Review: Illuminae

(The Illuminae Files #1)

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

RATING: 5 STARS!

Yes, another 5-star read.That’s two months in a row. And I didn’t see this one coming at all.

The blurb begins like this:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

Personally, that didn’t really grab my interest. It makes the novel sound as if it’s a teenage romance. It’s not, by the way. It’s a clever, sophisticated, science fiction thriller that just happens to have a romance at the heart of it.

But I didn’t know that. In fact, the only reason I picked Illuminae up is because the blurb also says the story is told through:

a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more .

That did sound intriguing. And it is. Incredibly intriguing and unbelievably well done. Space helmets off to Kaufman and Kristoff. There is no linking narration. None at all. Just documents written by different people and transcripts of conversations recorded on the spaceships. Some of the documents contain images and some of the conversations are depicted graphically, too. I don’t want to explain this in more detail because I so enjoyed turning those pages and seeing something totally unexpected and often unexpectedly moving. I don’t want to spoil that experience for anyone. It took a little while to adjust to the story being told this way, but by about page 50 I was completely enthralled.

It’s true that if you prefer your narratives straightforward, with everything laid out for you from the beginning, you may not find this multimedia approach to your taste. From the first page, the reader has to exercise both their imagination and their powers of deduction. But if you read mysteries or thrillers and delight in piecing clues together to find out what’s going on, you could very well love Illuminae as much as I did.

And I’m still feeling just a bit amazed at how much emotion Kaufman and Kristoff made me feel when so little of the text is overtly emotional. When I finished reading, my heart was pounding hard in the best possible way. I knew I had experienced something very unique and very special.

I want to assure you: the way the novel is written is not just a gimmick, as it could easily have been. It’s an integral part of an immersive, absorbing story that I’m still thinking about days later. Honestly, if I could give Illuminae 6 stars, I probably would. Best book I’ve read so far this year.

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