2016 POPSUGAR Challenge · Book Review

Book Review: Illuminae



I like to try books that employ different techniques to tell a story. When a story is told through diary entries, completely in poetry, or any other style besides traditional first or third person, it immediately pulls me in. This is what drew me to Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It tells the story of Kady and Ezra, a teenage couple who broke up the morning their home, the Kerenza colony, was attacked in 2575. They are now physically separated on two spacecrafts.

Kady, a brilliant coder, is on the science vessel Hypatia while Ezra is on the battle carrier Alexander. Other Kerenza survivors are on the Copernicus, a freighter. The Lincoln, one of the spacecrafts owned by BeiTech (the company that might be responsible for the Kerenza incident), pursues the three spacecrafts. Kady and Ezra investigate what happened to their home and sort through their breakup while the Alexander’s Artificial Intelligence system, AIDAN, is having a drama queen moment, and an outbreak that threatens to put everyone in danger strikes the Copernicus. A compilation of documents tells the story. The Illuminae Group sends the documents to an Executive Director with the intent to expose what happened in the aftermath of the Kerenza incident. Documents include Unipedia articles (a futuristic version of Wikipedia), interview transcripts, e-mails, instant messages, diagrams and drawings, footage surveillance summaries, memos, assessments, eyewitness accounts, police records, lists, diary entries, transmissions, reports, and AIDAN’s logs.

My Thoughts

I’m realizing more and more that spacecraft-centered sci-fi is not my favorite genre. All the tech-talk and wandering about the same ship for hours on end combine to bore me to death, and that’s what most of this book was. I loved that Kady was a strong, resilient, intelligent, technology-savvy female protagonist because Lord knows we need more of that. She’s a coding whiz and regularly outsmarts almost everyone in the book. I liked the concept of using documents-as-evidence to tell the story. The cover was pretty. Those are the only positive things I have to say about Illuminae.

It’s not that the book was horrible; I don’t even think it was a bad book. I hyped the book up in my mind to such an extreme that I expected a lot more than I received. My biggest issue was the tone of Kady’s and Ezra’s communications. Kady’s sarcastic and Ezra is silly and that’s fine for characterization, but there were times when they could have toned it down a bit. I mean, if I was infiltrating a spacecraft filled with not-quite-zombies to rescue someone, I might dial down my sarcasm and use of emoticons. If my hometown was recently destroyed, I was separated from my newly ex’d-significant other and had no idea if he/she was alive, and I’m being interviewed about what I witnessed, I might not keep bringing up petty details of the breakup and trying to make dry remarks about the destruction. It came off as cold and emotionless and made it difficult for me to like the characters, especially Kady. I’m a sarcastic person, to the point where my mom thinks I’m an asshole most of the time and even I thought Kady was laying it on a bit thick.

The romance didn’t do it for me either. At the beginning of the book we know Kady and Ezra have broken up because Ezra refused to discuss ~*something*~ with Kady. We eventually find out what it was and it all seems like the secrecy over their argument was for nothing (until you get to the very end of the book). The exes eventually realize they still love each other over the course of emoticon-and-sarcasm-and-ASCII laden e-mails and IMs. It bored me. Kady’s ability to hack into the ship’s systems allows her seven-minute chats with Ezra, and they waste a lot of time with superfluous crap. Little jabs back and forth, ellipses, “njrkebfek.” If I knew I had seven minutes to talk with the only person I have left in the universe, I wouldn’t be wasting it like that. They treated their dire situation so casually I had a difficult time believing they were ever in any danger.

The video surveillance summaries were tiresome as well. Personnel described what they saw happening on video footage, usually Kady breaking into something. They were dull. I didn’t care. I kept thinking, “I can’t wait until this book is over.” I much preferred the logs from AIDAN, the artificial intelligence system on the Alexander. AIDAN, being a machine, goes for logic. It was interesting to see how its line of thinking gradually changes.

The outbreak-proto-zombie storyline? It seems like the authors kept piling on storylines: Kady and Ezra’s love story; Kady’s concern got her parents’ fates; Ezra becoming a pilot and forging friendships; AIDAN’s drama; disease outbreak; ships breaking down; transferring refugees; being stalked by an enemy ship; and trying to find out who’s behind the Kerenza incident. If your head is spinning already, just try to care about these plots while reading the book. It was impossible for me. It was as if a little kid went to a frozen yogurt place for the first time, couldn’t decide if he or she wanted to go with chocolatey or fruity, and filled up the cup with every flavor and every topping. I wish they had stuck with uncovering why Kerenza was attacked (I don’t think we ever got an answer for that and if we did, I missed it as I feverishly tried to finish this book). Seven-eighths of the book was a long, boring slog and all the action happened in the final eighth of the book.

The end of the book sets things up for the next installment of the series but I honestly don’t care what happens next. Almost everything wrapped up in this book except for the exposure of the perpetrators of the Kerenza attack. I guess that’s what the next book is going to focus on. It was painful getting through this volume; I’m not coming back for the next.

Rating: 2 out of 5 cheesy emoticons sent to your b/f as everyone’s dying around you

2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Category: A Science Fiction Novel


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