“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”
As soon as I saw Illuminae on a shelf in the library I couldn’t resist immediately picking it up. The physical design of this book deserves a thunderous round of applause in itself. Its bright colors, slight shimmer, and layered appearance combine to create quite an eye-catching ensemble. Of course, all of the recent hype surrounding this book certainly made me more likely to pick it up off the shelf and give it more than a quick second glance. At first I was hesitant to read this book because its plethora of positive reviews had significantly raised my expectations; however, now that I’ve read it I can confidently say that Illuminae surely lives up to its praise!
Kaufman and Kristoff wrote this story in such a unique way that it’s almost difficult to accurately explain. The novel is more of a compilation than anything else– of interview transcripts, conversations via instant messaging, official documents, and even graphics. There are very few pages solely of solid text, making this novel of nearly six hundred pages feel like it has half that many. It also helps that the story is action-packed, fast-paced, and exciting from the very beginning. A lot of information is thrown at the reader all at once, which is simultaneously beneficial and detrimental to understanding the story. While being given large amounts of information at certain times is a necessary part of world-building and helps move the plot along, it can also be confusing and overwhelming. There are so many new names to learn, not only of characters but of ships and places and technology as well, that it’s quite easy to get lost. However, even with this seeming abundance of information I still felt as though I didn’t have the answers to all of my questions. I found this frustrating contradiction to be true for the majority of the novel, and the confusion it brought is my only major complaint.
Well, I do have another complaint, but I think it’s more of a nit-picky detail than a definite issue. In the beginning of Illuminae– maybe even on the first page– it mentions that all swear words will be censored from the novel. As the story progresses it’s soon obvious that the swear words are not simply left out or substituted with a different word; rather, they are replaced with a solid black rectangle. From the context of the story it’s clear what word is being censored, which brings me to my other complaint: Why go through all of the trouble of censoring in the first place? Personally, I think that the swear words should have been completely included or not mentioned at all. In this particular case, I feel as though they should have been used. If I can read about people killing each other and dying in numerous terrifying and dreadful ways, then I can certainly handle reading swear words!
Other than these two critiques, I was incredibly impressed by this novel. It is honestly one of the most creepy books I have ever read, to the point where I even questioned whether or not I should read it before going to bed. The mystery behind what is actually happening on the spaceships is the key to the novel’s suspenseful and frightening nature because the reader is never quite sure about what will happen next. My initial impression of what this book would be about– space travel, maybe aliens?– was completely wrong. There are so many different layers to this story that all have their own twist, meaning that the reader is bound to be surprised eventually. If it’s not the first twist that makes your head spin, it will be the next one, or the next one, or the next one– right up until the very last page!
One aspect of the novel that I wasn’t expecting to appreciate as much is the refreshing authenticity of Kady and Ezra’s relationship. The story begins at an interesting point in their relationship (Kady has just broken up with Ezra) and it continues in a reasonable direction from then on. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to fictional romantic relationships is when they feel unnatural and forced. Fortunately, Kady and Ezra don’t exude those feelings.
Overall, Illuminae is an exciting, addicting, intriguing, and surprising novel that I will not soon forget. Don’t let the hype scare you away– this novel definitely lives up to its praise! I can’t wait for this series to be continued in the future!
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: YES! Especially if they’re fans of young adult fiction or science fiction in general.
Have you ever read this book before? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!