Illuminae – 5 Star Review

“She is catalyst.
She is chaos.
I can see why he loves her.”

-Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

I am extremely picky on my science fiction interests and a self-proclaimed hater of anything “space” related. I have no interest in Star Wars or Star Trek and generally any book that takes place in space crafts automatically gets marked as a “Pass”. I am doing the 12 Recommendations by 12 Friends on my Instagram platform and to be completely transparent, when my friend Sam recommended Illuminae for me I inwardly groaned. My top read last year was Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff and even knowing he co-wrote Illuminae was not enough to muster any kind of excitement for this endeavor. I saw that the audio for Illuminae was a “full cast” so I opted for that route, as I am partial to those types of audios. Coco then also informed me she had heard that a physical and audio tandem read was highly recommended. After listening to four hours of the audio I bought the book. I am astonished at how spectacular this book was, and to be honest, it’s leaving me with a book hangover. I don’t want to start a new book, I want to sit and marinate in the glow of this incredible story.

The physical book is designed as a collection of files, instant messaging receipts, camera surveillance reports and other extremely cool page designs. We come to meet Kady Grant and Ezra Mason as they are being interviewed on separate space air crafts after evacuating their home planet after being assaulted by a giant corporation known as BeiTech. We also soon discover that a rapidly mutating and devastating virus is aboard one of the escape fleets. Even scarier is that the AI program named AIDEN may not be on their side after all and BeiTech is hot on their trail planning for mass destruction.
I loved everything about this book. It is an extremely fast and captivating read. There is a bit of science/spacey heavy talk when it comes to the computer programming and describing various parts of the war fleet but it’s nothing that was too heavy or hard to understand. The effects of the mutating virus are very descriptive and quite shocking at times. This was written in 2015, prior to Corona, so I could see where something of this nature could be a trigger for some now that might not have been at the time of publication. Kady is a spectacular YA character and probably one of my favorites now! She is a badass, no holds barred. Kaufman and Kristoff had great characterization of the AIDEN and by the end of the book I was so sad for AIDEN. That’s right: SAD for a murdering, rebellious Artificial Intelligence system. The writing is THAT GOOD.

I would strongly recommend the combination that Coco suggested to me, a tandem read of a physical copy and audio. The audio is one of the best I’ve ever heard, but it does miss out on the artistry the physical copy presents. I learned in a Q&A with the authors in the back of the book that Kristoff formerly worked as an artistic director and it clearly shows in the construction of this book. A few times I was reading the book upside down as pages had sentences that spiraled or fanned out like rays off the sun. It’s just FUN. Even during tense moments of imminent death, it’s just a fun experience.

So the lesson here is: Don’t discredit something before you really give it a shot. Had Illuminae not been suggested for me as a part of an Instagram challenge, I highly doubt I would have ever picked it up. So thank you, Sam! I have already ordered the next book in the series, Gemina, and will be picking up the audio as well. This book was unique, action packed and spectacularly written. I can’t even imagine what the rest of the series holds, but I am off to find out!

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