Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf books on October 20, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
“Perhaps bravery is simply the face humanity wraps around its collective madness.”
Two words: visually pleasing.
If you haven’t seen the hardcover of Illuminae, it’s spectacularly beautiful. The jacket is a bright translucent orange/red situation and the physical book is written all over. The shelf appeal of the book alone is the reason I bought it in the first place. Thank god the content lived up to the beauty of the outside.
Illuminae is told through files, interviews, IM messages, medical reports, and more. This is, without a doubt, the most unique book I’ve read in a long time. Maybe the plot isn’t the most original (but still captivating), but the way Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff chose to tell the story is what makes it so unique. I can honestly say I’ve never read a book like this.
Although the book clocks in at 600 pages, it’s a fast read. I read it in 2 days and accidentally finished the last half last night when I just wanted to read a few more pages. I went into the book blind, knowing very little about its premise. I highly suggest doing this with most books because it makes plot twists a pleasant surprise. Definitely sci-fi and with threads of YA angst, Illuminae tells the story of a high stakes battle in space between corporations and government (at least I’m assuming UTA is as government as it gets in this world).
If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you read it before finishing this review because it’ll be a little spoiler-y. If you have read, please continue.
Illuminae hits the ground running with interviews of Kady Grant and Ezra Mason after their settlement on Kerenza was attacked by BeiTech. I love when Kady and Ezra were able to narrate the story through all mediums whether it was in interview, IM sessions, or personal journals. Kady has enough anger towards everything and the stars to go around, and Ezra is just as bitter but plays it off with humor more.
I pushed off starting Illuminae for years (seriously, my friend bought this for me not too long after it came out) because I was intimidated by how it was told, even though that’s what lured me in the first place. But I finally picked it up and I was sucked in. Each sitting of this book would range from 50 pages to 300. Though many different voices and styles of writing (depending on the medium) were being thrown around, the story was still cohesive and kept the energy up during the most high stake scenes. I even found myself feeling sorry for AIDAN as it narrated through the last few pages.
This book prompted a lot of questions and stoked some fear about the nature of Artificial Intelligence (AI) we build and how much should we allow AI to think for itself? Especially since AIDAN was able to control itself enough to prevent humans from powering it down again. I would think a programmer would want to build in a self-destruct button in case anything goes wrong in the future. But…that’s just me.
Though set at least 500 years in the future, the story has some reflection onto relatable situations we have now. Believing that we have all the time in the world when everything can be ripped away in the span of a minute. Corporations discarding laws, and ethical and moral decisions. Loving someone so much you risk your own life for them.
Kady had a lot of bravery when she left the Hypatia to bring Ezra back from the Alexander. I nearly cried when AIDAN admitted that Ezra wasn’t on board and that he had died. But when AIDAN evolved and started to have close to human emotions, was when I had a change of heart towards the AI. Although AIDAN was severely flawed in many decisions it made, I found myself kinda missing it when Kady made it out in the end. Although I was surprised she did. Then very grateful when we found out Ezra wasn’t dead. THANK god.
Since a lot of the book is told through IM/text messages, it added a lot of personality to the characters. I personally love internet discourse and how we have manipulated something that has very little tone and personality into something that everyone kinda has their own way of typing and putting themselves out there on the internet. Kaufman and Kristoff really utilized this and each person that communicated had their own voice, even though IM and text messages can be some of the least personal ways to communicate. There was also a clear generational gap when older crew members were talking vs. when the teenager characters were. I loved the way Kady responded on IM and I also loved how Ezra responded. It gave them so much personality, from my viewpoint. Even the typos were a nice touch that made it realistic.
I am looking forward to reading Gemina and seeing what else is going to be told in this world. Illuminae was so well written and told, I can’t wait for more.