ARC Review: Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Illuminae
author: Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
pages: 599
format: Beautiful hardcover ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0553499117
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Firefly (yes, that one), The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett, and space-heavy hardcore science fiction.
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.

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.

in depth

Illuminae is a motherxxxxxxx phenomenon.  A young adult book like no other, it capitalizes on one of my favorite things--turning the formatting upside-down and sideways--and creates an entire novel out of letters, IMs, emails, error reports, transcriptions, and visual representations.  xxxxxx xxxx xx xsssssssssxxxxxx, it's one of the best novels of the year.  

Meet Kady.  She's a badxxx hacker with 

  • a dirty mouth, 
  • a deathwish, 
  • a xxxxxxx amazing coldly calculating sciencey brain.  

She just broke up with Ezra, who is 
  • kind of goofy, 
  • a motherxxxxxxxx battle pilot, 
  • stuck on a different ship.  
Their planet was just nearly completely destroyed in a huge crazy explosion by an intergalactic company.  Now, the survivors are scattered onto several different ships, one of which is controlled by a murderous super intelligent computer with a weird affection for Kady and a xxxx-poor knowledge of sarcasm:  AIDAN.  After AIDAN xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxx, it becomes clear that Kady, Ezra, and the survivors are in much bigger trouble than they realized.  Either they'll reach the nearest safe zone in time, or they'll be blown to tiny space-bits.  

Getting the picture yet?  Illuminae isn't your typical science-fiction novel.  It isn't your typical novel.  If you want long paragraphs of description and dialogue, go find another book.  If you're a little more adventurous and like p u t t i n g   t h e   p i e c e s   together, then pick up this book!  You have to be okay with a little frustration and confusion.  You're not getting a linear narrative.  Plot points are hidden behind the scenes and a lot happens off-screen.  You have to fill in the blanks to get to know the characters, but I found them charming and easy to read.  

I, personally, found it xxxxxxx refreshing to be treated like a xxxxxxxxx intelligent reader rather than a child who needs to be spoon-fed.  You get to know the characters through how they choose to present themselves.  There were times when I was a bit confused, but it just added to the fun.  Best part:  the document of files is canon, as in someone in the book is reading it just as you are, which is super xxxxxxx meta.  And Kaufman and Kristoff have a fantastic sense of pacing.  It's always moving.  Something is always happening.  A huge disaster like that thing that happened that I can't say may occur on two brief, but visually stunning, pages.  And it packs a punch.  

The only thing that bugged me was that some of the things didn't really seem like something you'd see in a secret dossier of files collected by a xxxxx xxx xxxxx xxx xx xxxxxxx xxx xxx xxx xxxxxxx.  Like, it's cute that the person transcribing the videos has a poetic sense, but seriously--we're in the post-space age.  They'd just send video.  And the spy person is not going to sit making pretty artistic representations of people getting sucked into a space vacuum.  So sometimes I was pulled out, reminded this was a novel.  

But overall?  It's a xxxxxxx intense, elaborate science-fiction thriller that left me aching for another installment.  There are moments of black humor that punctuate the chaos, showing that even in totally xxxxxd up circumstances, people are still people.   

Also, AIDAN is Sheldon-level hysterical.  Don't tell him I said that.

in a sentence

Darkly funny, eerily beautiful, and constantly thrilling, Illuminae is an experimental novel-in-pieces that breaks everything you thought you knew about science fiction.  


will i read this author again?  Yes, both of them!    
will i continue the series?  YES I wanted to continue it the second I turned the last page.  Grump.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


  1. I can't wait to read this book! I got the gorgeous paperback edition for Christmas, but I've not had a chance to read it yet. Hopefully soon, because I can't wait! I think I'll love everything about it, because I adore sci-fi ♥

    Great review - thanks for sharing!
    Denise | The Bibliolater

    1. I hope you love it as much as I did! It's such a unique story while still being a solid sci-fi.


  2. I was unsure when I saw the inside of the books but you completely got me at something adventurous and would prompt me to put pieces together. Now I really must get it. Great review! (had fun reading it with all those formatting, spaces, and highlights)

    czai @ the Blacksheep Project

    1. Yay, I hope you like it! (Then you'll love the format of the book--it was my inspiration!)

  3. I had to skip down most of this because all that black out on the page was starting to affect my eyes and make my head hurt. But from what I was able to read you clearly enjoyed the book.

    1. Aw, sorry about that! Probably something to consider if you read the book.

  4. My review for this one just went up too and we basically felt the same way about this one! I was confused at first and worried that things wouldn't click, but then it did. And that's where everything went to hell but it was one helluva ride getting there^^ I loved the unique format, the characters, and the twists! Oh the twists were enough to give me whiplash! I can NOT wait for Gemina to come out :D Awesome review CJ!! x

    1. It's in my reading queue. ;P Haha yeah "everything went to hell" is a great way to describe this book. In the best of ways. GAH Gemina cannot come soon enough! Thanks! :D

  5. I love the way you wrote this review! So amazing and perfectly fitting for a book like Illuminae. I love how creative this book was with all the crazy formatting. Very cool storytelling and I agree, super meta. Great review!
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

    1. Thank you! I was inspired. ;P It was so great! They even had crazy ASCII art, which was hysterical. Thanks, Cassi!

  6. Baha. Love your creativity! And yes, this book was brilliant- I read it in one evening. Cannot wait for Gemina - have you seen the blurb?!

    1. Hehe thanks. ;) YES I'm both happy and nervous. New characters can be great but I've also grown so close to Ezra and Kady. But I trust the authors to pull it off!

  7. I loved this book so much! I didn't expect much from it and got it from the library--now I really wish that I owned my own copy and I'll definitely be buying the other books when they eventually come out. I'm impatiently waiting!

    1. I was mostly intrigued by the pretty cover when I got it, and it far exceeded my expectations. I've been impatiently waiting since the day I finished it. Lol.

  8. So glad you liked this as much as I did! I completely agree with everything you’ve said too. The characters and the romance were absolutely amazing, and the unique formatting really gave it that extra umph. And those twists and turns at the end just blew my mind. So excited for the sequel! xD Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

    1. Yay! GAH the twists, so great! They really don't treat their characters nicely. :P <3 Thanks, m'dear!