June 2, 2016

ARC Review of Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

 Release Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books
Page Count: 599
Format: ARC
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi
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.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

 Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff was one of the most anticipated YA books of BEA 2015 so of course I had to pick up a copy. Illuminae was (and still is) the only hardcover ARC I have ever seen in my lifetime, I don't know why it was made as hardcover but I do know that the end result was a fantastic behemoth of a book. It was only in May 2016 that I finally picked up Illuminae, due in part to a bunch of blogger friends who insisted I read it and that I would love it. It took me 24 hours to devour Illuminae, it came to a point where I was so into the book that I had to bring it to school and keep reading there. Simply put, Illuminae was a refreshing change to my usually fantasy-occupied reading list and lived up to its massive hype.

The reason I know if I will DNF a book within its first few chapters is because of the world-building, I cannot stress enough the importance of world-building; no matter how good the plot or characters of a book may be, it is still nothing without solid world-building. Illuminae opens up with a memorandum describing in part what the rest of the book will be about, or what all the letters, recordings, and files generally pertain to (the Kerenza disaster). I will admit that the book was a bit confusing in the beginning and all the different ways of describing its story took some time getting used to but the second I got used to it, I fell in love with Illuminae. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff create an interesting backdrop of solar systems colonized by humanity and interstellar wars over mining resources but the heart of the world-building in Illuminae came from the ships (Alexander, Copernicus, etc) involved in the accidents and the methods used in the book (letters, recordings, messages) I mentioned before. Many sci-fi books have similar worlds due to the limited material to work with but Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff buck that trend by deciding to focus small (the ships) first and then large later on along with their unique method of portraying the book. Illuminae's rich descriptions along with the unorthodox way they were shown has guaranteed it a place as one of the best sci-fi books I've read in recent times.

Characters are the twin to world-building, different in its importance but just as important as the other one. Illuminae featured several POV's rather than the traditional one main character/POV that most books implement. As the scene switched from email to camera footage, as it went from one ship to the other; different characters and POVs were introduced and incorporated into the plot. This actually reminded me a lot of These Broken Stars (which was another sci-fi novel Amie Kaufman co-wrote) where there not only different POVs but also where the characters started in different areas and met up by the end of the book. At first I was Team Kady and was "eh" towards Ezra but as the book progressed and I found out more about their history I started liking Ezra more and more until at one point I started shipping them! As much as I would love to dive into the intricacies of Kady and Ezra I also want to point out the secondary characters and one special character I'll mention at the end. There are way too many names to type up here but everyone from the captains of the ships, to the doctors treating the Phobos outbreak, and friends Kady and Ezra made added to the story. Each person was a small piece that came together to form the large picture that is Illuminae. While I can't decide if the AI Aidan was a main character or secondary character it probably affected the plot the most. I won't spoil the reasons why I feel that way but in addition to that my emotions toward it kept shifting as the book moved on and now I'm not sure whether I hate it or pity it. The mixture of media in the book also allows us to see the characters as themselves AND as someone else looking at them so it's even more immersive and easier to find out about the characters. The characters in Illuminae ended up being so realistic and complex that even after finishing the book they're all I can think about. I frequently rave about books whose characters I love but Illuminae has surpassed most of them and will always have a place in my heart.

I view fantasy and sci-fi as the two pillars holding up the YA genres, there are other sub-genres but fantasy and sci-fi are the most read. Despite the hundreds of books I've read throughout my life I have seen only a few come close to level of amazingness that Illuminae has as a sci-fi novel. To the point where I can say with utmost certainty that Illuminae has joined with Queen of Shadows and Truthwitch in a three-way tie as my favorite book of 2015. With all the hype and excitement around Illuminae I expected it to flop or not meet my expectations but it not only met them but also passed them! Gemina (the sequel) will hopefully be just as amazing if not more so, even the summary itself is exciting. Illuminae is perfect for fans of sci-fi novels like Enders Game and These Broken Stars, if you enjoy YA books then you will certainly enjoy this one as well.

5/5 - AMAZING Book!


  1. I'm glad you liked Illuminae! I bought it when I was in Australia in December, but sadly my parents wouldn't let me bring it back to India with me :( (it is a behemoth of a book)I loved how the authors used the format as well! it's such a cool book
    -Shanti@Virtually Read

    1. It is! I was a bit confused at first and then I got used to it

  2. I have an ARC of Illuminae I have yet to read as well. I'm hoping to finally get to it this summer! Great review!

    1. Thank you! You should definitely read it :)

  3. Another one I am so eager to read but have yet to do so with! I love the colours of the cover and I know when I do buy this one, I simply want the hardcover because of how gorgeous it is! The formatting looks creative and lovely but that's not the only thing - it sounds like its an actually good novel too.

  4. Awesome review Bayram! I was surprised that the format worked really well for me, I wasn't expecting to be pulled into the story, but I was. I also wasn't really on board with Kady and Ezra in the beginning, especially with what is revealed throughout the novel. But maybe I'll get to know them better in Gemina.

  5. Wonderful review, Bayram! I've heard a lot about this book and cant wait to read it!