Wednesday, 6 January 2016

BOOK REVIEW: ILLUMINAE BY AMIE KAUFMAN & JAY KRISTOFF




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.





I loved this book upside-down.
I loved this book the right way up.
I loved this book through pictures.
I loved this book in words.
I loved this book dressed up in its pretty dust jacket.
I loved it just as much without one.
I loved this book on my Kindle.
I loved this book as an audiobook.

Pick a format, pick a facet, pick a scene - I loved this book. (A really, truly, unhealthy amount - the amount where you hold it to your chest and squeeze in public places, and never even notice if you get The Looks.)

·         Because here is what you were doubtless told about Illuminae: IT LOOKS AMAZING!


And yes. Yes it does. This book is a stunner in every format. It is perhaps the most painstakingly designed book I have ever seen in my life. (I've never seen the old handwritten ones, much as I love calligraphy - so this takes the cake. Every cake. Pick a cake. It has earned them all.) Told through graphics, schematics, dossiers, blueprints, interviews, chat logs, and various other transcripts - Illuminae spared no expense when it came to design. It is a thing of beauty. Not all the pictures in the world could convey the experience of, well, experiencing it. If all you know of Illuminae is that it's a wonder of originality and design and novelty and art - you know enough. But there's more. (Boy, is there ever more!)

There are things you aren't told about Illuminae a lot. And you really ought to be. So I am dashing into the nearest phonebooth, donning my superhero suit, and relaying the things you were never told about this book, but you really should have been. Because while the designer should be given an award, a medal, and their own country to run (in no particular order), there is also... everything.


·         It is written beautifully. If you're the sort of reader who is sold on lyrical prose, beautiful sentences, rhythm and style - it's all there. It seems almost impossible to tell a story in pictures, interviews, and documents and make it actually sing - but sing it did. (It has an amazing voice.) Let it never be said that the writer is limited by the genre/format/character. I intend to throw this book at the next person who tries to argue this to excuse sloppy writing. (And it's a sizable beast - it can do some serious damage on impact.)

·         Despite being a sizable beast, Illuminae is dynamic and interactive and doesn't give you a moment's reprieve. In this intergalactic spaceship chase, not only is the action consistent (side effects include heartburn and anxiety), but the pacing is a masterful thing of wonders. Throughout a good chunk of this book, there are countdowns - countdowns to impact, countdowns to a battle, countdowns to TID (total internal destruction). It has it all, and it makes for 600 pages of feverish cries for help from the reader. Heart palpitations are likely. Boredom is not.

·         Characterization hurts. Here's what Illuminae also doesn't do: choose between the plot and the characters. In a heavily plot-driven story, the characters are its crowning glory. I don't think my love would run nearly as deep had I not fallen in love with just about everyone in turn. A tech-savvy hacker with a penchant for dry humor and snooping. Her straight-laced ex boyfriend with anger and sass in equal measures. A hacker sensei who colors way outside the lines. A murderous supercomputer with a god-complex. And everyone else who comes along.


But maybe it has all my favorite things. Maybe this is a favorite borne of subjectivity and bias. Because it does - Illuminae is all my personal favorites combined. Morally dubious anti-hero? Check. The world's most audacious plot twist(s)? Check. Sass? Check. Interactive bonus material to supplement the story? Check. Every single hook of mine, this book has covered. And I can't be objective.

But the bottom line is this: Illuminae is everyone's favorite things in one single book. Ultimately, that's the benefit of this format. It's heavy on the action in graphics. It takes breaks from the action in blueprints. It's descriptive in video transcripts. It's straight-to-the-point in chat logs. It's character-driven in interviews. It's plot-driven in inter-ship comms. You name your hook - Illuminae has your hook.

And I couldn't possibly recommend it more.




Talk to me, pumpkins! Have you read Illuminae? (And, if so, do you share my enthusiasm?) Or is it still dwarfing your other, less-beastly books in your TBR pile? What are other uniquely-formatted books which you've enjoyed in the past? Let me know via comments below, or find us on social media, where we mortgage our souls for good books and plot world domination through subliminal messages.


10 comments:

  1. You had me completely sold at morally dubious anti hero Lexie. THOSE ARE MY FAVORITE!!! I've been hesitating on this one because of the format to be honest, it's so crazy with the pictures and everything (absolutely gorgeous though) that I thought it might be hard for me to settle in. Everyone has loved this though, so I need to suck it up and give it a try!!! I hope I love it as much as you did:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THOSE ARE MY FAVORITE, TOO, Jenny! I loved this book from page 1, but I LOVED IT from anti-hero-introduction-onward. (His narrative is very poetic, too, when it isn't deliberating murder. And occasionally when it is, too.) <3

      For what it's worth, I've only JUST begun to tiptoe into sci-fi last year, and I've read very few books of this format. I went into it expecting to love, y'know, the FORMAT. The prettiness. But I loved the CONTENT so, so, so, so much, too. I can't decide if I can recommend it objectively or subjectively, but ANTI-HEROES! PLOT TWISTS! SASS! HUMOR! PACING! ACTION! HYSTERIA! <3

      I hope you love it as much as I did, too. And that's the best bookish wish I could wish upon you.

