Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books
Science Fiction/Young Adult
“Perhaps bravery is the face humanity wraps around its collective madness.”
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.
I always like saying how I discovered the books I review, and this one’s easy: it’s all over the bookstagram community! Everyone’s read it and most people have loved it, so I wanted to join in. I was actually going to get it for Christmas, but I found it in my local library (so I read it in Spanish).
First, we’ll talk about what draws everyone to this book, the format. It has blueprints, emails, recorded conversations… I have to admit it’s fun and innovative, but it made the characters feel a bit cold, at least at the beginning, which, by the way, was kind of confusing and hard to get into.
The main character, Kady, felt forced at the start. Her kickass façade was kind of weird and I didn’t find her relatable. However, I loved how as the book developed, the writers started showing her different layers and she became more and more interesting.
I feel like I mostly became attached to Kady because of the snippets of her diary. In the chats and the other parts we couldn’t reach into her soul as much and she was rather unlikable and impossible to understand.
As for her love interest, Ezra… He was definitely too cold for me. His seeming perfect and the fact that we know almost nothing about him made me not care about what happened to him that much. I don’t think that was the intent.
But when he talked to Dorian and McNulty he was funny, and all the cringing that I suffered in his conversations with Kady disappeared. It seems like he would be a good character if only we knew more about him. He was kind of cute, but only when he wasn’t talking to Kady, for me. Maybe his words were translated oddly and that’s why his “romantic” sentences sounded weird. I don’t know, but I do want to see more of him. So yeah, I’m probably going to read Gemina!
Also, MCNULTY. He’s the only character that sparked some emotions inside me (well, there’s another one, but if I told you it would be a spoilery review haha. If you’ve read the book don’t hesitate to DM me at mayaheartsbooks on instagram, or comment below).
The AI system AIDAN was actually the most interesting character for some reason. Complex, and somehow human but not really? I don’t know, but his chapters were my absolute favorite.
There’s not much more to say about the characters. There were a lot of them, so many that I’ve already forgotten the names of the secondary ones.
Plot-wise, the book was a little crazy. You know that writing tip “the book begins the day something changes”? Well, in this one, it begins AFTER everything changes, so it’s slightly overwhelming.
Also, that plague the synopsis talks about? Maybe I read too fast, but I had some troubles understanding everything. It was still pretty cool though! It’s called Phobos and it just makes people into some kind of creepy zombies (reminded me of Maze Runner‘s cranks) and of course, since they’re in space in like three ships there’s nowhere to run and well, it just gets really complicated! It’s interesting and makes the book a bit more thrilling.
Apart from that, the plot is kind of all over the place. Lots of things happen in a short span of time thus not even the characters know what’s happening.
Jesus. I make it sound like a bad book.
Which it might have been. But the format really saves it and makes it the bestseller that it’s become. I think its success mainly lies in that. But it was still a very fun read.
You might think that after my review, 4 stars don’t make sense. Well, my rating system focuses on the overall reading experience, which I think is the main thing readers care about.
Illuminae is, as promised, unlike any book you’ve ever read. Its originality makes it stand out. But maybe you can’t have it all, and that’s why I felt a lack of connection to the characters. I really hope I’ll be able to give Gemina the whole five stars, because this first book is promising and I really want to see more of this universe!