Alllll the Flailing Over ILLUMINAE (A Book Review)

7:45 AM


Many of you know that I don't do book reviews very often. I don't have anything against book reviews (I read them all the time); it's just not my style here on my own blog.

Every once in a while, though, something really special comes along.


You get an extra-big picture of the cover because I adore it, that's why.
I've been waiting for this book. FOR. EVER. I'm a big fan of Kaufman's These Broken Stars and the rest of her lovely, also co-authored sci-fi world. I'm a dead fangirl when it comes to Kristoff's Stormdancer (which I reviewed here). The combination of Amie's hilarious character interactions and banter, Jay's brutal take-no-prisoners approach to telling a story, and breathtaking sci-fi worldbuilding on both ends is the ideal combination for a book that's going to come in and rip your heart out with a spork using wicked writing and even wickeder feels. Shortly put, I preordered this book and I've been waiting for it to arrive for months.

Imagine my excitement when, on October 20th, I come home from classes and find this 600-page beauty of a book waiting for me on my desk.

Actually, I screamed first. 
Shortly put, Illuminae is a masterpiece. It's a sprawling story about a breakup and an invasion and spaceships and zombie/cannibal people in a spaceship and getting back together during said invasion/spaceships/zombie/cannibal people and a sinister AI and sarcasm.

Here's the catch: Instead of regular prose, it's told through a collection of emails, messages, letters, audio transcripts, official documents, webpages, and more. It's intensity and action and death put together in one entirely new way of telling a story. You would think that all of that would make it easier to skim, but no -- Illuminae is a twisty, turny, interactive book, and it grabs you by the throat and demands you pay attention to every word and intense detail. You're turning the book upside down, sideways, following a swirl of text across the page, spending minutes on one page just to look at every name. It's a different kind of reading experience and...it's pretty awesome. 

Let's talk details, for the sake of a proper review. 

THE PLOT 
You can find it on the Goodreads page or by googling so I'm not going to sum it up again, since I provided my tiny explanation above. But suffice it to say that Illuminae is complicated. There are stoyrlines and sideplots and character arcs floating around like crazy. If this was a regular book, I would complain about losing track of them all. However, they've managed to capture all of those complex, sometimes political plots and put them within the confines of a neat, orderly collection of documents. It's much easier to remember names and what's going on. And THE SUSPENSE WILL KILL YOU. I did think the first 100 pages or so was a little dull, but once the plot started escalating...it kept escalating, until I was weeping with every turn of the page. The little tricks they use to keep you reading are pretty genius, and I stayed up obscenely late just to finish. That's the ultimate recommendation, after all.

Spaceshipsssss

THE CHARACTERS 
Both of these authors are masters at making you feel allllllll the things about their characters. I cried over the Stormdancer series multiple times because of this. The protagonists of our lovely romantic comedy with space zombies are Ezra Mason and Kady Grant, and I loved both of them to pieces. Ezra is your typical good guy who also flies out into space and does dangerous stuff because dangerous reasons. Kady is your typical sassy computer hacker/genius. Together, they are the Super Couple of Doom, and should not be screwed with. It's hard to build characters in a format like this, but they managed. And let's not forget the minor characters, who all died who were all well-developed themselves. 

Yep. Awesome. 

Hey, I didn't ever say I take pretty pictures. You get the idea of the amazingness. 

THE WORLDBUILDING/WRITING
I will lump these two together because I can. So there. 

Worldbuilding. I'm a sci-fi geek. Spaceships are my thing. Zombies are my thing. Together, they are definitely my thing, and everything about this world was awesome. It's basically just spaceships. In space. And science, man, science. My mother (who enjoyed this too, lookit that) pitched this as Battlestar Galactica meets Firefly and I'm pretty sure I would agree with that description. It's pages and pages of sci-fi spaceship loveliness. 

Writing. WRITINGGG. It was super fun trying to guess who wrote what sections, and a little easier for me since I'm familiar with both of the writer's styles. Still, it all blends together seamlessly and ughhhh I can't even with the writing talent. They capture teenagers messaging each other perfectly without being annoying. They write mean transcripts from the AI, with some pretty awesome phrases thrown in. I had feels and chills and horror all over the place. A+ writing. 


THE FEELS. 
THE FEELS, BRO. 

They were all over the place. 


Don't get me wrong. It's violent. It's crude at times. It's a gorgeous mess of messy people and messy plot and messy blood and guts all over the floor. It's probably not for you if you can't handle stuff like that. But it's also beautifully done in every way, and just fun to hold and flip through and admire once you're finished. I bought the hardcover and I'm probably gonna go buy like twenty more copies so I can admire them alllll. I loved every second of this. It's like someone peeked into my sci-fi-geek brain, handed the script to Kaufman and Kristoff, and stepped back. HECK YES. 

And I love it. 
Really, there's not much more to say. Illuminae is genius and I'm happy someone put it together. Every single page has something new to devour. Every single page has new feels to wail over. The writing is beyond perfect. Basically I'm going to shove this into the hands of anyone I possibly can, which is why this review is here. No one's forcing me to do it, it's just good old Aimee yelling at you to buy the book because it's gorgeous and it's worth it and I'll pitch it for all it's worth foreverrrr. We need more good YA sci-fi. We need more uniquely formatted stories like this.

If you need me, I'll be sitting here flipping through Illuminae and waiting all year for the next one to come out. 

Don't look at me.

Have you read ILLUMINAE yet? Would you consider it? Are you a sci-fi person?

14 comments

  1. This book is the absolute best.

    That is all.

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  2. I need to read this! It sounds excellent. I haven't read a proper epistolary(composed of letters and things) novel since I read 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' two years ago. I'll have to check it out!

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    1. I generally don't like this sort of format, but I think this was on an entirely different level of amazingness and art. I adored every bit of it, as you can see.

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  3. AHHHH I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT READING THIS BOOK I HAVE HEARD NOTHING ABOUT GOOD THINGS AND EXCUSE ME WHILE I FLAIL ABOUT THE FLAILING I WILL DO WHEN I READ THIS FLAILING-WORTHY BOOK.

    *cough*
    I feel like all my comments here are just super excited and unreadable. xD

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  4. This looks so interesting. Usually, I avoid different formats, but this type of format is a brilliant idea! I will definitely have to check this book out!!

    Also, I tagged you over at my blog! :D
    http://emsalpinepath.blogspot.com/2015/10/behind-scenes-tag.html

    ~Emily

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    1. I avoid this sort of thing too, but I love both of these authors and the concept was just too cool to miss. I would definitely give it a try! (And thanks for the tag!)

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  5. I need to read this apparently. *nods*

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  6. So many people have been talking about this book and you did me the favor of posting PICTURES and now I really really really really really really really want to read it. Thank you for the recommendation. *puts on the powerful list of TBR because it clearly must be so*

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  7. Great review! I need to have this book. It just sounds and looks amazing (thanks for sharing posting images!). I am not fun of untraditional formatting in books but this one reminds me of art and story woven together and I am super curious about it :)

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    1. Yes! They did such a good job putting it together and it really is art. It's a totally new kind of reading experience.

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hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.