Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

IlluminaeBook Title/Author: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Publisher/Year: October 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Series: Book #1 of ‘The Illuminae Files’
Format & Source: Hardcover (Library) & Audiobook (Hoopla)


“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.” (Goodreads)




I am trying to expand outside of Fiction works and try other genres, including Science Fiction. I thought that with all the great reviews and comments about Illuminae, that I’d be sure to like it. Although I can understand the appeal for the creative formatting and way in which the story is told, but it was not my cup of tea.

To me it was: Not. Worth. The. Hype.

I admit that the book cover, format and hype caught my attention and were the reasons why I checked out this book. The story is told through a compilation of interviews, IMs, transcriptions of surveillance, diary entries and a spaceship’ s Artificial Intelligence operating system (AI/AIDEN) code files. This format was interesting but difficult to get used to and involved me having to spin the book around to be able to read it (diagrams, artsy graphics), which actually gave me headaches.

At the 200 page mark, I found myself wanting to skim read. It was at this point that I started to listen to the audiobook — in combination with reading the physical book — thinking it would help spark up my interest again and help with my understanding in the book. The audiobook featured a full cast of 10+ people and if you are interested in Illuminae I would recommend trying the audiobook — I probably would not have completed the book if it had not been for the audiobook.

Here are a few other tidbits that I did not like about Illuminae so that you can decide if this book is for you:

  • Filler-pages. There were many pages that had 20 or fewer words on the page (sometimes none at all) that were intended to create a dramatic effect, but I found it more of a distraction and got annoyed with spinning the book around trying to read it.
  • One-dimensional characters. I was not able to connect with the main characters, Ezra & Kady. I found them to be mere shells of your typical teenager stereotypes.
  • Mixed feeling about AI/AIDEN. When we first get introduced to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that operates the ship, also known as AIDEN, I quickly found myself irritated by its attempts to be poetic and displaying how it’s self-aware. Later, I then felt that AIDEN was the most well-developed character, but I quickly realized I only thought this because I was comparing AIDEN to the rest of the one-dimensional characters. In summary,  the AI was the most well-developed character and it wasn’t even human! And that bothered me.
  • Lost and confused at some points of the story. Some people rave about how they didn’t know where the story was going / that there were unexpected twists. Well, I wouldn’t disagree with those statements, but I also wouldn’t say I was waiting in suspense. I was confused about what had transpired. I frequently had to stop and ask myself: ‘Wtf?’, ‘Who just died?’, or ‘What’s happening!?’

My final thoughts: Illuminae has a pretty cover and neat formatting, which can sometimes be distracting. Towards the end, there are more artsy-formatted pages with little very few words per page — filler-pages, as I referred to them above. These filler-pages are fast to go through in one sitting, giving you the illusion that you’re reading this book super fast, and therefore enjoying it. I recommend that you keep this format in mind and to try the full-cast audiobook.


“I am frequently underestimated. I think it’s because I’m short.”

“You deserve every star in the galaxy laid out at your feet and a thousand diamonds in your hair. You deserve someone who’ll run with you as far and as fast as you want to. Holding your hand, not holding you back.”

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


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