“A feast for the eyes!” — Book Review: Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


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Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (The Illuminae Files, Book 1)
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 20, 2015)
Page Count: 608 pages
Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult; Romance

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Buy Link: Amazon

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For months, I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over again from book bloggers: Illuminae is the best book of the year. The praise has been a bit overwhelming, honestly. But when I had a chance to get my hands on a lovely, shiny copy of Illuminae at Comic Con 2015, you better believe I snatched one up!

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 mega-corporations 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 one of the 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.


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There are two ways to rank this book: on the plot, and on the visual… because this is equally a novel and a work of art! I love novels like this, where the story is told through words and artwork simultaneously. There are maps, and diagrams, and lists, and chat logs, and it’s just 100% a combo-platter feast for the eyes!


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Now, plot-wise I have to say I was a bit disappointed. At times, I had a strange sense of deja vu… I’ve heard this story before.

“Miranda” (from “Serenity”, dir. by Joss Whedon)

Science fiction, with the infinite possibilities of an infinite universe, like to reuse the same basic plots over and over. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and Illuminae did have a unique take on the plot. (No spoilers, though! Just trust me…)


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I loved this book. Really, I did! I got excited with every turn of the page, because I never knew what was going to come next. It might be a chat transcript, or a countdown timer, or a gorgeous piece of art illustrating the events of the text. If a character was running for their life, the text would be formatted to mimic their run; if an internal security memo was circulated, we read the memo itself.

While the plot itself was nothing extremely exciting, the characters were phenomenal. I suspect that Kaufman and Kristoff each wrote one of the two main characters, although I haven’t seen anything to confirm that. But Kady and Ezra have such distinct personalities and voices that they’re really a joy to read.

Kady is brilliant, sarcastic, and headstrong. She’s a genius with computers, and it’s her knowledge of hacking that drives a lot of the plot, as she delves into the computers and uncovers the truth behind what’s going on. At times she’s a bit too smart of her own good, and she struggles with the emotional, preferring the logical instead. But she’s the take-no-shit type of character that I absolutely adore.

And Ezra, while not a genius, is still brave and fierce. While Kady is in the background, slipping through security walls and finding information, he’s the one who acts on it, and who physically does what’s necessary to ensure survival. I wish he’d played more of a central role in the book, but Illuminae is, in my opinion, more Kady’s chance to shine.


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This is a very unique format for presenting a book. I’ve seen other books that integrate a visual experience within the text (House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski comes to mind immediately), but Illuminae really takes it to a whole new level.

I wish the plot had been a bit stronger, but the art and characters made this a fantastically brilliant reading experience. I can’t wait for the second book, to see where Kaufman and Kristoff take things next!

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3 thoughts on ““A feast for the eyes!” — Book Review: Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  1. The praise this book ha received is scary! And the reviews are varied! I am hoping I like it because the synopsis sounds too intriguing, and even if I don’t like it, the hardcover is so beautiful I don’t think I would mind! Great review. I’m glad that even when the plot was not the best thing, the characters made up for it. 🙂

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    • I agree, it’s bordering on ridiculous how much praise this book is getting! It’s a tad disappointing though, because a lot of people are hailing “Illuminae” as something brand new, when there are a lot of other books that integrate art with text in a similar way… but I do think “Illuminae” does it particularly well.

      I maybe also should have mentioned that because it’s the first in a trilogy, it’s hard to judge the plot based on just this one novel. Like, maybe Book 2 will really pick up plot-wise and blow me away, and Book 1 has just been setting up for that? We’ll see, I guess!


  2. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: My Dream Author Teams! | Just Love – Book Reviews

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