Tags: Ezra Mason, Kady Grant, space, The Illuminae Files, Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
17-year-old Kady Grant has just broken up with her boyfriend Ezra Mason but while she’s sitting in class and staring out of the window she quickly realizes that her day will be getting even far worse soon. What she sees outside of her classroom are several battleships of the big megacorporation BeiTech Industries that has just started to attack Kady’s home planet Kerenza to get its hands on the hermium resources that their rival, the Wallace Ulyanov Consortium, has been harvesting illegally for the past two decades. The BeiTech invasion hits Kerenza completely unprepared and results in a bloody massacre in which most of the population is eliminated. Kady and her ex-boyfriend Ezra managed to escape the centre of the attack and reach an evacuating fleet but not only do they end up on different ships – Ezra on the battlecarrier „Alexander“ and Kady on the science vessel „Hypatia“ – but are also pursued by a BeiTech battleship that seems determined to not let a single soul escape alive. Heavily damaged by the attack on Kerenza the WUC fleet tries to escape its deadly enemy while suddenly a new threat emerges from the inside of their own ships…
Two teenage ex-lovers in the middle of an interstellar war
When I read the blurb for Amie Kaufmans and Jay Kristoffs science fiction novel „Illuminae“ for the first time it left me both excited but also a bit wary. The story about an interstellar war combined with a deadly plague sounded interesting but what made the book almost a must-read for me was the fact that the story is being told solely through a dossier of „hacked“ documents like chat protocols, email conversations, medical reports or interviews – a narration style I absolutely love. But then there was also the aspect about the two protagonists Kady and Ezra who just became ex-lovers when the story sets in and there’s nothing I hate more in a book than when an annoying romance gets all the attention and suppresses the actual plot – yes, Tris and Four, I’m staring at you right now. Luckily „Illuminae“ starts off with two interviews starring Kady and Ezra and if you only have the slightest sense of humor then there’s basically no way you’re NOT going to love both of them right from the start because they are just hilarious. I seriously didn’t expect to be laughing so hard about two teenagers talking about how their home planet just got annihilated shortly after they broke up.
Enemy battleships, a deadly virus and an artificial intelligence out of control
With a beginning like this and two amazing characters like Kady Grant and Ezra Mason it was pretty easy to dive straight into the story even though both the protagonists are a bit of a cliché with pink-haired hacker girl on the one side and good-looking space ship pilot on the other side. But you have barely time to complain about this anyway because you get thrown right into a deadly pursuit through space with the battlecarrier „Alexander“ and the science vessel „Hypatia“ on the good site and the „Lincoln“ representing the evil BeiTech side. And if you thought that the beginning of „Illuminae“ with the Battle of Kerenza was already pretty terrifying then better be aware that from that moment on it’s only getting worse with a virus breaking out on one of the Kerenza ships and the artificial intelligence AIDAN running wild and thus becoming another deadly threat. It might be a bit confusing at first to tell the different ships and characters apart and divide them into good and evil because you don’t get a lot of background information about the universe Kady and Ezra live resulting from the fact that Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff limit the story to what’s happening on board of the „Alexander“ and the „Hypatia“ – but this rather limited setting is sufficient to „Illuminae“ become an amazing and unforgettable space adventure of which I enjoyed every single moment.
A narrative style that is as epic as the story itself
I absolutely loved the dossier style because it was just perfectly executed: There’s so much to discover (look out for the little „Easter Eggs“ such as prominent authors like Leigh Bardugo or Trudi Canavan showing up on „confirmed casualties“ lists) and so much variety and all these little pieces really provide the whole range of feelings. You can laugh out loud during the chat conversations between Kady and Ezra, get terrified by radio calls that throw you right in the middle of fights for life and death, get your nerves wrecked by the ticking clock that counts down the hours and minutes until the catastrophe or get your heart ripped apart by dialogues between characters that are facing their final moments and are never going to see each other again. It all feels so realistic and intense that it’s like you yourself are right among the passengers of the space ships and are fighting for your life together with your comrades and friends. Also the design of the book itself is already a piece of art because there are a lot of pages that play with typography and thus perfectly catch the mood of the story. I enjoyed the whole concept of this book so much that I was almost disappointed every time I was facing one of the „surveillance footage summaries“ because compared to all the exciting interviews, chats or diary entries these parts seemed almost boringly normal and I felt nearly tempted to skim them just because I wanted to head to the next email conversation or radio message.
