ARC Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminaeTitle: Illuminae

Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Source: Random House Canada (A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.)

Check this book out on Goodreads.

Buy this book at: Chapters | Book Depository

4 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. (Source: Goodreads)

The fate of thousands of lives rests in the hands of one girl, her ex-boyfriends, and the AI that seems to be trying to kill them all off. There’s no way to really sum this story up without giving way to much away. There’s a war, a plague, questionable AI, romance, horror, humor, and a whole lot of interesting writing and formatting ideas. All of this is wrapped in a 600 page package that ranges from draggy to captivatingly action packed.

I really wanted to hate this book. To me this whole thing sounds and looks clunky, it sounds like it’s trying to get too much into one overly long book. The idea of reading through all the documents did not appeal to me in any way at all, I didn’t think that the found document style seemed clever or worthwhile. And for the first third of this book I was right. Ther documents were boring, the story was bland, there was no connection to the characters at all. And then something interesting happened – they made me start to care. The stakes got higher, the characters suddenly developed personalities worth paying attention to, the scifi and horror stepped up its game. Suddenly this was a book I could not put down, it was a book I wanted to tell people about.

As I said there are some major issues with the first third of this book. The story opens with mostly a lot of dragging descriptions of the attack on Kerenza. This is largely filled with angst nonsense from Kady and Ezra wanting to be together but also not. It feels very typical of a teen novel and didn’t interest or excite me. The documents were hard to get into the habit of reading and just felt very dull to me. I didn’t think Kady or Ezra’s voices really came through with any measure of clarity, depth, or consistency. To me the first third of this book doesn’t fit in my mind with the rest of the book because the rest of the book doesn’t have these kinds of issues.

Kady, Ezra, and the AI, AIDAN, become very strong, clear, interesting voices in the later parts of the book. Where I had had issues caring about them in the earlier portions of the book, I couldn’t stop myself from caring about them suddenly. I struggled my way through the conclusion of the novel worried out of my mind that Kady and Ezra, and even AIDAN, would not survive to see the next novel. I fell in love with all of them, their characters were so well developed – save Ezra who remained kind of dull and uninteresting. AIDAN and Kady’s relationship and banter especially led the later parts of the novel and really developed and strong base for the action.

The action. Oh, that action. I was not expecting such graphic and gory action, but it was brilliantly done. I was horrified by the plague and what became of those who got it. I think the descriptions of that stuff were probably some of the strongest writing in the book. I think it was incredibly  strong scifi and horror writing throughout the plague sections of the book. It had just the right level of gore and just the right level or grounded realistic sounding science to really keep things moving.

This found document format is a little hard to get into the groove of. I think it worked astoundingly well by the end of the book, but I do think it’s a tricking thing to get to work, and as you know the first section of the book didn’t work. I think there was some trouble where things became a little difficult to read because of formatting choices within the found document system. This was a little frustrating but not the end of the world.

There is one spoilery thing I kind of want to talk about so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to see this!! I think it would have been a brave and interesting choice to not save Kady and Ezra. I think it would have been much more interesting to see the story shifting to focus more on someone like Winnifred as she tried to preserve the story and show people what really happened. I do think the choice they made was a good one, but I just would have found this other option way more daring and think it really would have worked well.

There is one other issue I have with the book – it was even an issue with the ARC – the packaging. It is a plastic dust jacket and it’s awful and sits poorly and I hate how it looks.

Overall I would really recommend this book. I think there are definitely issues but that the book really strengthens throughout the read and the series will likely improve with time.

Ramble on,

Have you read IlluminaeLet me know your thoughts in the comments!
Check out Amie Kaufman at her website, Goodreads, and Twitter.
Check out Jay Kristoff at his website, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Connect with me on Goodreads, BlogLovin, and Twitter.

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