Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Digital Audiobook narrated by Johnathan McClain, Lincoln Hoppe, Olivia Taylor Dudley
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 602 pages or 11 hours, 40 minutes
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Book Depository • IndieBound
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.
BRIEFING NOTE: 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.
At first, I was hesitant going into Illuminae for two reasons: it is a very hyped book, and it was mixed media, which may/may not work in audiobook format. I kept my expectations pretty low, because a lot of the super hyped books don’t really work for me.
Going into the early chapters of Illuminae, I was glad I protected myself with low expectations. The world was interesting, and the action started right away, but the characters? Meh. Especially in the early chapters, they’re all quite vague and flirtatious. There are moments that are good mixed in, like the initial battle between the Lincoln and the Alexander. In these places, the audiobook really shined. Illuminae is a full cast recording, and it’s just… so well done. This is definitely one of those books that feels like a radio play when you listen to it, and not just like a book being read to you.
But those early chapters? If I had boarded the hype train and had high expectations for the book, I would have been hugely disappointed. It was reading like a romance and I was bored. And, yes, having finished the book, I now understand the importance of the dialogue and slow pacing in the first 50%. But while I was in it? It was not for me.
Then, at almost the exact 50% point… AIDEN was turned back on.
Then things got good.
I could not stop listening to the second half of this book. As the book continued, I missed the mixed-media as the narration turned to AIDEN’s memory almost exclusively. But, you know what? That was fine. Give me an evolving AI and deadly, gruesome plague any day. There were twists and turns and the more I think about it retrospectively, the more and more hints I see where I should have figured things out. I called one of them, but you know, I think that was more from desperation than logic. But the twists were really well written – I think that good twist is something you could predict, but may not… and if you can’t, you can go back and figure out all the missing pieces.
Through the second half of Illuminae, I was there for the ride and enjoying it, not thinking ahead of the book too much. I loved it. It’s an easy book to recommend, with a lot of questions left unanswered to mull over and a lot of action points. The only thing I didn’t love were the characters. I don’t feel like we got to know Ezra well enough, and I just didn’t care for Katy? She was well written, but I just didn’t connect with her. But that’s okay!
Generally, this was such a rollercoaster ride, and I’m definitely in to read Gemini. If you like space operas like Star Wars, then you’ll like Illuminae. It’s such a great sci-fi book and honestly, this needs to be picked up and turned into a TV show. AIDEN had such great vibes of both HAL 900 (2001: A Space Odyssey anyone?) and “Robbie” from Isaac Asmov’s I, Robot collection. The action on the ship itself reminds me of any number of space flicks, and the Cyclone flights are definitely Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Any appreciator of sci-fi (appreciator being the key work – not aficionado. Sci-fi people can be intense) should appreciate Illuminae.
TL;DR? This was a great book and generally speaking, it deserves the hype. It followed so many time-honored sci-fi tropes in all the best ways, have some great action, and I highly recommend it. It’s certainly a book I will be reading again.
Do you enjoy mixed media books? I find that for the most part, I really like them! Sleeping Giants is one of my all-time favorites, and Illuminae was great too! If you read them, what’s your favorite?