Thursday, June 30, 2016

Triple Review: Illuminae - Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 
Series: The Illuminae Files, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, Action
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the ARC I received at BEA!

Last year at BEA, I got one of those gorgeous Illuminae ARCs they were giving out but never got around to reading it. Going into Illuminae, I knew very little about it. I knew that it was written as a dossier, that it was supposedly really good, and that it was MASSIVE. After reading Illuminae, I am so happy that I did because it was absolutely incredible!

Illuminae follows Kady Grant and Ezra Mason the lives they know are torn apart. Their home has been attacked, there's something strange going on, and a heavily armed ship is coming to kill them. To say the stakes are high would be an understatement. 

The dossier style of Illuminae made the book go by a lot faster than I anticipated based on looking at it. With the plot broken up into these smaller documents, it made the "just one more chapter" complex even greater with "just one more file," and I just could not stop reading - I ended up finishing this book in a little over 24 hours. When going into this book, I think it's definitely necessary to give it a good, solid chunk of straight reading to get into the way the story is told and the plot, but once I was hooked, I couldn't stop.

Speaking of the style of Illuminae, I've heard that the audiobook narration is really great and I'm sure the ebook is fine as well; however, I think the visual element of this book is absolutely wonderful. From the layout to the different artwork, I don't think my reading experience would have been the same without the full experience of reading the physical book (which is not something I would usually say since I generally prefer to read ebooks).

Getting back to the book itself, I absolutely loved the characters. Kady is so cool, and Ezra is so sweet. I also really enjoyed a lot of the supporting characters, including Byron and Syra. I also really enjoyed AIDAN, who becomes a huge part of this book as it goes on (and it's kind of insane and will blow your mind like BOOM).

All in all, I have no complaints about Illuminae. I absolutely LOVED it, and I'm so happy that I was able to get an ARC of Gemina at BEA this year, although the wait for book three is going to be agonizingly long. Illuminae is an incredible science fiction story filled with humor, romance, humor, action, and did I mention it's funny? Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff absolutely nailed it with balancing all the elements in this story, and it's definitely a must read!

- Kiersten

Noor's Review of Illuminae
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Never have I seen such poetry in a dossier (except maybe in the word dossier, which happens to be my favorite word, but that's not what I meant).

When I picked up Illuminae at BEA 2015 I was really intimidated. It's a huge book and I'm not necessarily opposed to huge books but it was a huge ~sci-fi dossier book~ and I was really not sure what to expect, especially since I often find many science fiction books a bit much (wondering if taking a Science Fiction class next semester will make me hate the genre completely or appreciate it more...we shall see).

Anyway, like Kiersten mentioned in her review, the dossier format made the book a much faster read than I assumed it would be, and also had a nice rhythm of longer, more textual documents vs short ones you could flip through quickly. It made the pacing very unique because there would be parts where it was mostly instant messages and emails back and forth from characters and you were just getting info, figuring out what was going on, nothing too heart-racing, but then something big would happen and there would be short bursts of pages with like small sentence fragments on them and it really contributed to the sense of either urgency or safety.

Also, keeping with the discussion of the length, many longer books tend to slowly pace themselves because there's a lot of space for things to happen, and sometimes this can be a little boring, but I didn't think Illuminae was slowly paced at all. I agree with Kiersten in that I think you have to power through a chunk of it all at once in order to really get into the world and find yourself enraptured by the story. I actually tried to read this months ago but I was busy with life things so I would read one file and then hours later read another and then a day later read three more and I didn't get into it so I decided to just read it later. This time though, I read it in huge chunks (I'm pretty sure I read half in one sitting and half in another) and I felt like the book flew by. Every scene either someone was attacking or someone was learning secret ship information or someone was dying. It was a heart-racing book, truly.

I really loved all of the characterization and how even though the book wasn't traditionally written, you still learn so much about the people on the ships. Kady had the most focus and I thought her attitude was brilliant. She was the right amount of ~I'm gonna do what I want and not comply with your rules because screw that~ without becoming a shallow has-no-flaws Badass Girl Who Saves the World Despite Having No Talents. Kady is a total genius, but we know she can learn more because Byron (another computer hacker on board, like Kady) treats her like his protege. She's tough and sarcastic but also frazzled and vulnerable. She's a great character who I can't wait to explore in Gemina.

