Thursday, August 27, 2015

ARC Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Title: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

Author(s): Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Rating: 3 Stars

Release Date: October 20th, 2015

Shockingly, I really did not love this book and doubt I'll be continuing with the sequel either. I adore epistolary novels, particularly when they're written by Jaclyn Moriarty, but a science fiction novel written in this format just didn't do it for me. For one, when compared to the contemporary epistolary written by Moriarty, Illuminae was not as humorous or as poignant. While the story told within these pages is stellar--and very cleverly conveyed through data files, journal entries, and chats--a multitude of other facets did not sit well with me.

1. Illuminae revolves around Ezra and Kady, a young teenage couple who has recently broken up and find themselves on two separate spaceships due to the fact that their planet was attacked. Though Ezra and Kady are broken up, much of their relationship stems from the fact that they used to be dating--and are still in love with one another despite the circumstances that wrought their breakup. As a reader, we don't know Ezra and Kady's backstory. We don't know who they are as individuals, forget as a couple, and their interactions throughout the entire first half of the novel failed to resonate with me. I just couldn't bring myself to really feel for these characters, both through their personalities--so tied up in one another, understandably so--and their situation, so far removed from anything I could even imagine.

2. A few of the methods used by these authors to convey snippets of the story felt distinctly like cheating. While I understand that there are a limited number of ways to tell this story in an epistolary manner, at times it was necessary for this to read like a normal tale. I enjoyed this--quite a lot, in fact--and wonder if Illuminae would have been a stronger novel had it not been epistolary. Kady and Ezra speak to each other through technological means and their diary/journal entries are not truly as soul-searching as one would wish, which convinced me that either than an epistolary format being unique and interesting for Illuminae, it was not necessary. Nor did it improve the story-telling in any manner. Again, however, keep in mind that this epistolary format made me feel more isolated from the story, as a reader, than a part of it so take my cautions with a grain of salt.

3. The pacing of Illuminae was FAR too slow. The events outlined in the synopsis take hundreds of pages to occur and I considered DNFing this novel numerous times. It picked up drastically by the end and I enjoyed the last 30-40% of the novel a LOT, but not enough to want to continue with this series, sadly.

I seem to be the black sheep on Illuminae so I recommend giving it a try. If it isn't meshing for you early on, though, it probably won't click for you miraculously until the end and, even then, it's only a shell of the true emotion you wanted to be feeling throughout the novel. Illuminae is certainly a unique and compelling novel; just not one for me.


  1. I am daunted by the sheer volume of this book. A lot of people has been going crazy about its 'magnificence'. As much as I'm a fan of Kauffman, I'm holding judgement until I read this brand new endeavour with Kristoff. I just don't think holding history about the main characters will help me empathize with them. We'll see...

  2. I don't think this is the book for me Keertana. I got a look at the format at BEA, and it just seemed like too much work for me to follow along. Sometimes a diary entry format mixed with other media works well for me (as was the case recently with the Dead House), but this seemed to push all that even further and I think that distance you mentioned would be a problem for me. Plus, the fact that it takes so long to get going will be an issue, I've read so many slow books lately, I need a page turner!

  3. So glad you reviewed this one early and have a different set of opinions for this book! SO much hype surrounding this book - it seems to be the most unique book of 2015. While I'm very curious about the epistolary format, I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. I can see how it would dampen the emotional relationship between Kady and Ezra. And I'm surprised that ILLUMINAE was slow-paced for you because I had heard that it's a HUGE page-turner! I definitely want to give this book a try, although I have no idea if it's my type of a book. I can't wait to compare thoughts!

    Wonderful and honest review, Keertana :)

  4. Thanks for your honest thoughts. It's good to see a mix of opinions, because there is NEVER going to be a book that everybody loves. I do have a copy of this from BEA so I'm curious, but we'll see. :)


  5. Its nice to see a different opinion on this book.The whole files premise reminds me a bit of the Amanda project, a series I did not enjoy because of the similar set as this novel.Great post :)

  6. Hm... now I'm curious to see if I will feel the same way as you do with the book. I do like that you enjoyed the ending and sometimes that will make or break a book for me. Will have to remember that during the slow parts. :)

  7. I absolutely adored this to pieces so, to be quite honest, I'm a little sad you didn't feel the same way, but I completely see where you're coming from. I do wish there was a little background to Ezra & Kady and who they were, both individually and as a couple, before the events of the story took place, but that didn't bother me too much. I think the style of the book is definitely going to be hit-or-miss and is probably what determines whether or not you like the book, so I'm sorry to hear it felt a little flat to you.

    Thanks for sharing Keertana and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

  8. It's already very difficult when the pace is slow for me I confess. It's the first time I hear about the novel but I think I'll pass, I would expect a little more.

  9. You're probably only the second person to not rave about Illuminae on the blogosphere thus far (someone on my twitter also didn't like it) - I am so glad for your honest opinion, as I was beginning to feel that the book is way too overhyped. I was really excited to read it at first, but with the way I see the book on twitter a million times a day, I already feel it's old news. I also don't tend to enjoy epistolary in general, as I get very disconnected from the characters when reading that particular format. Thank you so much for this detailed review, I will definitely keep your thoughts in mind while reading the book.

    Aentee at Read at Midnight & The Social Potato

  10. I had no idea this book was written in epistolary format. One of the best things about epistolary novels, for me at least, is that it makes me part of the story, makes me more connected to the characters. Sorry to hear that in this case you felt distanced, I’m afraid I’ll have the same issue. Wonderful review, Keertana!

  11. It's unfortunate the method of story telling was a negative here. 608 pages?!! I better really love the story to read that many pages. Great review, Keertana. Sorry it wasn't more of a win for you. :)

  12. Oh no! I'm sorry you didn't love this one, girl! It's one of my favorites of the year, but I can certainly see where you're coming from. I think we all have those books that are majorly hyped/loved and we just don't connect with them. :/
    I hope you have better luck with your next reads! Great review as always. :)


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