Book #17: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and 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.

BRIEFING NOTE: 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 have heard a lot of good things about this book and, to be honest, I knew nothing. All anyone would tell me was that it “was good” was “a space opera” and there was “a batshit crazy A.I.” Other comments that followed was: “Omg you have to read this” and “You don’t like the cover?!”

The last one is correct. I don’t like the cover. It does nothing for me in the spectrum of grabbing my attention. I’m not sure what kind of cover would be for this book, but I didn’t care for the cover. I did open said cover though and . . . again, I wasn’t grabbed.

There’s a reason for that. I’m not big on epistolary styled books. Epistolary, for those who don’t know, is a book styled like a compendium of letters, memos, or other forms of documentation that comprised together makes a cohesive work. A good example would be Bram Stoker’s Dracula or really, many other books from the turn of the century. Though this is the time period I love, I am not in love with this style of literature.

I think it’s because it’s hard for me to get into the characters. And maybe, it’s because they read like a nonfiction and not a fiction. Nonfiction is difficult for me. Anyways, because of this, I was very hesitant to read Illuminae.

However, when you have the audio on hand . . . oh, dear God! It’s amazing. No joke. It really is. The book is indeed a space opera, has a batshit crazy A.I. (whom I really love, by the way), and a virus that reminds me of 28 Days Later meets PTSD. Yep, we’ve got angry bloodthirsty mobs, space travel, a war, and a HAL like character.

What makes the audio even better is that it has a full cast reading it and there’s background noise. You are in the spaceships. You are with Kady and Ezra. There’s one part in the audio where they are reading a partial list of the dead. One voice reads and as it fades, another takes its place. This goes on for a few minutes. There is no music with it. Just the fading voices listing people’s names.

It’s heartbreaking.

As for the characters . . . this is a problem with epistolary, in my opinion, you don’t get a full grasp of the characters. Even though Kady Grant is the main character and heroine, I didn’t really get her. Sure, she’s badass and stubborn and probably should take a few chill pills, but she didn’t feel alive. Not in the way Ezra or the background characters did. That said, they did help uplift her to a point that I did root for her.

What you see in epistolary is only a glimpse into their lives, a segment of the grander scheme. It can dampen a reader’s connection to the characters. Ezra was kind of the same, to be honest, he’s goofy and funny, but aside from that . . . who is he?

In a way, this helps the reader become the characters themselves. In a way, it dampens the story. I don’t know how I would have felt about the book if I had the print version in my hands, but I do know the audio only strengthened the characters. I did feel something for Kady. I did feel something for Ezra. Hell, I felt something for AIDAN (again, I love the batshit A.I.).

Do I recommend this book? Yes. Yes. YES. Am I reading the sequel? Just waiting for it to be in my library. I currently have the only hold, it just needs to move from one place to the other. Would I read the third and final book? I think so.

What more, I am also going to buy the print copy. It’s aesthetically pleasing in the pages. That is unless someone can find me prints of just the ships. Because the Hypatia is gorgeous.

Final rating: 5/5 I’d totally read this book again. Gotta buy it in audio!

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