well. Internal conflict, a mutating virus, and a massive amount of deceit are at play. Not to mention a rogue and potentially deadly AI system controlling one of the main ships. The principal characters, Kady and Ezra, are thrust into the middle of the conflict, and must reconcile in order to work together to separate truth from lies and ensure the safety of their people.
The novel is told entirely through documents such as transcripts, emails, instant messages, and official files, all compiled together into one dossier. I’ve always had a huge issue when it comes to concentrating on things like textbooks that are set up with a bunch of extra boxes of information scattered all over the pages, and I was worried that this would be structured in the same way. Thankfully, this is absolutely nothing like that—it is incredibly easy to follow and maintains a very smooth reading experience throughout.
The style and art of the files is wonderful, and this was definitely the most unique book I’ve ever read. Everything is meticulously put together and highly detailed, adding to the realism of the format. This pulled me so deeply in and completely absorbed me into the world, making every moment even more heart-pounding and tense—it suits the narrative perfectly and truly enhances the reading experience.
Character creation and portrayal is a bit unconventional compared to the most common presentation in many novels. Here, we follow a huge cast of characters, but since the entire story is told through documents, the reader doesn’t get a chance to connect with them on a first-hand or very personal level. I’ll admit I was pretty wary about this going in, thinking there would be too much of a disconnect to actually feel for and become attached to any of the characters. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the way it ended up coming across.
For me personally, I had absolutely no trouble feeling the intense emotions prevalent throughout the narrative. This is a testament to the incredibly strong writing of Kaufman and Kristoff. No matter how well or for how long I knew a character, their struggle and their emotions touched me deeply.
Knowing every little detail about their lives and who they are isn’t important—the focus is on connecting with them and the situation on a basic and relatable level. The universal and instinctual human reaction to the profound suffering, pain, and fear of others is relied upon to create the powerful story that is found within these pages.
In terms of primary characters, Kady, Ezra, and AIDAN are the main focus of the narrative. Kady is an extremely strong, intelligent, and badass heroine. She demonstrates such bravery through all her actions and commitment to saving the lives of others. Overall, I felt as though I connected with her pretty well, especially toward the end, and I really loved her. And AIDAN—AIDAN is utterly brilliant. AIDAN definitely ended up being the most intriguing and three-dimensional character, in my opinion.
I had the most trouble connecting with Ezra, though he also does not have as much of a part in the novel as the others do. He honestly doesn’t do a whole lot, though I was actually really glad that there was more of a focus on Kady anyway. Some of Ezra’s humor was a bit off-putting to me at times, but he did grow on me the further I got into the story. He is a very kind and caring person, and obviously loves Kady very much. I wasn’t thrilled with the romance—it didn’t really stand out to me and the way it’s presented is a bit awkward. However, I got enough of a sense of their feelings for each other that I still rooted for the pair.
Returning to the writing itself, it is absolutely fantastic and enthralling. At no point in the novel do you get any sense that it has been written by more than one author—the entire story is one fluid piece. I loved the combined storytelling style of Kaufman and Kristoff—they are clearly both incredibly talented authors and they work wonderfully together as a pair. Every aspect of the plot is spectacularly vivid. I was able to visualize everything so well, and I distinctly felt all the emotions the events of the story evoked.
So basically, I’m sort of completely obsessed with this novel—I already want to go back and read it again. It was action-packed and riveting from start to finish, and I found that I could barely put it down. I have been thinking about it non-stop since I began reading, and I am still so excited by every aspect. I am currently trying my hardest to be responsible and avoid picking up Gemina until after I’ve caught up on some review books, but the temptation is intense. Just in case it’s not obvious enough already, I very highly recommend reading Illuminae.
Now that that is out of the way: obviously I loved this book. I was expecting to like it but as I've never been huge on sci-fi and had recently 3-starred a book that was often compared to this onehref> I was not sure how much. Basically I was blown all the way to freaking Kerenza by the end of the book.
“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”
Now obviously the format of this book is completely different to the norm. But honestly, for the story that is being told and the writing style that it is told with, this works. Despite the fact that this book is technically written in retrospect, there are so many action-packed scenes in which you'll feel caught up right in the middle of the action.
And even in the down-time moments, you will laugh and cry as you read the low-key IM conversations between friends or the encrypted diary and unsent emails of the characters you will grow to love.
Honestly, I can not believe how much I shipped Kady and Ezra. If you have ever read any of my reviews, you will know that I'm not a big fan of YA romance. It almost always feels trope-y and adds nothing to storylines. But these two broke me. More than once.
