Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review

Posted October 21, 2015 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Reviews / 20 Comments

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – ReviewIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Also in this series: Gemina
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on 10/20/15
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 608
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: YA (Though some of the themes and language are geared toward more mature YA)
My rating:
5 Stars

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.

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.


My Take

Reviewer: Mega-Blogger Extraordinaire Nicole Hewitt
Date: 10/21/15 (the day after release)
Timestamp: 06:30 CT

This review is top-secret, CLASSIFIED (but go ahead and read it anyway). Any information in the review that should not be included in a final copy will be indicated with a strikethrough. Any inappropriate language will be blacked out. (In real life, I don’t swear, but to go along with the fun spirit of the book, I figured I’d play along. In my head, as I’m writing this, I’m probably just saying wimpy words like frickin’, but you can pretend they’re whatever you want.)

This book is so Blackout2ing AMAZING!! It’s impossible to describe with mere words, which is why I’m including some pictures. You truly have to see it to truly experience it. And this is one case where I absolutely, positively recommend getting a physical copy of the book, rather than an ebook copy. I had a NetGalley version of the book, but was very worried to see that it was only 200 pages instead of the normal 600 pages, and so I got my hands on a physical ARC (via #BooksforTrade). The whole story is told through documents – files that were sometimes illegally obtained – transcripts of interviews, emails, IMs, schematics. It’s Blackout2ing BRILLIANT! Seriously – you have never read anything like this before!!

What fed my addiction:

  • The format. In case you haven’t figured this out yet, it’s the format that truly makes this book shine. The book is just so incredibly visually appealing. I loved that all of the IMs and chats and everything were written in such a realistic way (misspellings and bad grammar and horrible punctuation included). And, of course, the strikethroughs and blacked out swears just made it that much more fun! Then there were pages like this to visually represent the battles and to set moods: (How can you not love this?!)

Illuminae-Pages Illuminae-Pages2

  • Kady and Ezra. These were the two major players in the story. Kady is a sort of anti-social Blackout2 who doesn’t always come off as very nice, but she’s incredibly intelligent and can hack her way through any tech. These skills put her front and center because she doesn’t take no for an answer or just believe the things the bigwigs tell everyone – she’s searching for the truth, and she has the skills to find it! On the other hand Ezra is pretty much her sweet ex-boyfriend who is used to following the rules and really doesn’t mind that – at least until he starts to realize what’s truly at stake. I loved both of these characters, as different as they were.
  • AIDEN. AIDEN is the AI who runs the ship, and we get part of the story from his perspective because they’re from his files. (Actually, we get more of his thoughts and feelings than any other character’s – we do get Kady’s occasionally through her journal entries). AIDEN was interesting because, even though he was an AI, he had personality – even kind of a warped sense of humor sometimes. His POV was also unique because he was a sort of an unreliable narrator – we find out that AIDEN was damaged in the initial conflict. So, while he thinks his reasoning is better than any human logic could ever be, he might not be so trustworthy. I loved seeing his errors and wondering what was going wrong! He even asks philosophical questions. (Hint, the answer to the following question is mostly, “No. No he is not.”)


  • High stakes. This is the type of book where you never quite know if the characters you’ve come to love are going to make it out alive. The stakes are incredibly high – you’re not really sure if ANYONE will make it out! In fact, Blackout2Blackout2Blackout2Blackout2Blackout2Blackout2Blackout2Blackout2. (No, that wasn’t all swearing. That was just a fun way of saying whatever I wanted without spoiling anything!)

What left me wanting more:

  • Slightly disconnected from the emotional impact. Because the story is told through documents, you rarely get the characters’ internal thoughts and feelings – at least not explicitly. Some crazy things happen in this book, and I was definitely on the edge of my seat and emotionally invested, but this isn’t necessarily the type of book that gives you ALL the feels.

This book is incredibly innovative, and for that alone it deserves heaping praise! I cannot WAIT to see what Kaufman and Kristoff have planned for the sequel! I give this book 5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher (and then by someone on #BooksForTrade) in exchange for an honest review.  No other compensation was given (unless you count the joy I got from reading it) and all opinions are my own.***


About the Authors

Amie KaufmanAmie Kaufman is the co-author of the award-winning Starbound trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World) and The Illuminae Files trilogy (Illuminae). She writes science fiction and fantasy for teens. Amie had the good fortune to be raised just one block from her local library, and took full advantage of that fact growing up. She and her sister spent their childhood summers re-creating their favourite books by camping in the back yard, mapping their neighbourhood, climbing trees, stepping through magical doors and sailing the local seas. Raised in Australia and Ireland, she has kissed the Blarney stone six times, thoroughly cementing her gift of the gab.
As she grew older (but not up), she continued her education, and graduated with honors degrees in history, literature and law, and a master’s degree in conflict resolution. These days she combines writing with work as a mediator, as well as regular travel throughout the US, Europe and Asia. A few of her top travel moments include camping in the Sahara overnight, climbing a mountain in Vietnam, standing on the Great Wall of China and cycling the Loire Valley, but she has a huge list left to cover.

Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and their very quirky rescue dog, Jack. She’s a huge fan of chocolate and naps, has an enormous music collection, and an entire room of her house is devoted to her library. She still sails, and though she climbs fewer trees, she remains partial to investigating the occasional magical door.

Author Links:
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Jay-KristoffJay Kristoff is a tragic nerd, but has spent the last ten years dumping expeez into his Intimidation stat, with the result that nobody is brave enough to say it to his face. He grew up in the second most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.

His first trilogy, THE LOTUS WAR, is set to be published in over a dozen countries. The first installment, STORMDANCER, was critically acclaimed in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, shortlisted for the Aurealis Award, and nominated for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards. The Lotus War novella THE LAST STORMDANCER won the 2014 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Fiction. Jay’s new series, the SciFi thriller ILLUMINAE, which he co-authored with Amie Kaufman, is due for publication by Random House in October 2015. A new fantasy series, THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, commences with book 1, NEVERNIGHT, from St Martins Press/Thomas Dunne Books in 2016. He is as surprised about all this as you are.

Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13380 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.

He does not believe in happy endings.

Author Links:
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20 responses to “Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review

  1. I kind of skimmed your review, Nicole, because I’m going to read Illuminae myself, and I’m always afraid of a tiny thing that will stay in my mind when I finally enter a story…
    I might come back and read it completely once I’ve finished the story myself, though, and I’m very happy you gave it five stars. Now, I can’t wait!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted: Review: A Winter Wedding – Brenda Novak
  2. I think those pictures really helped to give an idea of what the book looks like, how original that there’s so much other stuff included. Not sure if I would enjoy reading a story like that, but it does seem like an original way to tell a story. And that’s weird the e-copy didn’t have the extra materials, sounds like it’s worth getting the physical copy in that case.

    I am usualy not a fna of stories that are told in a different way though, like Shatter Me, I just couldn’t get sued to the writing style. The characetrs do sounds very interesting and well done and that’s aweosme there’s even an AI characters. Great Review!

    Lola recently posted: Review: Ink by Melanie Karsak
  3. AGREED.

    Everything you said is spot on and I felt the same way about how beautiful the pages of the book were and how awesome the characters (especially AIDEN!) were. I didn’t think the story was that disconnected because a lot of the “documents” were chatroom transcripts and journal entries and that kind of shows how people react and talk and deal with their emotions.

    Kritika recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday 69: Book Genie wishes
    • I just read another review today where the reviewer said that the book almost had them in tears in public a few times, so maybe it was just me. I felt very emotionally invested, but for some reason the emotional elements didn’t hit me as hard as they do with some other books – I assumed it was the format that was holding me back – but it could have been a million things (including just the mood I was in at that moment).

  4. Hahahha FABULOUS review! I imagine you saying nice words in place of the blacked out ones 😉 Like, “Kady is a sort of anti-social butterfly…” because seriously, I am not seeing a ton of bad language spewing from you. QUESTION though: Why do you think they blacked stuff out? I have been dying to know this! I am glad you got the physical book too- it makes SO much difference. I had someone BEG me to tell them what was on certain pages because the ebook made it super confusing hahah. This is one of those books you MUST have a physical copy of. I cannot wait for the next one! Glad you loved this too!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: This Week At Midnight (84)
  5. Yet another GLOWING review for this one that has me kicking myself for not having cracked open my copy yet LOL! I remember it being ALL OVER BEA this year and I kept thinking: there’s NO WAY that this book is ever gonna live up to it’s own mad hype. How wrong was I?! Believe me, when the reviews started pouring in I stood corrected haha. I can’t wait to get into this one and see what all the fuss is about! Gorgeous review Nicole^^ glad you enjoyed this one!

    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted: Review: The Lost Hero
  6. EVERYONE has been reading this book and loving it, which is why I want to get to it as soon as I possibly can! I love the sound of this book. I don’t usually go for books not in the traditional format – I will admit that. But I think I would have to make an exception for this one because the format seems fun, it seems like the characters are epic and I love sci-fi as well ^^

    Olivia Roach recently posted: For the Record (Review, Giveaway & SST!)

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