Reivew: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


Synopsis from Good Reads:

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.

I was browsing the clearance shelves at my local bookstore and saw this book on sale for about $6.00. After all the hype surrounding this series I decided it was time for me to FINALLY give it a try.

Illuminae is definitely a book you have to read a hard copy of. It would not be conducive to e-readers and would definitely leave a lot to be desired via audio. The formatting was very cool. It’s all documents and chat logs and graphics and the creators of the book obviously put a lot of thought into the layout and details. I’ll say again, it was very cool. Unfortunately, one very cool element does not a 5 star book make (at least not to me).

While I loved the format, it did not always work for me. There are many official memos and etc. that come across too unprofessional. I think there could’ve been a greater effort made to make them sound more realistic. I also had a huge problem with the video transcripts. The person transcribing them put in way too much detail of the participant’s feelings and thoughts turning it into more of a standard narration than what it should have been (this did have an explanation at the end so I’m not going to go into great detail with the quotes I actually took the time to mark to prove my point – I’ll just say that when I was reading those parts I was annoyed by it). There are also very long parts from AIDEN’s, the computer, POV that came across way too odd for me. They also blacked out all the curse words which at first I thought I would really appreciate, but quickly learned it just brought more attention to them. I found myself filling in the blacked out words anyways, and then sometimes second guessing which curse word I thought it was. This was not a good use of my time.

The plot was repetitive and drawn out. Lots of missiles and computer hacking and teenage angst and zombie-like sickness outbreak. I felt kind of bored during parts of it. However, every time I was thinking that I just didn’t care about what was going on, a character would be killed off and I found myself getting choked up. The character development was actually really well done. I loved Ezra and his kind of obnoxious friend McNulty. I loved Kady’s hacker friend, Zhang. It took me a little longer to warm up to Kady, but I did eventually really root for her, even if I didn’t love her as much as some of the other characters.

Overall, I liked Illuminae, but I didn’t love it. The non-traditional formatting was very cool and is definitely worth picking up an actual hard copy of the book for. However, I don’t understand all the 5-star hype for this run-of-the-mill sci-fi story. That said, it was still an enjoyable read and I plan on continuing the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

25 thoughts on “Reivew: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  1. I also gave Illuminae 3 stars, and had a lot of the same problems with it that you did. I really think this should be more of an MG book because of how it is written and the tone of it. Everything was too informal and it annoyed me to no end

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that way. I think if you’re going to commit to that format you really need to commit to it and I just didn’t buy parts of it. It was still an enjoyable book, just not the perfection I was expecting.

  2. I read this book a few months ago and I thought Aiden’s (the computers) perspective was a little bit strange also! I’ve barely read any reviews where they had mixed feelings, as opposed to just saying the same thing over and over again.Thanks for the review.

    • I could be ok with the idea of the AI developing feelings, but the kind of detail it “archived” was just too outside the scope of what it should have been. It felt like an excuse to do more traditional narrative writing (like the video transcripts) and it just didn’t fit in with the rest of the stuff. I still liked the book, but definitely had my issues with it.

  3. I enjoyed Illuminae but it wasn’t my favorite. Gemina is far better than the first book and it’s my favorite book so far in this series. I think you’ll definitely enjoy reading it.

  4. I really enjoyed Illuminae when I read it. I just found everything to be super addicting maybe because I had no idea what to expect? I read it before all the hype so I think I toned down my anticipation 😛

    Though I will say that the audiobook production is FABULOUS! I almost wonder if you would have enjoyed it more? They do a really good job since they use a full cast to deliver all the discussions etc. I know I was a little hesitant to try it but everyone raves about it and once I listened to it I could see why. It is a unique experience as well in its own right.

    • Huh. I would think that you would miss out on a lot by listening to audio. Maybe I will need to try it. I try not to let hype get to me too much because I always tend to disagree with it, but I still had really high expectations going into this one. I will try to lower them a bit for the next book and maybe I’ll enjoy it more. Not that I didn’t enjoy this one, but I just didn’t love it like everyone else.

  5. I’ve heard a lot about this book. Seemed like everyone loved it. It’s certainly on my list to checkout, mainly cos of the cool formatting. 😁

  6. You’re totally right about the physical version: I tried reading it on my kindle and it was simply impossible. I liked it and the format was really original, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it either… If you ignore the format, the plot itself is actually pretty basic. Great review!

    • Thanks! I tried getting it on my Nook once and it wouldn’t even open haha. And you summed up my biggest problem with it in once sentence “if you ignore the format, the plot itself is actually pretty basic.” Yes! I mean, I don’t want to say I didn’t enjoy it because I did, but it in the grand scheme of things it just wasn’t that great.

      • I think most people are sort of ‘blinded’ with the unique format, and I agree it isn’t a bad story perse… Just nothing we haven’t seen before.

  7. The hype around this series is … it’s overwhelming and I’ve been feeling the pressure to try the books out… especially when bloggers with who I normally share book tastes with recommend it, but reading your really good review, I just feel like i won’t miss out on anything if I just forget about it… format does sound interesting but the space stuff? doesn’t appeal and some of the points you make I think would make me restless.s. especially the curse words being redacted… I like my curse words! 😀

    • Lol yeah the curse words redaction would probably annoy you haha. It’s not a bad book, but as Yvo said in her comment above, once you take away the format, the story is a pretty basic one. So I guess I can see where people who never read this type of genre could think it was better than it really is.

      • Hahaha, it amazes me how well bloggers have come to know me 😀
        Yes, I saw yvo’s comment and was thinking- heh, I’m probably not going to read the book.. I’m enjoying Kristoff’s Nevernight series more anyway, so 🙂

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