“The universe owes you nothing, Kady. It has already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is to do something worth remembrance.”
And then there was AIDAN. I have never felt so freaking ambivalent about a character. E v e r. I don't know whether I think of him as a good guy or a bad guy. I don't know whether I sympathize with him. And I don't know if I can even question these things (or call him a him) because I am talking about an AI.
“He presses the triggers. And like roses in his hands, death blooms.”
TL;DR This book is freaking fantastic and I'll see you all for the next one when I'm screaming and crying once again.
More reviewshref> | Twitterhref> | Pinteresthref> | I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. (J.L. Borges)
A brilliant use of the "artifact" type format, ILLUMINAE was everything I wished for and more. A space opera like no other young adult science fiction I've ever read, it blasted through my expectations and played with my assumptions in a perfect way.
More to come when I recover.
THIS BOOK WAS NUTS in the best possible way. Holy cow, I went through quite the array of emotions and theories and I was totally hooked. The formatting was awesome and totally added some EXTRA creepy moments along with enhancing some characters even more. Some parts of it WERE a bit distracting (very few) but for the most part, it was all amazing!
LOTS of exciting moments, lots of suspense, lots of gore, romance, thrills, tears, laughs -- you name it.
The characters were fantastic and somehow the formatting an documents made them even more real and dynamic.
This is a good one, folks. Too bad I'm going to have to wait SO LONG for the next.....
Full review as originally posted HERE on The Book Addict's Guide 9/21/15: The hype for ILLUMINAE was already huge several months before the book came out so by the time I got around to reading it (you know… still three months before its release date), it was already a pretty intimidating book from all of the reactions, not to mention the fact that the ARC was pretty honkin’ big. ILLUMINAE (in advanced copy form) clocked in at about 600 pages and taking on that brick (and I mean that extremely lovingly) was a bit scary, especially when it’s right smack in prime sci-fi territory: future and space. Thankfully, I had absolutely nothing to fear because I simply couldn’t put ILLUMINAE down and it may be one of the best books I’ve read this year.
How to review a book like ILLUMINAE… well, let’s start with the formatting. The book is exactly what the series title implies: a collection of files. From transcripts of interviews to video surveillance reports to emails to data pulled directly from the ship, ILLUMINAE tells the story of Kady and Ezra — two teens attempting to survive and reunite once an attack on their planet evacuates their community into space. At first I wasn’t sure how I would handle the formatting but not only was it not detrimental to my reading experience but it enhanced it exponentially. It was so interesting to pick up the full story from all of these forms of files and it was incredibly creative! I loved how different it felt and the representation of so many different forms really brought the world to life even more. I was fully submerged into The Illuminae Files and didn’t want to be yanked out of that world once I got into it.
The formatting also heightened the level of emotion for me. I think there were a few factors contributing to this, one of which is being able to read direct dialogue in emails and chat sessions. There’s no “he said” or “she said” or extra helpful information within a paragraph that sometimes takes away from being the moment of emotion or action. The action sequences were more contained within reports from outside observers so the reader is able to witness action in a different way as well. I really think these methods of capturing and presenting information allowed me to stay in the moment and not have to read a lot of descriptors which can sometimes cause my minder to start thinking more about the structure again and stray from the emotional side.
The other main factor was that the formatting was just so visually appealing. The files presented to the reader came complete with headers, logos, different fonts, pictures, strains, wrinkles, and more. Other pages were structured to represent how a machine was working, a pilot’s flight path, or a character’s journey. Then there were some pages that only had one or two words on it to really drive a point or emotion home to the readers. It was so exciting to see something so different and that visual representation really added another layer to the book!
Aside from the help from the formatting, the story really was just so good. It took me a little while to establish the characters and get to know them but once I did (and it really didn’t take that long), I felt like I knew them inside and out. I grew very attached to them and really felt like I took this journey with them. The plot and storytelling were also incredible. The suspense was constantly building, emotions high, action going, and there were quite a few twists that totally took me by surprise!
I feel like I could go on and on about ILLUMINAE but the bottom line is that you don’t want miss this book. It’s totally worth all of the hype and buzz it’s received and I think a lot of people will be stunned by it! I’m a BIT sad that I read it so early because now I need to wait a very long while for book two… But you can bet I’ll be inhaling the rest of this series!
Great style, it was a such a page turner, i couldnt put it down.