One of the best books of the year
Overall „Illuminae“ was for sure one of the top 3 books I’ve read in 2015 and an amazing and unique read that by far exceeded my expectations. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, I loved the narration, I loved the design, I loved the sarcasm, I loved the story, I loved how Kaufman and Kristoff dealt with the romance which wasn’t annoying at all and I even loved how poetic the artificial intelligence AIDAN was while causing mayhem on board of the ships even though I usually deeply dislike poetry. „Illuminae“ isn’t just a book, it’s an experience – one that will keep you breathless, leave you speechless and one you definitely shouldn’t miss if you’re only slightly interested in science fiction. Trust me, it’s epic and you definitely won’t regret reading it.
I guess I’ll comment anyway, because I can’t help it. 😛 YAY FOR THIS REVIEW! (I feel like I should still comment in German, but…that’s not happening right now. XD)
I listed Kady and AIDAN as one of my favorite friendships of 2015, even though I started off hating AIDAN, haha. I just loved the sarcasm Kady threw at AIDAN and the misguided self-righteousness AIDAN threw back. 😀 I’m kind of sad that she and Ezra won’t be the MCs in the next book, because I can’t imagine how the next pair will live up to their humor.
P.S. You’re really turning into an American. ;P
WHY AM I TURNING INTO AN AMERICAN? 😀
„I loved the setting, I loved the characters, I loved the narration, I loved the design, I loved the sarcasm, I loved the story, I loved how Kaufman and Kristoff dealt with the romance which wasn’t annoying at all and I even loved how poetic the artificial intelligence AIDAN was“ SO MUCH LOVE. So American. XD
Of course, that’s what America is famous for … 😛
Before I left for study abroad, they actually warned us not to say „love“ or „hate“ because then all the Germans would think we were superficial Americans. XD
Lol, what about „awesome“ because we Germans think you Americans use the word in every sentence? 😛
Only because we’re, like, so totally awesome. 😉
They didn’t warn us about that one, because they assumed we would be speaking German, not English, haha.
Oh, congratulations on your first English review. English isn’t my mother tongue, either, and it was weird writing reviews for a while.
I’m glad you liked this book, I finished it recently and liked it – but I think that all the hype surrounding it actually damaged my experience (my expectations were probably TOO high). I loved the format, though, and the way it just pulls you in and doesn’t let go.
Thank you! Writing in English still feels a bit weird but I’m already happy I made the switch 🙂
I think my enthusiasm for ILLUMINAE also results in the fact that my expectations weren’t that high because I have been very sceptical about the romance and was then quite relieved when it turned out to be not annoying at all and also made me laugh a lot 😀
Thanks for the informative review! I usually appreciate the dossier documentation approach conceptually, but then I’m disappointed to find it disruptive to my actual reading experience (entrance into the world, I suppose, because it seems so aware of itself as a text). Definitely sounds like this wasn’t your experience–do you think even those of us who typically aren’t engaged by this approach will still enjoy the narrative? =)
It’s difficult to say because Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff don’t give a lot of background information in the beginning about the setting so when you talk about „entrance into the world“ it might maybe take you a while to find into the story.
But on the other hand I think that this dossier style is absolutely perfect for this book because it makes it super easy to relate to the characters through the interviews and chats and it’s also cool to see the different points of view. They really put a lot of effort into this concept and there are lots of little details to discover, so if you generally appreciate this concept I think you should definitely give it a try! 😉
Congrats on your first English review! (Just out of curiosity – how long did it take you to write? How much longer than a German review?) Not my kind of book, so not really interested, but I’m sure your obvious enthusiasm for ILLUMINAE will have a lot of YA Sci-Fi readers check this one out.
Haha, it took my more than 3 hours which is at least twice as long as usual but I don’t think it was only because of the language but also because I was having a hard time summarizing the story which was a bit difficult due to the dossier style 😀
I already wrote a few other English reviews and they didn’t take me any longer than the German ones, so I hope that ILLUMINAE was just an exception 😀
Sieht so aus als bräuchtest du jetzt was damit deine Box mit englischen Wörtern arbeiten? 😀
Gibt’s denn zufällig ne Möglichkeit dass sowohl Englisch als auch Deutsch geht und man je nach Sprache der Rezension wählen kann? 😀