Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Kaufman, Amie, and Jay Kristoff. Illuminae. , 2015. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0553499117.
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $10.44. Kindle $9.92.
A dossier of classified documents is compiled after an Intergalactic disaster occurs, where one small and distant planet is attacked. The story of the attack, the survivors, an evolving artificial intelligence “being,” and especially young adults Kady and Ezra is told through this compilation of instant messages, emails, online journals, interview and surveillance transcripts, memos, medical and military logs, and so much more.
When Kady broke up with Ezra this morning, they thought the day couldn’t get any worse. But that was before their planet was viciously invaded and attacked by BeiTech Industries. Kady and Ezra are rescued, but by separate ships, with Kady on the science vessel Hypatia, and Ezra on the United Terran Authority’s battlecarrier Alexander. The Alexander escorts Hypatia and freighter Copernicus towards safety, and as their “jump” capabilities are not working, this journey takes months while the invading company’s Lincoln pursues them. Meanwhile the ships’ AI is malfunctioning in interesting but terrifying ways. As Ezra and many other civilians are conscripted into the Alexander’s military ranks, Kady escapes conscription by purposely failing the aptitude tests, hiding her ace hacking skills. As Ezra trains to learn to become a fighter pilot, Kady focuses on hacking through the ships’ information in pursuit of the truth of the situation, which the captains are keeping secret. As she discovers more and more alarming and shocking information, and as a a mutating virus sweeps through the ships, Kady and Ezra need to overcome their differences, and their distance from one another (emotional and physical) to work together to solve the problems plaguing the ships, all before the Lincoln catches up with them.
First let me just say “WOW!” That is the first reaction I had to this book, about 2 pages into it. This sentiment continued to bounce around my head throughout the entire reading of this behemoth, creatively told story. Also let me say for the record that I do NOT recommend reading this in e-book format, as its visual story-telling medium is not best suited for digital reading. I will be purchasing the hardcover version so I can re-read it and experience it the way its meant to be experienced.
So, now that I’ve expressed the WOW-ness of this book, let me get more specific. This is not an easy, light, “just to help me fall asleep” kind of book. Rather it is more like a devastating, cataclysmic, life-altering, “call into work sick tomorrow because you stayed up all night reading” kind of book. My favorite kind.
The Point of View: The story is told from an interesting and unconventional (i.e. AMAZING) point of view. Rather than the traditional 1st, or 3rd person point of view, we experience this story as if someone plopped a large brown folder full of confidential documents on your desk. We are essentially reading a report on the initial attack, and the events that followed, through a set of compiled documents including: instant messages, emails, online journals, interview and surveillance transcripts, memos, medical and military logs, photographs, and so much more. This is a completely unique method of story telling which I have never experienced before. Authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have just torn open a whole new vista of opportunity for sci-fi/speculative fiction story-telling. They have turned this genre on its head.
The Characters: The story has a huge cast of characters who we are introduced to through their personal and professional correspondences, but focuses mostly on three main characters. Kady is a young woman who excels at hacking, sarcasm, and is not in touch with her romantic side. Ezra is a sweet, funny, sentimental romantic. And the third character is AIDEN, an evolving artificial intelligence “being.” AIDEN reads quite a bit like Spock, which is very enjoyable to me. The incredible thing about this book is that even with such a huge cast of characters, Kaufman and Kristoff manage to give each one a distinct personality and voice, most impressively of which is AIDEN. Additionally they shy away from traditional gender roles, which means some female characters are often tough as nails leaders, and some male characters can be more intuitive or sensitive. This is something I’ve noticed in Kaufman’s other series with co-author Meagan Spooner (These Broken Stars) and which is an excellent addition to the sci-fi genre. So don’t expect all of the captains to be big, domineering men!
Illuminae is science fiction (or speculative fiction) at its very best. There is plenty of technology drama, intrigue, mystery, suspense, action, plot twists, and even romance (impressive given the main characters are not physically on the same ship). It has computer hacking and biological warfare. It has goose-bump inducing creepiness, gasp-out-loud twists, “edge of your seat” suspense and quite a lot of humor. This is by far the most artistically and unconventionally written story I’ve personally ever read, and I couldn’t have loved it more. This is a great choice for anyone who is a fan of science fiction and space opera, as well as those who simply enjoy a spectacular story. Though marketed as Young Adult, this novel easily crosses the genre and will be enjoyed by those of all genders and ages. Don’t miss this one, because it’s almost certainly going to be “the next big thing.”
Liked it? Loved it? Gotta have more of it?
Unfortunately this book is so unlike anything else I’ve ever read that I don’t currently have recommendations for you. If you have any, I’d love to hear them!
- Illuminaefiles.com is the website dedicated to this series, it has a lot of fun extras, including an intro video that is an interview of Ezra, one of the main characters, character bios, and descriptions of the ships.
- Entertainment Weekly has a sneak peak for Illuminae, including excerpts and a brief interview with the authors.
- Kirkus wrote an excellent review for Illuminae.
- See my review of Amie Kaufman’s other sci-fi novel, These Broken Stars
About the Authors:
- Amie Kaufman, learn more about her and her books on her website.
- Jay Kristoff, learn more about him and his books on his blog.
Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.