Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20th 2015


“Am I not merciful?”

Ezra and Kady lived a relatively quiet life in an illegal mining settlement in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately it hasn’t gone as unnoticed as everyone thought. Rival cooperation BeiTech decides that the best strategy is to eradicate the competition. Kady and Ezra manage to flee on one of three ships, but BeiTech isn’t going to let witnesses escape. With BeiTech on their tails, a mutating pathogen infecting the survivors, and an AI that’s a little less than sane, Kady and Ezra will have to keep fighting just to survive. More importantly they’ll have to fight to find out the truth and see what they’re really up against.

Illuminae is a book where the format could completely make or break it. Luckily it’s done wonderfully. The plot is intriguing in it’s own right but the way the story is told is what makes this book exceptional. Chat logs, dossiers, stored AI data, it’s very much like a found footage film in novel format. It is a book that needs to be read carefully, but don’t let the page count intimidate you, it’s a quick and fun read.

The format does throw you in with little explanation. The first little while I was thoroughly confused about, well, everything. Usually this isn’t ideal, but I think in Illuminae’s case, it works to the books advantage. As the story unfolds more things become clear. I began to understand the slang and the setting before I knew it. The format keeps a certain sense of mystery and suspense laced throughout the book. There were several twists that I didn’t, and couldn’t, have seen coming and without the style they wouldn’t have been executed as well.

The characters – even the AI – are easy to connect with. Ezra did rub me the wrong way for a bit but he never felt less than real. Kaufman and Kristoff have written a story about hacking and technology but managed to keep the core of the book very human. I was attached to characters I barely knew and I felt every tragedy that the protagonists faced as deeply as they did.

Though the start was a little difficult, Illuminae definitely pulled through. By the middle I was clinging onto every word wondering what would happen next. It managed to be funny and frightening in ways that traditionally written books rarely are.

Above all this book is well executed and beautiful. However, it’s definitely not going to be for everyone. If you don’t enjoy the format, you won’t enjoy the book, even if they plot intrigues you. It is a book where the style matters just as much, if not more than the story. If the format is your thing it’s brilliant, if it’s not your cup of tea you’ll be left confused and vaguely disappointed.


Read this if you’re a fan of: Cinder


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