Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

October 23, 2015 / 10 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffIlluminae

Author: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Also by this author: Gemina, Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: October 20th 2015
Source: ARC from BEA15
My rating:
Buy It: | | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible

For fans of The Fifth Wave and James Dashner comes the first book in an epic series that bends the sci-fi genre into a new dimension.

“Brace yourself. You're about to be immersed in a mindscape that you'll never want to leave.”  —Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of the Legend trilogy

  “I have never read anything like [Illuminae]. It certainly filled the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA shaped hole in my heart."Victoria Aveyard, bestselling author of Red Queen

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.


By now you’ve probably heard the flails, the gasps, the “OMG NONONONONOs” that come from reading Illuminae, the 600-page sci-fi brick by Aussie writers Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – if not from me, then hopefully from the rest of the book community. And if you’re coming here looking for an extremely well-written review, well…


Reason being that this book is all feels, guys. It starts with a bang, then a character/world building section, and then THE ENTIRE WORLD FALLS APART.

Ok, let me rewind. Illuminae, as you probably know, is told all in found documents, sent by a secretive group called Illuminae to some Executive Director about the bombing of a planet and what happened to the survivors afterwards.

Some of the documents look like this.


Or this.

Example of a page in Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Or this.


As you can probably tell, this isn’t your normal, linear read. This is a book that requires you to work, to glean information from each document, whether it’s the time or date or just filling in the expletive that a character uses.

For some of you, that’s going to be too much – and I get it. This isn’t a read where you’re relaxed and drinking tea with your cat beside you. This is a read where you’re sitting there, arms tense, tea forgotten, alternately shaking and hugging your cat because WTF JUST HAPPENED. It’s the kind of read you both whip through because you have to know what happens immediately, and then have to flip back to make sure you got all of the details.


But you know what? It’s SO WORTH IT.

Because between all the documents and the pretty and the weird and the horror (oh man, are there some serious horrors), there’s a really solid story – the story of two teens who broke up because of external circumstances, and now are forced to reevaluate their entire life plans. They banter amazingly, they’re sassy, they’re funny, they’re crazy romantic (well, maybe just one of them), and it’s just…shippy.

And their romance is both the everything and the nothing in the face of the epic space opera going on. A space opera that includes a potentially crazy Artificial Intelligence machines, a virus with some really bad symptoms…and the little band of people who are just trying to save the last bits of their community.

This isn’t a Chosen One book, I promise. But the events of Illuminae do pave the way for some seriously brave, amazing moments where — I admit it — I totally cried.

And everything you go through with the characters and while reading? It all pays off. And not just in the gorgeous aesthetic of the book, or the writing, even though those are both amazing. I’m talking about the plot – it twists, dips, and delves so deftly that everything just holds together, but you’ll find yourself constantly surprised, but not in a way that feels cheap or manipulative. Every moment is earned.

What I want to say about the book is this: like a lot of good sci-fi, Illuminae has a few things to say about humanity and how we live our lives, how we love. Even though I was already floored by the plot, the characterization and the format, what really got me was the theme. There’s an argument being made for life and death and something in between, and that’s what had me completely shattered at the end.


Gif of Battlestar Galactica episode More Intensity: The best comparison I can make to this book is that it’s like the first episode of the brilliant re-imagined Battlestar Galactica TV series. If you haven’t watched BSG, it’s basically about a bunch of cyborgs who end up overtaking the Earth and a bunch of other planets, forcing most of the human population to flee to a bunch of military spaceships, drifting around space, trying to conserve food, weapons, and power. The first episode, “33” deals with the immediate aftermath of this takeover, when the ships are being attacked every 33 minutes. Illuminae is like that episode, but since it will take you 4-10 hours (or more) to read, it’s WAY more intense. You’re on an adenaline kick the entire time, and it doesn’t let up.

i ship itI Ship It: You guys, the love I feel for Kady and Ezra…their relationship is exactly the kind of banter-y brilliance that I always wanted in a significant other as a teenager. These kids are hilarious, smart, and truly respectful of each other. I was both swooning and grabbing my hair in frustration because they weren’t actually, you know, together.

princess leiaDiverse & Feminist: Christina at A Reader of Fictions goes into this more and better than I do, but you won’t ever doubt that a woman or a person of color could do any job in this book – it’s just a given. And some of the woman who rise to the occasion in this book – they are SERIOUSLY KICK-ASS.

Image created by Evie Seo for Society6 - check out her Illuminae quote art!
Image created by Evie Seo for Society6 – check out her Illuminae quote art!

Catchphrases: I guarantee you’ll be yelling “AM I NOT MERCIFUL?” and “Don’t look at me” by the end of this. And maybe a few other things, too.

Book Theme Song:

Mozart’s Requiem in D

I’m not going to explain this. Just read it and listen. You’ll understand.

The Final Word

Illuminae is everything people are saying it is. It lives up to the hype. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be breathless and panting as you flip these pages to figure out what comes next. And then you’ll beat yourself over the head for having finished so soon, because the wait for the next book in the series is going to be torturous. Mind-blowing and definitely one of the most unique books you’ll ever read.

ILLUMINAE is out in bookstores now. Have you read it (aka has it blown your mind yet?)? If not, are you planning to pick it up? Do you like conspiracy books or books where you have to work to get the information? 

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10 responses to “Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

  1. Oh..My..God..

    Ok. So. A little backstory: I remember when this books was EVERYWHERE at BEA this year. Copies all around and of course, who could forget those stairs?! I remember thinking there is NO way that this book could ever live up to the massive hype. That was until the glowing reviews started POURING in. Now, if I wasn’t already excited about sinking my teeth into my copy (which I was!) your review has brought that excitement to dangerous levels! Freaking amazing review Wendy^^ My favorite bit? ”This isn’t a read where you’re relaxed and drinking tea with your cat beside you. This is a read where you’re sitting there, arms tense, tea forgotten, alternately shaking and hugging your cat because WTF JUST HAPPENED.” I can totally picture ALL of that. And I need it. I don’t care if it destroys me, I NEED IT. I’m bumping this up my tbr NOW thanks to you ♥

  2. I loved your review, Tiff! It really made me think twice about reading this one (since I’ve been pretty hesitant). I’m still not too keen on the format, or the actual work required in reading it. But based on what you (and many others) have said, the payoff looks like it might be worth it!

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