Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

January 8, 2016 Reviews 4 ★★★★★

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Published: November 1st 2015 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 602 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

One moment, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have nothing bigger to worry about than each other. Specifically, avoiding each other in the wake of their messy break-up. In the next second, their entire world falls apart.

The year is 2375 and one of the mega-corporations that control much of deep space has just fired the opening salvo in an intergalactic war, destroying Kady and Ezra's planet. Forced to flee on a small fleet of crippled rescue ships alongside thousands of other refugees, the fear of enemy warships chasing them down is at first all-consuming but soon becomes the least of their worries. A deadly plague is ravaging the refugees on the ships; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be an enemy; and High Command is refusing to acknowledge that there may be a serious problem. As Kady plunges into a tangled web of data in search of the truth, she realises that Ezra is possibly the only person who can help her save the refugees before it's too late.

Iluminae has to be one of the cleverest books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a brilliantly crafted story that has everything – a terrifying AI, an interstellar war, explosions in space, romance, and dark humour. The pre-pubication hype (I’ve wanted this book since it was announced!) was absolutely on point!

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason become embroiled in a battle between megacorporations that destroys their home planet, and soon find themselves on separate vessels of an evacuating fleet, with the enemy chasing after them. Their story is relayed through a series of interview transcripts, emails, internet chats, computer logs, and transcripts of security footage. The unconventional method of storytelling is what makes this novel so brilliant – the authors are able to convey a lot of information through unusual means (such as, passenger manifests, survivor lists, schematics of the space craft) – but the story never loses its coherency. I found it easy to follow and refreshingly unorthodox – sometimes you even have to turn the book upside down to read it (although I do wonder at how people with e-readers would handle this, as some messages go back and forth across two pages and they’d have to go back and forth).

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason themselves are the second reason this book is so magnificent. They are amazing, both of them smart and ultra capable in their own ways but also completely un-alike. Illuminae begins on the day of their break up, and the war and bloodshed they encounter forms a gruesome backdrop to what becomes their second chance at a future together. Ezra is a ball of anger and violence wrapped in sarcasm, an unexpected romantic with finely honed pattern recognition skills that make him an amazing combat pilot. Kady is a brave and selfless and broken thing, also wrapped in sarcasm, but deeply in love and conflicted and above all, kick ass. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a book told through interviews, emails, and IM would be cold and emotionless, but Illuminae is anything but. Kaufman and Kristoff manage to bring out the essence and humanity of these characters with a finesse most authors would kill for.

They even manage to make the AI seem almost-kind-of-maybe human.

All the action is set on space vessels, but you don’t need to keep referring to the schematics provided to read the book. All you need to know is that the Alexander is a huge military ship, that the Hypatia is a much smaller research vessel, and the Copernicus is a freighter. I didn’t have any trouble imagining the settings, but a person unfamiliar with science fiction (in any media format) may struggle a teensy bit.

The science! I’ve always loved the science in Kaufman and Spooners Starbound series – those books are scientifically accurate without bogging down the story. Illumine is more of the same – and the astrophysicist in me rejoiced (DO NOT speak to me about Beth Revis’ books). And the fact that my friend and fellow astronomer-and-book-reviewer Tsana was consulted on the science in the book makes me super, extra happy. Also, the authors snuck in the names of a few authors, publicists, and even reviewers into the story, which made me exceedingly happy.

With its gorgeous artwork and unusual presentation, Iluminae is a feast for the eyes. It’s a vivid, emotional, exciting read that will hook most readers. It’s the best thing either of these authors have written so far. It will leave you hungry for the sequel, Gemina.

4 Responses to “Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff”

  1. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    I remember at BEA this year, this book was EVERYWHERE. I got excited about it but then I was like: there’s no way this book will be able to live up to the crazy hype. How wrong was I? Granted, I haven’t read this one yet- it’s my next read – but man the praise has been amazing! I just know I’m going to love it you know? And judging by your review, I’m not wrong XD I can’t wait to experience this one for myself! Awesome review Shaheen!!

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