Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

illuminae -amie kaufamn and jay kristoffThis 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.

5 Drink Me Potions

Kady Grant: He said, “You picked a hell of a day to dump me, Kades.”

I don’t lightly give 5 star ratings, but Illuminae has swept my breath away. It is literally a piece of art, with the unique layout of pages from hacked memos to re-routed secret IMs to black and white pictures of space. But it’s not just an ordinary piece of art. It’s a masterpiece, crafted in such a creative manner like nothing else I’ve ever read before.

It starts off with a storyline that you think you’ve heard before. Girl dumps boy for some reason that is hinted but not revealed yet. Okay, sounds familiar enough. But all hell breaks loose literally hours after, with fire falling from the skies as a rival company drops out of nowhere to attack their tiny planet on the edge of the known universe.

Sweet. So our characters, Kady and Ezra, rush up into spacecrafts fleeing from the enemy. Okay, it still sounds familiar enough. Life on a spaceship hurtling through the universe? Might have seen something like that before.

But it’s WAY bigger than that. Action is ratcheted high within the first several pages. You’re flipping through the pages of documents and transcripted interviews trying to figure out what the heck went down. And as things start making sense, like who attacked them and why this company would do such a thing, there are still so many uncertainties open.

Ezra and Kady get separated on 2 different ships so our two exes ignore each other for a while. Of course, that doesn’t last. As things get worse as they journey for help in the distant universe, Kady with her hacker skills turns to Ezra as he’s the last person in the world she has left. Their IMs were some of my very favourite part of Illuminae. For most of the story, they’re apart and so we really get to see how they interact with other people around them beyond each other. Their personalities become real and tangible. Not just some hero or girl-who-broke-his-heart or however they are with each other. They feel like REAL teenagers that you and I may have bumped into or have known.

But with each other? It’s priceless. It’s clear their chemistry hasn’t died down with the months and distance between them. The love there isn’t just driven by desperation or fear or craving for familiarity in a world that has turned upside down. Amidst all the craziness (and oh boy, is there craziness!), this tale is still a beautiful love story of two people who would do anything for each other.


Still there is no time for sorrow. She knows he is in here somewhere, the one she risked everything for.
The only one she has left. The one she loves true.


And goodness. Ezra Mason is one funny and romantic dude.


Mason, E, LT 2nd:Damn, I still remember first day in her class. You were checking me out HARD, Grant.
ByteMe: U. R. DELUSIONAL. u kept asking me stupid questions about hydrogen bonding
Mason, E, LT 2nd: confession: hydrogen was not the kind of bonding on my mind

While Kady may not the epitome of a damsel in distress or one who requires romancing like that, she’s also cool with her hacker abilities, pink hair and sarcastic humour.


Mason, E, LT 2nd: You know, you’ve REALLY gotta think of a better pet name for me than “idiot.”
Mason, E, LT 2nd: What about “sweetiepuff”
Mason, E, LT 2nd: “sugarpants”?
ByteMe: I will hack the Alexander comms system and let them know you prefer to be known as Cuddlepie immediately, my love


Oh, and did you know, they sensor every swear word in there? It was hilarious trying to fill in the dark, crossed out sections whenever they popped up.

But besides the amazing romance, it didn’t take a single thing away from the action-packed plot that filled up the rest of Illuminae. A virus was mutating rapidly on board and it literally made people into zombies who attacked anything that moved. And very creepily saying over and over again, “Don’t look at me. DON’TLOOKATME.”


Mason, E, LT 2nd: when we were crawling through the vents, i saw this little girl roaming the corridor below us. dragging something wet along the floor behind her
Mason, E, LT 2nd: at first i thought it was a teddybear or something. and then i realize its a heart.
Mason, E, LT 2nd: like, she’s dragging a *censored*ing human heart
Mason, E, LT 2nd: and all of a sudden she looks up at the vent. like, RIGHT AT ME. and she just starts screaming at the top of her lungs
Mason, E, LT 2nd: don’t look at me
Mason, E, LT 2nd: don’t look at me

Besides a deadly viral outbreak that turns you into a bloodthirsty monster, the AI on board the battlecarrier ship has become an enemy of sorts. It was fascinating ’cause I wanted to hate AIDAN (the AI) really badly, yet there was also something that kept me from feeling exactly that towards him–it?–although it would’ve been justified for his lying, psychopathic, murderous actions. It just goes to show how well crafted Kauman and Kristoff’s writing was to make a simple villain into a complex character that’s hard to hate and maybe even somewhat like. An AI that felt maybe more than any regular computer machine should. Who did what it thought was best for everyone, what it was programmed to do.


They are beyond me.
These humans.
With their brief lives and their tiny dreams and their hopes that seem fragile as glass.
Until you see them by starlight, that is.
“I am glad that you are with me…”


Besides Kady and Ezra, the story is also filled with many secondary characters that come and go. Each impact the story in different ways, but they all show that ordinary people can be heroes by standing up for what they believe in and making the ultimate sacrifice. Even Kady and Ezra are just normal teenagers uprooted from a life with their biggest problem being their breakup. They aren’t heroes. They have no special powers. They are regular people with hard circumstances that made them extraordinary.

There’s so much more that I can say about Illuminae, but ultimately, I will settle on the fact that it has everything that you can ever ask for and more. And as Marie Lu said in her blurb on the front cover, this is “a mindscape that you’ll never want to leave”. You better read it. And read it in hardcover form. It’s one piece of art that will keep you thinking long into the nights after you’ve finished.

Overall Recommendation:
There is just so much to say about Illuminae. Written in the most creative manner ever, in hacked files, memos, IMs, surveillance footage and diagrams of ships, it’s a visual story that will be really hard to forget. Equally romance heavy between our protagonists Kady and Ezra, and action-packed with a viral outbreak zombifying people, an enemy ship chasing them through the universe, and a possibly insane AI with “good” intentions that cost many human lives. The chemistry between the characters is amazing and real and true. The other characters coming through the story show a glimpse of true fear and the gritty reality of facing death. This is the story of everyday people becoming heroes in their own way by their simple actions. I recommend this for everyone. Honestly. You need to go pick up a hardcopy version of Illuminae now. What are you still sitting there reading this for? GO.

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