And on the flip side of Kady's antisocial computer-genius pink-haired glory is her ex, Ezra. Ezra was the sweetest, drawing hearts and roses through text for Kady via email, and teasing (and getting teased by) his fellow pilots, and just being so good-hearted and funny. The most interesting character, though, had to be AIDAN, the artificial intelligence running things on one of the ships. I know it's weird to treat an AI like a character, but we delved so much into AIDAN, and those parts were my favorite to read. I wanna go back and reread it just to experience the AIDAN parts again.

So the characters are great, the story is exciting, and one last thing: the writing was so wonderful. While I thought the book would probably be enjoyable because so many people were raving about it, I didn't expect eloquence from a dossier. I figured the book was good because of the content, not as much the way the content was relayed. However, there are documents where characters write things like incident reports and surveillance summaries and even journal entries, and some of the internal monologue is so gorgeously written it makes me wanna cry. Also, everything involving AIDAN was so spectacularly written I had to slow down and savor it. One of my favorite quotes in the book is actually from an IM conversation, so it's not even like only the more narrative-style documents are well-written: "You have me. Until every last star in the galaxy dies. You have me."

Anyway, as you can see, I thought the book was absolutely phenomenal and I'm still in my mourning period (I believe it's been two weeks) so hopefully I stop mourning sometime before Gemina comes out so I can experience the sequel in its glory.

- Noor

Amrutha's Review of Illuminae
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow guys, I've had this book sitting in my house since BEA LAST YEAR but I only read it this week. I don't even need to tell you guys how much I regret that choice because Illuminae is one of the books of the year. Decade. Whatever. The fact that this is a series with action and romance and everything means it has a really good shot at being famous world wide and I'm honestly really excited for when that happens, because Illuminae is the real deal. When they were giving it out last year they had hyped this book SO MUCH and literally we had gotten so many copies of this book that I thought it would be alright at best because why would they hype it up so much? Wrong. Like Noor said too, I was a little put off by the size of the book (I'm not like, afraid of reading large books) but the format and the Sci-Fi (which isn't really my style) seemed a little scary. If you're dumb like me, just put everything aside and go get this book. Okay now I'll stop rambling and actually talk about the story:

Noor & Kiersten both touched upon this so I won't spend too much time on it, but the dossier format was honestly really really cool and made the book go by a lot faster. I agree with Kiersten and Noor that you've got to commit to the book for a little bit so you can see how the book is constructed and really commit to it. But if I really enjoy a book I won't put it down and will read it in one shot, so that's what I did for this -- took me a good few hours even with the format being spaced with messages and designs and smaller documents.

Ya'll know I'm really character driven, and so is this book -- you wouldn't think it would be, seeing as it's in a file format, but honestly, it is. The construction of Kady and Byron and Ezra. I've griped so many times about how the female leads of books like this have to end up being basically perfect or a total bitch in order to accomplish whatever it is they need (there aren't many but that seems to be a flaw in a lot of them): NOT KADY THOUGH. Kady, like Noor said, doesn't seem to have any ~special~ talents or anything. She's written as an honest to goodness badass who is both really cool and really smart (REALLY REALLY SMART) but also like lowkey vulnerable. Byron and Ezra were really cool to read too what with Byron's knowledge and Ezra's romantic interest. AIDAN is an AI "character"? Don't know if it's appropriate to acknowledge AIDAN as one but totally agree with Noor that his parts were some of the best to read. Nothing beats a ballsy female protagonist for me though. I saw a different review talking about how so many of the people in charge in this novel are women, and how it took her a moment to notice that they were women because their voices weren't written differently. I just want to acknowledge how cool that is, and how I didn't notice how I also assumed the women in charge were men until I kept reading.

This is a story about corporations and love and computers and a virus and humor and is set in 2575 so there is ~all the technology~. This book didn't really seem like it was for me, but you might not necessarily think it's for you either. FORGET THAT and read this. I have an ARC of Gemina waiting for me and if I had known how much I loved Illuminae I'd have been all over it already. Look forward to a review of that soon.

- Amrutha

Have you ever read a book written as a file?
Let us know in the comments!

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