Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

Title: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
Author: Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA/sci-fi
Date Read:
25/01/2016 – 27/01/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

illuminae I’m probably going to forget half the things I wanted to mention in this review, but I’ll try my best to make it a good one anyway. Reading Illuminae was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. For the first 200 pages, I didn’t think it would get more than 3 stars, then for a while it went up to 5 stars, but there were enough things to annoy me that I brought it back down a little.

Kady and Ezra just broke up this morning, and then their planet was invaded. Evacuated and on a six-month journey towards safety, they have to deal not only with being separated (because maybe they didn’t actually want to break up), but also with a deadly virus, a psychopathic AI, and moral quandaries that most 17-year-olds would much rather avoid.

This book is written in a very unique format. The text is basically the book equivalent of a “found footage” movie. It’s a dossier of emails, IMs, security footage analysis, computer logs, etc. It was very clever, though it did leave little room for really good character development. It also got hard to read at times. There were literally pages I skipped because I had no idea which direction the text went in. Thankfully, those pages were more philosophical than plot-related, so I didn’t miss much.  (Also, I pity those of you reading it on a Kindle; I was reading the paperback and it was difficult enough!)

Maybe I’m just being cynical and nit-picky but I also felt that the book used its format to disguise the fact that the story itself wasn’t quite as original as it pretended to be. I mean, sure, there’s probably not a huge amount left you can do with self-aware AIs that hasn’t been done in some form before, but I literally had the voice of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey in my head for that character; they just felt so alike. Having said that, AIDAN was actually one of my favourite characters.

I never felt Kady had much development beyond kick-ass teenage girl. She had reason to be all hardened and cynical, but I would have liked some nuance in there somewhere. She made some choices that I really questioned, and it wasn’t because she wanted to save the 1000 people over on that other ship, it was because she wanted to save her boyfriend. If the other 1000 people got saved, that was a bonus. I also got tripped up by inconsistencies like “her hazmat suit is too big for her” including the sleeves and presumably the gloves as well, but she is managing to type IMs on a tablet just fine.

Ezra was a bit better because he seemed to actually have some friends, so we got a bit more depth out of him through his relationships with these other soldiers.  But still, there were so many occasions of them IMing each and just being lovesick at each other (despite the fact that Kady is having to hack the official systems just to get in touch with Ezra) that I didn’t really warm to either of them very much. There were some good side characters, but they never really played huge parts, unfortunately.

This is the first in a series, but I’m not 100% sure I’d be up to reading a second book in the same format. Still, I’ll wait and see.

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