ILLUMINAE (The Illuminae Files, #1): Review

Hi, there! Please forgive my absence from this blog; school has been overwhelming as of late, and I’ve had to prioritize, which meant neglecting some things.

However, now that I have some free time, I’ve written another book review. Enjoy!

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: young adult science fiction, science fiction and fantasy, young adult romance
Pages: 599
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★★★

For teenager Kady Grant, what originally looked like a bad day has become far worse. It’s the year 2575, and Kady’s just dumped her boyfriend, Ezra Mason, when, mere hours later, the planet they live on is attacked in an ongoing war between two rival companies for dominance of their star system. Barely escaping with their lives, Kady and Ezra to board one of the spaceships in an evacuating fleet in hopes that they’ll reach safety. What they find instead is lies, a deadly plague, an enemy ship hot on their trail, and an Artificial Intelligence that’s gone haywire.

Yet, in deep space, safety is light years away from them. The fleet has an enemy ship on their tail with no way to avoid eventual contact with it. The fleet’s Artificial Intelligence, AIDAN, has gone haywire, and seems more focused on destroying the fleet than protecting it. If this weren’t bad enough, a plague has broken out on one of the ships and is spreading, causing further chaos. As more people fall sick and the enemy ship looms closer, Kady is forced to find answers to questions the fleet’s leaders won’t address: Who started the plague? Is there a cure? What’s going on with AIDAN? The answers may or may not lie with Kady’s ex-boyfriend, Ezra.

Illuminae is told through classified “files,” interview transcripts, emails, and instant messages, which won’t work for everyone. For one thing, this format means you’re never really in the characters’ heads. Yet I was rooting for Kady and Ezra all the same, and that, to me, is a sign of skillful writing. They’re believable, lovable teenagers who, while they are placed in situations the average teen will never be placed in, are just normal kids with normal hopes and dreams, which makes them very relateable. The banter between them and other characters via direct messages added some much-needed levity to the book, and made them all the more lovable to me. (Ezra is adorable.)

This book’s format works for me because it not only makes Illuminae unique from other books in its genre, but it also gives the whole picture instead of just one perspective, gradually peeling back more and more layers to reveal new twists in the story. You don’t just get Kady and Ezra’s experience; you see the dilemmas the captains of all the ships have to face, you get to read “files” from meetings between those higher up in command, and you even get to see AIDAN’s perspective, a point of view which makes this book noteworthy in and of itself.

The end result is a thrilling, action-packed story of survival in space which will have you biting your nails and ripping through pages to the end. It’s a very intense, very stressful read, but there’s plenty of humor to balance things out. The book is long (one page short of 600 pages), but it’s one heck of a ride, and a must-read if you’re into sci-fi. Needless to say, I can’t wait for Gemina!


5 thoughts on “ILLUMINAE (The Illuminae Files, #1): Review

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