Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae  by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff cover
I am frequently underestimated. I think it’s because I’m short.
— Illuminae

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series:Illuminae #1
Published: October 20th 2015
Rating: SO COOL

Sci-fi is not my jam.  At all. I have liked a couple of sci-fi books over the years, but in general, it is a genre that I do not go out of my way to read.  I am glad that I made an exception for this book.

This is a very cool book.  Illuniae is written in the form of a dossier, so there are chat logs, pictures, analysis of videos, and the like.  You would think that it would get confusing or that it would be difficult to follow the narrative, but I had no difficulties with that. It is high-concept, so if that bothers you, you might want to stay away.

I liked the characters.  Kady and Ezra were both engaging enough for me to feel affection for but also an accurate representation of teenagers however exceptional their talents.  I was also enamored of AIDAN the free thinking computer.  He reminds me a bit of Data on Star Trek: TNG.  He isn't human but has to interact with them and so finds them incomprehensible and fascinating at the same time.  He is also crazy-pants, but I forgive him.  It isn't his fault that he has difficulty with fixation and rigidity of thinking.  He is only a machine after all.  AIDAN's character development is one of the things that I am most looking forward to in the next book.

Personally, I found the book hysterical.  The level of banter and sassiness is high in this book.  Ezra spacewalks at one point.  We see it from the POV  of the surveillance video analyst.  If it had been told from Ezra perspective, it would have been a grim and intense scene.  Told from the other perspective the scene was laugh-out-loud funny.  My mental image of the 6'5'' main character literally tiptoeing away from the scene of his crime is priceless.

The major weakness of Illuminae was the fact that although it is supposed to take place 500 years in the future, the characters all act EXACTLY as they would if the story somehow took place today.  Everything is the same with the exception that they are on a cool spaceship and there is a cool free thinking computer.  That has lost its damn mind.  I didn't mind it once I had figured it out.  The things that made me laugh the most were the things that were the most anachronistic.  However, it does go to show that the world building isn't overly sophisticated. This isn't hard science fiction. But honestly, if I were looking for that kind of scientific attention I probably wouldn't be looking for it in YA. I read it more as a metaphor and didn't think about the reality of the science too hard.  Just be aware that there is a certain suspense of disbelief required.  

I saw Jay Kristoff say something on twitter about loving the audiobook of Illuminae and that it was cheap that day.  I am an audiobook snob, and this may just have become my favorite audiobook OF ALL TIME.  It had a full cast, sound effects, music.  It was almost like listening to an old-timey radio show. So much fun.  I listened to it too and from work in the morning, and I struggled to keep myself both from laughing out loud and sobbing in public. I will now IMMEDIATELY read/listen to (whichever) the next book, Gemina.

From Goodreads:

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.