Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published in 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from a friend.

Genre: YA sci-fi.

My rating:

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.


If you’ve been around my blog before, you’ll probably have noticed my dislike for over-hyped books. Or rather, my wariness to read them because I feel that the hype invariably causes my expectations to soar so I am disappointed by the time I read the story. It’s not the author’s fault, nor is it mine – it’s just a combination of a ridiculous amount of publicity and my excitement. 

I have to say that Illuminae is exactly such a book. I think it must have been one of the most hyped-up releases of 2015 and it received fantastic reviews on a number of blogs I read. I wasn’t even going to read it (or I’d have waited for the release of book 2 to see if the general obsession with the story continued), but I got a chance to borrow a copy from a friend and I took it. And… well, I’m not sorry I read it, it just wasn’t a good fit for me.

I went into the story blind, without even reading the synopsis, and all I knew was that the story was supposed to wow me. I liked the innovative formatting – most of the story is told through reports, chat logs, interview transcripts, etc, and even includes spaceship schematics. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi so this was a new experience for me – and let me tell you, I would not do well in space. The thought of being separated from the endless void by a mere metal wall is terrifying. I never wanted to be an astronaut when I was little. 

I did like Kady and Ezra, they were cool kids and I liked that their story was complicated before the action even begins (they’d just broken up when their home planet is destroyed), so there was no danger of insta-love or anything. No love triangles, either, which is refreshing. But I wished I could see into their heads more. I wished for a more personal view of their thoughts and actions – the fact that the story is told through reports and such means we never really know what’s going on with them in the moment, not really. I lacked some sort of personal connection that would have made me root for them more. 

I also didn’t know the book would have a horror-tinged conflict at its heart. I am a total chicken when it comes to horror so I avoid it scrupulously, but since I didn’t know anything about the story before I started reading it, I was in the middle of the carnage before I realized what was happening. Would I have read the book if I knew that this would happen? Honestly? Probably not. I don’t need mental images of these things and it really seemed like a lot (and I mean a lot) of these scenes were there just for the shock factor. Eh.

In any case, I probably won’t be continuing with this series, it just isn’t my cup of tea. I know others liked it because it’s action packed and a fast read and different from other stories, so I’m sure the sequel will be just as well-received by the majority. 


Have you read Illuminae? What did you think?

Do you ever go into books completely blind or do you always read the synopsis first?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • Greg Hill

    I can totally see this. I read it and liked it but I think sometimes we’re almost expected to like a book as hyped as this one is (I should rephrase that, maybe I’m putting pressure on MYSELF to like it) and while I did enjoy it, it was not the greatest thing since sliced bread ya know?

    I liked Kady but the fact she was an uber-hacker – I guess I want protags who are just normal people, not always experts in something. If that makes sense. And while I liked how the tension ratcheted up in the second half, I know what you mean about the horror angle. It suddenly became zombie ship LOL.

    And I always read a synopsis first. I just have to know. :)

    • Yeah, I feel like all the publicity can hurt a book that is actually pretty good – it’s just not AMAZING and SHOW-STOPPING and HEART-BREAKING and whatever they’re advertising.

      Haha and YES, I’d like to see more ordinary characters, too. It’s just so hard to believe every YA protagonist is crazy smart and resourceful. If I think of an average 17-year-old, I see awkward bodies and much confusion about life.

      Ugh I *hate* zombies. I didn’t want to write about that in the review for fear of spoilers but I don’t think anyone reads the comments of other people. Such viruses just creep me out, mostly because of the distinct possibility that they might actually exist in real life (far-fetched, I know, but still). I never watched any zombie movies or shows – except Warm Bodies, which was awesome.

      • Greg Hill

        Oops I didn’t even think of that – spoiler in my comment. :( Yikes, I hope I didn’t ruin it for anyone. Hopefully you’re right and no one read my comment. Sorry! I’m not generally a fan of those either…

        Yes just some normal characters who have to rise up to the occasion, they don’t have to be the best hacker ever at 17 or savior of the world, etc. LOL.

        • Naah, don’t worry, people barely have enough time to read the post, let alone other people’s comments. :)

  • Sorry it didn’t work for you. I enjoyed it, but then I like it when I am surprised with horror elements, even though the story itself is pretty conventional. What I didn’t expect was to be totally sucked in by the visuals. I thought maybe they would be a gimmick, but I thought what they did really complemented the story.