      - Lexie

      Delete
  2. I SHARE YOUR ENTHUSIASM. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I WANT TO EAT IT I LOVE IT SO. Actually, I heard the audiobook was really incredibly done? So I'm gonna read (listen?) to that before Gemina comes out as a refresher and because I'm so darn curious. But AFJDASLKD I LOVED THE FORMATTING SO SO MUCH. It took me like 100-pages to get into the flow? The sci-fi techy stuff drowned me. *dies* But AIDAN was amazing and seriously I loved Kady and that bit about Ezra (YOU KNOW WHERE I MEAN) I swear my heart fell out and I was just howling all over the page.
    THIS BOOK.
    GOOD.
    GOOD BOOK.
    I LIKE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heard the same thing! I usually go listen to a sample on Audible before making an audiobook purchase (because, HELLO, INVESTMENT), but in this case I think I might have seen people PASS OUT FROM THE SHEER AWESOMENESS OF THE AUDIOBOOK. So it's unnecessary. I'm SO curious! And with Gemina coming up, I mean, we're totally justified in getting the audiobook, too. Right? RIGHT?

      I KNOW WHERE YOU MEAN! A book hasn't made me FLAIL ABOUT THE SAME CHARACTER'S FATE TWICE since, well, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. MY GOODNESS. I looooved Kady and I loooooved Ezra, AND I LOVED AIDAN TO-THE-NTH POWER AND MY ANTI-HERO-LOVING HEART JUST WANTS A "AM I NOT MERCIFUL" TATTOO. WHERE DO I FIND SOMEONE TO TATTOO MY HEART? CHANCES ARE IT'S BLACK, SO WE'LL NEED WHITE INK. Ahhhhh. <3

      I LIKE TOO.
      GOOD.
      GOOD BOOK.
      WOW.

      - Lexie

      Delete
  3. As you know, I'm clearly a child and therefore pictures will win my attention every time. Actually I really need it in hardcover so I can make the excuse to read it again (I need to catch up before Gemina...obviously). But see??? We Aussies can occasionally create good stuff ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your argument about all books wanting to be picture books deep down (loose, loose interpretation) came JUST as I finished Illuminae, and - really - I couldn't agree more if I tried. The format SOLD this book, and then the writing came along to MOVE IT TO THE TOP OF THE-PILE-OF-AWESOME. (Also, my hardcover approves of your future hardcover and recommends itself wholeheartedly.) Obviously we'll all need a pre-Gemina refresher. And obviously that's reason enough to get a few more editions...

      ... obviously. O:)

      - Lexie

      Delete
  4. YES!!! I just finished this and absolutely loved it. I haven#t even got my review written up yet, mostly because it will just be me gushing FAR TOO MUCH!!! It was soooo good. I loved the wonderfully unique style of this one. I am desperate for the second book now. I NEED IT!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a SERIOUS favorite-review problem! When a book BLOWS MY MIND, I just shirk my review-duties for so long, people forget I'm even supposed to do it. (Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Dreams of Gods and Monsters. A Darker Shade of Magic. Et cetera.) I UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY! Had my friends not told me to convince them via my review, I would have avoided it. Because HOW DOES ONE DO JUSTICE TO THIS BEAUTY? NO HOW, THAT'S HOW! (Which makes sense exactly not at all, but y'know. I'm running with it.)

      GEMINA IS ENTIRELY TOO FAR AWAY! I intend to look into which deity might accept a Faustian deal in exchange for an ARC. I'll keep you abreast of my research.

      - Lexie

      Delete
  5. “Am I not merciful?”

    YES. I completely agree with everything you’ve said here. This was such an amazing book. Kady was an amazing and fierce lead, Ezra was a hilarious love interest, and the twists and turns at the end were just pheonominal. So glad you felt the same way! ♥ Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! xD

    ReplyDelete
  6. Seriously, this book is just pure genius. I think you nailed it when you said it has something for everyone, because it DOES- no matter what your preferred style or genre is, this a book for you. I was skeptical, honestly. So much promo, such extravagant styling... but I was WRONG. It's worth every penny they put into it and then some. The authors... I just don't understand how they orchestrated this piece of magic. Like I want to sit down with them for hours and discuss HOW the hell they made this happen and still had time to like, eat and sleep and stuff.

    And I can't believe that it translated so well to audio and ebook! I was SURE that this would be a "read the physical copy" sort of book, just because of all the loveliness! So I am extra impressed, basically. OH and I LOOOOOVE your pictures! So, so creative! Fabulous review! Can't wait for Gemina :D

    ReplyDelete