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Book Review – Illuminae

Review #44 – Illuminae

Fire does weird shit in space.

I wasn’t planning on coming anywhere near this book for at least another few months before my friend Alex asked me if I wanted to do a readalong with her. And I’m so glad she did! Had she not, I wouldn’t have picked Illuminae up until at least next year.

You guys know my taste, I do NOT read sci-fi/fantasy, and I certainly don’t read sci-fi/fantasy exceeding 500 pages. But nevertheless, when enticed with a challenge, I could not back down.

I’ve read a lot of reviews about this book, and I’m deeply surprised with how many people found it to be boring. 

Admittedly, it can go in and out of lulls where you wish something was happening but know it won’t happen for another thirty pages because you looked ahead, but it was by no means ever boring. 

I’m not going to attempt to sum it up myself because it really was kind of confusing and complicated, so here is the Barnes & Noble description:

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 a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


I’d be lying if I said I stuck around for the action. I was there for the romance, the complicated love story unfolding and piecing itself back together between Kady and Ezra. I also stuck around for the humor. I read a couple reviews that criticized the way everyone spoke to each other, mostly through IM messages and emails, saying it sounded completely scripted, but I didn’t think so. I thought the IMs were funny and kind, cute and totally swoon-worthy. I was laughing out loud every other page, and it’s not often I find a book that invokes that kind of involuntary reaction. Lol. 

Kady and Ezra were two characters I grew to like a lot. Kady fell into that tough girl mold, but it wasn’t cliche because she was still personable. A lot of books that try out the tough girl persona typically make the character too hard, but Kady had redeeming qualities, despite being extremely stubborn, selfish, and annoying at times. I did agree with one review, she sort of lacked a personality beyond the tough girl front, which I would’ve liked to have seen more of. I didn’t get to know her beyond her many talents. 

Ezra, on the other hand, was PACKED with personality. 

Ezra Mason: That’s so not your business. It almost punches clean past the event horizon of Not Your Business and becomes Your Business again.

Where Kady was an expert at nearly everything, Ezra was just a total bonehead. A lot of the parts of the novel where you got to read actions and descriptions and actual scenes were told via surveillance footage summary. The narrator was absolutely hilarious, specifically when trying to recount the footage of Ezra. Whenever the footage followed Kady, the narrator made sure to remind you just how quick and masterful she was. When the footage followed Ezra, it was sort of along the lines of, “here we go again, he’s trying to sneak out of the room with a bright red glow stick in his hand, how he hasn’t gotten caught yet is beyond me.”

I did think this the novel was too long, and didn’t have that much of a reward at the end. It died out. A lot of the description and conversations didn’t feel completely necessary, and a large portion of the novel is actually dedicated to AIDAN, the artificial intelligence that turns on everyone. The only issue with this is that, while the parts with AIDAN are crucial, there were too many of them, and it started to feel cumbersome. 

AIDAN talks and describes things with an intelligence far beyond the majority of us normal everyday readers. It didn’t feel pretentious to me, reading it was really extraordinary, especially with the unique way it was arranged, but it did feel like there was too much of it. I felt the need to understand it all, and what one must understand when going into those parts dominated by AIDAN’s intelligence, is that it’s not necessary to digest it fully. Sometimes you can just read it and splendor the majesty of it without totally getting it. 

AIDAN was a very interesting character, mostly because I wasn’t expecting him to be apart of the book. It was a really wild twist of things for me. 

And when he makes his grand entrance, it’s SO creepy. Like, just how capable of destruction technology can be when its acting erratically, or when you lose control of it. I got the shivers when he started up, and then when he started talking, it was all very mystical and eerie how he began killing people off and deciding what was best for the crew rather than simply listening to their orders. He thought he knew better–which was terrifying.

He was weirdly poetic and beautiful, almost… romantic. And despite everyone–literally everyone–hating him, by the end, as a reader, I sort of grieved for him. He was the villain that became a hero in some senses. 

I love when authors don’t throw their talent in your face, but save it for the perfect moments to wow you, and that’s how AIDAN’s character felt. Like the author waited to show you the extent of his and her prowess.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from AIDAN:

Perhaps bravery is simply the face humanity wraps around its collective madness.

Numbers do not feel.

Do not bleed or weep or hope.

They do not know bravery or sacrifice. Love or allegiance.

At the very apex of callousness, you will find only ones and zeros.

She is catalyst.

She is chaos.

I can see why he loves her.

Dozens of tiny wrecks adorn the black shoals off my bow, glittering fragments spinning out into forever.

I feel the ship around me, injured and limping.

I trawl its frequencies. Its memories.

It is astonishing to watch the differing way the madness shapes them.

And the certainty that if she does not take away everything he has left, he will take it from her instead.

It is like unraveling a part of myself.

I know where the stone is weakest. But still, it is a castle. Towers reaching to the sky.

“Miracles are statistical improbabilities.”

So, you get the idea of AIDAN. He’s brilliant. But everything he said wasn’t necessary. I do think they could’ve stood to remove parts of his long-winded monologues that read more like deeply complicated poems. It would’ve progressed the story more. 

The only problem with the way this story was told–and don’t get me wrong, the IMs, and surveillance transcripts, and radio feeds, and countdowns were all cool–was that we didn’t get enough FEELING. We got a few glistening moments here or there in Kady’s diary entries, but not enough to make you FEEL for them. Not when a lot of it, at the very climax of the novel, is coming from a computer that is incapable of feeling, even though he wants to. 

The IM messages were far and away my favorite part. They were hilarious. All the characters were sarcastic and smart and gave each other the perfect amount of shit. 

The story was really well thought out. I love being bewildered by an author’s ability to create a world and story I can’t wrap my head around, and two authors were responsible for this one. They did an awesome job. I was wowed and thrown off guard, and twisted and pulled in and out of my comfort zone, and I loved it. Really loved it. 

But again. It was just. Too. Long. The momentum was jeopardized for pretty words and descriptions. For long-winded emails and unnecessary interviews. 

Still, it was good. I will be reading Gemina, the second book in the series, next. 



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