Illuminae Review

Synopsis: 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.

Review: 3.5/5 (?)

If The Martian and The Lunar Chronicles had a baby with a filing cabinet – presumably following a MAJOR and deeply disturbing genetic breakthrough – and that baby was cousins with The Cobra Event, then this book is that living example of that grave misstep.

I should probably take that paragraph out, for sheer coherency purposes, but I think it serves as a good warning for what this review is going to be like. I literally have no idea how I feel about this book. None. Zip. Zero. For everything wonderful about this that, like, transcended the parameters of YA or whatever, there was something so insanely typical it was like a fire ax to the gut. (Why do I insist upon making book references in every review? The same answer as most questions about me – I think I’m funny.) This book is like the cornballer from Arrested Development: on the one hand, delicious deep fried cornballs. On the other hand, THIRD DEGREE BURNS.

I should rewatch Arrested Development. I say, when it’s the week before finals and I have papers to work on and tests to study for and am also technically in the middle of a Parks and Recreation rewatch and just started Once Upon a Time. Why do I have responsibilities???
I mean, you can’t write a review of this shindig without diving into how amazing the structure is. Insanely creative – chat logs, surveillance summaries, medical records. If you can flip through this book without smiling into an unseen camera, Parks and Recreation style, then I don’t want to know you. (Update from future me: I totally just added the bit about being in the middle of a Parks and Rec rewatch and – look! Myself and myself are so in sync. right?)

Welp, when I’m two for two on comedy TV show references you know it’s quite a review. But anyway, there are downsides to that structure. It’s impossible, absolutely, to get a full look at more than a handful of characters. I’d argue we get three: Kady, Ezra (kinda) and AIDAN. It works out well for them, but for everyone else it’s DETRIMENTAL. Impossible to tell whether people are good or not, or even get an understanding behind their decision making. Which is, you know, tiring.

Also, it makes the storyline really confusing. I’m still not 100% sure what happened. Like, the science (or quasi-science) is on the level of The Martian, but without all the explaining for plebeians like me. And at least The Martian takes place in our world! Worldbuilding is incredibly difficult when it’s done through 75% instant messaging. They should’ve thrown a few more Wikipedia articles in there. Even just trying to reflect on this book is reminding me of how much of a headache the whole thing was. I’m looking toward reading Gemina like it’s the final project for a science class.

I’ll just let this review be unstructured since this book has no problem with doing that and discuss characters now. First up: Ezra, who I maybe love. Kid’s got jokes! This book actually made me chuckle a bunch of times, which was fabulous because I never laugh at books. Anyway, Ezra was funny, so I liked him. There really wasn’t much more to him. Hopefully he gets more traits in Gemina, and I can determine if he’s getting added to my favorite male characters list. Even if his relationship with Kady was annoying and gag worthy 100% of the time. NOT EVERY YA BOOK HAS TO HAVE A ROMANCE 2K17. (Or at the very least they don’t have to be so heteronormative. I recommend checking out  Sana’s review for her ships from this book, which are like, totally so much better than the ones we get in this.)

So yeah, uh, Kady. Oh, that YA trope of a girl so beautiful that every guy who sees her falls in love with her…why won’t you just f*cking die?Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that there are three dudes (?) in this book who fall so irrevocably in love with the girl that they are willing to die for her. Which is a f*cking lot. That’s not even including general compliments, of which there are an impressive amount considering the limited perspectives of this book. It must be her pink hair. It’s utterly rad, guys.

Kady also has like, three different identities throughout this. Ooh, one for each of the men who loves her! I like the one she is in the very last chat log of the book – which is to say, a badass. All the others are an unrealistic level of strength/rebellion/mental cunning for an untrained, self-admittedly unathletic, supposedly normal adolescent girl. SHE NEVER EVEN EATS OR SLEEPS. Reality becomes totally suspended in the last half of this book.

Oh, but AIDAN just rocks. Is he a villain? I don’t know, but for the ease of writing this I’m going to say that he is. AND THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER VILLAIN. He’s so fun. I loved reading from his perspective – which was good, because that could happen for, like, a hundred pages at a time. Especially refreshing when I just wanted to shut Kady up for a freaking SECOND. God that girl can talk.

I just absolutely hated Byron, though. Some gross tech guy in his mid to late twenties deciding he’s fallen in love with a seventeen year old trainee? Haven’t we all been there. Oh, we haven’t? That’s just a situation alarmingly similar to one I was in when I was seventeen? Got it. Cool. Either way, it’s f*cking creepy.

Anyways, as I see it, there are three unique plot twists in this story. Two are totally, full on predictable, in my opinion. (I’m not good at detecting plot twists so this is saying something.) This is a spoiler free review, but the spoilers are marked on my Goodreads. For all y’all who have read this book, you can read alll about them there.

Okay…I think I’ve just about covered my problems with it. Writing this review has been as exhausting as this book at its low points. Urgh, being negative is so much easier than being positive.

Let me try to explain the good parts of this book. The ones I haven’t touched on yet. One, it could be so CREEPY. And the creepiness was ingenious. Just done so well. I don’t normally like scary stuff, but I liked this for how smart it was. Also, ya gotta give this book props for how hard it must have been to write. And for coming up with AIDAN. It was just a fun and unique time. I’ll definitely pick up the sequel. (I’m having a hard time saying nice things. And it’s not because I didn’t like it. As Kady would say, a million jillion times, “I’m so bad at this.”) (God, See?! I even had to interrupt my rambling about how hard it is for me to be nice in order to be mean. Sigh.)

Bottom line: I’m not going to say whether to try this book or not. I can see why people really love it, but I can also see how it’s really, really possible not to. It’s an absolute Experience. I had fun with it. That’s all. “The story’s over, go home,” etc.


10 thoughts on “Illuminae Review

  1. Les says:

    you referenced the cornballer ans i just fell in love.

    i tried to give this a go but by page 80 i gave it up. it was too much.
    and the 3rd book isnt out until next year. ill forget it all by then.

    cant wait to read your other reviews!


    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      congratulations on probably being the first person to get that reference.

      it’s a pretty intense, energy-sucking book, but i still enjoyed it. definitely an impressive read.

      thank ya!!!


  2. Emma says:

    hmmmm still very conflicted about whether to read this or not? It’s prob one of those maybe someday books, not super high on my tbr but I might decide to pick it up sometime

    Liked by 1 person

plz give me attention

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