This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
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.
BOOK REVIEW: ILLUMINAE BY AMIE KAUFMAN & JAY KRISTOFF
4/ 5Oleh The Honest Bookclub