Book Review: Illuminae

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Rating: 4 5 stars
Published: 10/20/15
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, YA
Read: 12/17/16, 3/17/18

Summary from Goodreads:
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.

In celebration of Obsidio’s release, I’m (finally) posting reviews for all of Amie Kaufman’s books that I’ve read over the next few weeks! Hooray!

I have read Illuminae before, but it’s been a while, and frankly I freaking loved it the first time around. Like, I literally read it in one ~6 hour sitting. So, I wanted to reread it (and Gemina) and have all the details fresh in my mind for Obsidio. This, in my opinion was a great idea. Rereading really built up the tension, reminded me just how high the stakes were, and it was still really hard to put down!

I absolutely love the style of storytelling. Rather than one narrator or two narrators switching off, it’s a compilation of instant messages, emails, personnel and incident files, audio and video transcripts. So while the book is 600+ pages, there’s enough white space on each page that it’s really more like a 200-300 page book.

So Illuminae starts off with an attack on an illegal mining settlement on a rather lonesome planet by a competing company, BeiTech. Like, they literally decide to kill I don’t even know how many people rather than report them to the space police (United Terran Authority). This seems to be a theme in Amie Kaufman’s books – big/powerful corporations are corrupt and do horrible things without a thought for people’s lives.

A few thousand people are evacuated from the planet by the one UTA battleship nearby and two science vessels. Most of BeiTech’s fleet is destroyed as well, but one battleship remains and gives chase. And by chase I mean a ~6 month (that if the ships were undamaged should take about 20 days) limp through space. We don’t really see much of the first 5 months, as BeiTech’s ship is far behind and there really isn’t much happening. But during that last month, one of the two science vessels full of survivors is destroyed, misinformation and rumors are rampant, and things go very far downhill from there.

Our main lady, Kady, is a hacker extraordinaire. This is another major theme in Amie Kaufman’s books – the really young main characters are all really good at something. Kady spends most of the book putting those hacking skills to use figuring out what secrets are being kept from the civilians by the UTA, and doing her best to help prevent the bad situation they’re in from getting worse. The day of the attack on her planet, she had broken up with her boyfiend, Ezra, who also manages to make it off planet. Due to personnel shortages and his own personality and physical aptitudes, he is quickly conscripted as a fighter pilot. Eventually the two do end up speaking again, and it just so happens that Ezra can gain access to information that could help Kady.

The only other main character is the AI on the UTA’s ship – AIDEN. It gets damaged in the initial battle, and as a result is kind of broken/crazy. It seems to more or less fall in love with Kady, and that is the only reason there are any more books in this series. AIDEN is kind of my favorite character. It has both a god complex and an intense desire to just help people and do what is best, which always left me guess what horrible thing it would do next “for the greater good.” As an AI, it completely lacks humanity, so it makes logical decisions without considering “good” or “evil.” In a morbid way, I absolutely enjoyed it.

Overall, Illuminae was a fast, easy read. Like Amy Kaufman’s other series (Starbound), it leaves me questioning how far humanity will truly go for greed and power. Would we do something to each so horrific as is displayed in this book and the rest of the series, or have we already? I also love that she puts the problem solving power into the hands of young people. While the large majority of us don’t quite level with Kady’s skill, we do have the power to make change and I always love to see it represented in books.

Have you read Illuminae? What did you think? What are some of your favorite themes to see in YA?

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Illuminae

  1. Illuminae is one of my favorite books! I listened to the audiobook and it was amazing! I love the story and the characters so much! I have a soft spot for Aiden as well! He really grew on me! I haven’t read the rest of the series, but I am so excited to read it! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely recommend the rest of the series! And I’m really curious how the audiobook compares to the physical book – did they do anything to make it obvious that you were hearing an email or an IM/did they have multiple people voicing the different characters? It seems like it would be quite a production for an audiobook haha!


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