Illuminae book review


Welcome to my new YA (or young adult, for those of you who read this column without being familiar with bookish terms) novel review column, where I review a book I’ve read each month and generally expose myself as a massive nerd in order to suss out other people who enjoy reading at BHS, because I haven’t had much luck in my endeavors as of yet. This column will consist of a more preface-y section, where I preview and rate the novel, as well as giving my reactions, and a second, more in-depth section where I cover my favorite parts of each novel.

Recently, I read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, the first book in a young adult science fiction trilogy set in the year 2575, which I would lovingly describe as a mix between Star Trek and The Walking Dead, with some political intrigue and oh-so-innocent AI mischief sprinkled in.

It revolves around a corporate war located on a Pluto-size planet in the buttcrack of the galaxy, with the planet’s residents caught in the middle. After escaping the planet, an intergalactic chase ensues, and our amazing cast must fight to survive. There is also a highly relatable (I mean, not for me, but) bit of high-school drama revolving around main characters and exes Kady Grant, kick-butt pink-haired hacker, and Ezra Mason, cute boy who sets my standards way too high.

The book has a fantastic format; it’s written all in interviews, instant messages, blueprints, medical files, etc., as well as having some very pretty page layouts. I’d rate this book a 95% — I absolutely loved the plot, but I had some issues with pacing and format.

In terms of pacing, I  always find myself loving slow-burn novels when I reach all the plot points that have been built up to and get such a satisfying payoff, and when I finish the book, but while I’m reading, the slow pace can sometimes be quite frustrating, as I’m waiting for another action or heart-stopping scene to pull me in, which I experienced at points in Illuminae, but the format also proved to make it much shorter than the page count made it out to be (600 pages turns out to be more like 400 or less). Note: if you’re looking for a pared-down, strictly action, albeit derivative version of Illuminae, I’d recommend Contagion by Erin Bowman; it was essentially just the necessary buildup and action of Illuminae, with much less AI and much more Walking Dead.

Regarding the format, despite being captivated by the unique layout of the novel, it jerked me out of the story at points because it wasn’t formatted in a traditional novel style). I’m ending the preview section here, so forge ahead only if you’ve actually read Illuminae and want someone to share reactions with.

Alright, so I wasn’t really roped in at first with those interviews; I was wondering what the heck was going on, but when we started to get more details on the Kerenza attack, I was hooked. I’m a sucker for sci-fi/fantasy action. The first scenes where I really started to love the characters were Kady and Ezra’s sassy little IM conversations, and when Kady snuck into one of the computer labs and casually hacked the system — like, WHAT? How is she so sly?

In terms of my favorite scenes, I loved Ezra being an amazing military pilot and planting the logic bomb in the Lincoln, I was so stressed when I was devouring the scene and all his fellow pilots were being shot down around him — and AIDAN’s narration was so ominous and suited the scene so well! My all-time favorite scene was when Kady was being chased by the Phobos-infected people; my heart was pounding the whole time, and the infected were so unbelievably creepy, like Walking Dead-walkers but who’d retained some semblance of rational thought, making them all the more dangerous. I also loved Ezra and Kady’s reunion — they’re such a cute couple and I was SO HAPPY he wasn’t dead.

Illuminae was unbelievable. I recommend it to everyone I know who likes to read, it was so action-packed and completely went places I wasn’t expecting, and I love when books blindside me. Definitely pick it up!