February 15, 2016
Illuminae Book Cover Illuminae
The Illuminae Files, #1
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Science Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
October 20th, 2015

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.

(via Goodreads)


TL/DR: 6 stars. Holy crap this book is a gorgeous, tense, addicting ride. Read it immediately. No. Seriously. What are you waiting for?!

Brace yourselves for a gigantic SQUEE.

Illuminae under coverI am riding the high of an incredible story. A spectacular ride through unique storytelling in a familiar genre with twists and turns that kept me spinning. A captivating story that had me on the edge of my seat and unable to stop reading. After ending the book, I literally had to dance. Not because the book was happy– but because it filled me with so many emotions, and merely from words.


There is A LOT going on in this novel. Kady and Ezra break up. Their planet is invaded and they get evacuated on two separate ships. Civilians are conscripted upon arrival in these ships to help with escaping from the other bad-guy ships chasing them: Kady on the Science ship becomes a hacker, and Ezra on the command ship becomes a fighter pilot.

Then things become intense.

The command ship, run by an all-powerful AI who controls their ability to space-jump, is broken. The ship was damaged in the evacuation, and the AI – AIDAN – was too. So, what happens? AIDAN apparently goes crazy.

The draft of Juliet sought at her Romeo’s lips.
Madness and poison, carved in endless scrawls of ones and zeros.
A binary of insanity.

Not to mention there is an airborne virus which has started an epidemic of turning the people on these ships into space zombies. Because, you know, the bad-guy ships were waging biological warfare, not just blowing up this colony for no apparent reason. Did I mention space zombies?

“You expressed displeasure at my humor. Why would I attempt it again?”
“Um, because you’re loopier than Flaky McPsycho, Mayor of Crazytown?”

Then Ezra gets trapped with the space zombies on the command ship and wants to sacrifice himself and Kady says: Hell no! You’re the only person I know in the world who is still alive! I’m coming to get you! And she leaves her safe science ship and jumps into the zombie apocalypse fighting an insane AI while the ships chasing them get ever closer and closer…. 

…Like I said: Intense.

(squee !)

Nothing ceases to exist. Energy does not perish. It merely changes forms. The ones you love, the ones you lose, they still exist as long as the cosmos does.

I learned through reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that I really enjoy epistolary novels. And this novel takes the cake. Told through journal entries, chat conversations, emails, military files, blueprints, footage transcriptions, and AI processing files, Illuminae redefines the style of epistolary novel.

There are two keys to a quality epistolary novel:Illuminae book art
1. The epistolary element must be convincing.
2. The fact that that narrative is composed of documents much not detract from the character development, emotional discourse, or world-building.

The reason this book is successful with the first key is because the opening letter introduces this as a dossier covering events that took place last year. It’s addressed to the megacorporation who’s unethical behavior started this entire chain of events. This means the collection of diversity in types of documents is to be expected. Plus, these documents eventually turn into works of art themselves. We start with Ezra’s nerdy ASCII art and expand from there. As AIDAN, our potentially insane AI, becomes a major character, we get to experience its way of thinking. This culminates in beautiful ways to depict words; a perfect example of how form = function, or in this case, form = content. This might even be an example of ergodic literature. As someone who hasn’t read anything of that nature, I’m not 100% certain– but I’ll read more and get back to you. Either way, the amount of effort you need to put in to participate in the construction of the text is non-trivial, for sure.

Illuminae book art 2Now, the second key. As I was reading Illumnae, I found that eventually I did not even notice the book was epistolary , even with AIDAN’s character development growing us towards a more ergodic format . I found myself falling for these characters, even the minor ones, and weeping at their fates. The relationships our main characters develop with others are fraught with tension, heartbreak, and passion. Even though I am experiencing their world through chat logs, announcements, and other formats, there is an entrenched sense of world building. The fears and drivers of our characters are clearly shown on the page and I find myself immersed in their world. It’s gut-wrenching, desolate, and full of desperation. And it’s beautiful.

ByteMe: I don’t even know if I could shoot
Mason, E, LT 2nd: its easy
Mason, E, LT 2nd: point red dot at what u want to die
Mason, E, LT 2nd: squeeze trigger
Mason, E, LT 2nd: it dies
Mason, E, LT 2nd: repeat

To show the depth and magnitude of the events happening on these ships, we meet a lot of characters. But our main characters are always Kady and Ezra. What I love about them is how flawed they are. Erza makes wise-cracking, 20th-century sexist jokes. Kady is a bit broken from her loss– scared and lonely. But when each of them look like they are about to reach their limit, we find they are more complicated than the surface immature teens they are. We find they are complex and are capable of more than even they ever thought they would be.

At first, I didn’t care too much about them. I enjoyed their personalities and how they played off each other, but not the characters themselves. Slowly, I came to love them and care for them. It was very subtle.AIDAN scream

I knew I cared for them once I hit page 294.

am i not merciful?

That’s also the page where I realize I wouldn’t be able to stop reading until the end. You have been warned.

There is so much more I could say. SO MUCH more. But I don’t want to spoil the entire book for you. This is a beautiful, artistic, breathing, intense, nerve-wracking ride. And I hope you take it.


6 Stars


  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom September 29, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Lovely review Jackie! I am really looking forward to this one. I must admit, I haven’t read much in the realm of science-fiction, so I am really hopeful for Illuminae!

    • Jackie B September 30, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Let me know if you ever want some science fiction recommendations. YA or otherwise. I have plenty of suggestions to send your way. 🙂

  • Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks November 19, 2016 at 3:55 am

    I saw you just posted a review for Gemina, and since I haven’t read Illuminae yet, I had to read that review ahah. I am SO glad you enjoyed this book so much! I’m a bit nervous because of the formatting, but I’m so eager to get to it 🙂

    • Jackie B November 19, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Don’t be! I thought I’d struggle as well, but it was quick to parse through. Once I started getting into it, my brain stopped reading all the words and only the words which mattered. For example, in the emails, I stopped reading more than the To/From/Subject Line/Body. All that other stuff didn’t matter. Once things turn a bit more Word Art-y it took some reacclimating again, but by then I was hooked on the plot and characters and I didn’t care. 🙂 I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

      • Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks November 20, 2016 at 2:24 am

        Ohh well I’m so glad to hear that! I’m just a couple pages in for now, I think it’s going to take me a couple more pages to get used to it, but I’m intrigued about the story, so it’s a good sign already? .

        • Jackie B November 21, 2016 at 5:27 pm

          Yay! I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

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