    • Yeah, the visuals were cool, I liked them, too. I just kept thinking about the poor translators who will have to translate all the tidbits and margin notes and whatnot – and the designers who’ll have to recreate everything (though I suspect a foreign publisher gets a template to fill with translations, kind of like filling in a coloring book, you know?). Anyway, yeah, the design was innovative!

      I like surprises when they come in the shape of unicorns and cake (I exaggerate but still). Zombies are SO not my thing. *shudder*

  • Aww I am sorry you didn’t like this one! I honestly thought I would hate it- I go in blind too, and all I knew was “space stuff”. But I got it at BEA (they were handing them out like they were candy) and I took it figuring maybe I’d give it a shot one day. I really did end up liking it, but I know it’s never fun when the hype outshines the book. I think I have been extra wary of hype too lately. I am hit or miss with it- sometimes it works out, like with Illuminae, and sometimes… well, not so much ;)

    • Haha, yeah, I remember reading BEA recaps on various blogs and seeing Illuminae in every book haul. :)

      I’m glad you liked it, a lot of people did, but you know, someone has to be the black sheep. I have a love-hate relationship with hype, too. I am always ridiculously glad when I love a hyped-up book (like with Rowell’s Fangirl).

  • Oh dear. I have this one to read too, and I can also be contrary about hype…

    • I’m curious to read your review. I think that with time (after the initial hype dies down a bit), this will be one of those hit-and-miss books – some people will always rave about it while others will dislike it.

  • I think every single review I’ve read for this book has been positive so it’s interesting to see a different opinion! My expectations for this book are sky-high, but I’ll be more careful going into it now. I’m glad you mentioned the horror aspect because I am SUCH a chicken, so I’ll try to brace myself haha! ;D Thank you for the honest review! <3

    • No, throw yourself in without caution! :) It’s the best way to enjoy a book.
      Ooh, fellow chicken! :) I *HATE* horror, I quit watching horror movies and even thrillers because I get nightmares. And books are even worse, I somehow always end up being more scared of the books. And you’re welcome!

  • I haven’t read Illuminae, but I do want to. I have also heard great things, and I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you. It’s always a disappointing feeling when that happens.

    • Yeah, it’s a pity, but not everyone can like a book, it’s just the way it is. I think it’s good I gave it a try because I would have been too curious about it anyway. I wonder what you’ll make of it! :)

  • I flat out could not stand this book, gorgeous formatting and design aside. I think like you, it’s more the hype than anything that got to me. I was expecting it to be amazing. But it was a mediocre space story – and a pale imitation of Battlestar Galactica and other similar works IMO. I also cannot STAND chat speak and this book was filled with it. GTFO, alll the teens I know spell correctly even on Internet based conversations.

    • Haha did you quit it or did you push through? It looks like you have some very strong feelings about it.
      I honestly can’t say how English-speaking teenagers text because I don’t personally know any but I do read a couple of blogs run by teenagers and they’re mostly very well-articulated people.
      I couldn’t connect with the characters because of those chat logs – something was always missing – I don’t know whether it was the language or the format itself.
      And yeah, I thought the story was unspectacular, too, it’s SO BAD that they publicized it as a novelty. And as I said, a lot of the gore and the horror was there purely to shock and scare unsuspecting people. :)
      Did you watch Battlestar Galactica? The old or the new series? I never watched these old series (Star Trek or Star Gate or BG) but I really love the modern movies (and Star Wars, too).

  • So sorry you didn’t love this one. I agree that I missed a bit of the connection to the characters, but I LOVED the innovative formatting so much that it outshone the issues for me. I can definitely see how it might disturb you if you’re not a fan of the horror-tinged conflict, though!

    • Yeah, the formatting was really unique! But it also presented a problem, as I said, because I never really got to see the characters in action, in the moment.
      And yeah, zombie horror is definitely not my thing! :D

  • Thanks for the warning, I didn’t realize this was horror. Knowing that, it won’t be moving up my TBR.

    • I… well… it’s not horror in the strictest sense of the world. It’s difficult to explain without spoiling you for the plot but I’m not a fan of gore if it has no other purpose than to shock and repel. So I didn’t particularly enjoy this part of the story. Being trapped on a broken-down spaceship in the middle of deep space is also not something I’d enjoy experiencing, so this was REALLY not the book for me. :) But if you’re fine with those, give it a try – you’ve probably seen all the glowing reviews around the blogosphere, so it clearly made a great impression on others!