Saturday, 5 March 2016



Book Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Date Started: February 26th 2016
Date Completed: March 5th 2016
Genres: Sci-Fi, Romance, Thriller
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Two Star
Final Rating: Two stars

I may be in a minority here, but I really didn't like this book. First on a personal level, but actually also on a quality level: Illuminae suffers from a bad case of style over substance. I appreciate the work that went into the design of this book (ignoring that the 'futuristic' graphics looked ten years old), but unfortunately there weren't strong enough foundations to hold it up as a story.

My biggest issue with this book is that it focused far too much on its formatting and graphics, and didn't compensate when it came to the writing. First of all, while it might look more immediately interesting than your typical book, the format of messaging, and reports, and internal AI monologues doesn't fit with the story Kaufman and Kristoff want to tell. They want to get across this teenage romance without it feeling cliche (which is 100% does) by putting in sarcastic little jokes about how silly their priorities of relationship over safety is - this is difficult in a normal prose novel, but when all you have are text conversations it becomes even harder to take seriously. And there are these awkward little action scenes that are told through CCTV reports, but are too caught up in trying to seem formal but also exciting to actually get anything across. Then there's also the fact that everyone has the same voice (girl/boy, young/old, nice person/mean person - everyone sounds the same), which you just can't get away with when we're told the story entirely through digital dialogue. The novelty of these innovative graphics wears off eventually, and then there's nothing to hide the fact that actually it's poorly chosen for the story trying to be told.

Illuminae had loads of potential, and I know loads of people think it used all of it. But I didn't, and I'd be lying if I said I was just underwhelmed as opposed to disappointed. What I got from this book was essentially a couple running around an spaceship infected (effectively) with zombies texting each other. When I read I want to picture what's happening in my head, but all I could picture was these people hunched over phones laughing at their own sarcastic comments. Maybe I could have taken it seriously without the little romantic intermissions that made me feel a bit nauseous and weren't necessary, but I can't really see me liking this book whatever little alterations were added.
Another big reason why I just didn't click with this book was the lack of creativity. Everything was just...everything you'd expect. The infected people were just as you imagine zombies, you had the typical reaction to being separated from parents, this universal romance trope, the boring conflict between caring about someone who's been infected and is about to kill you. I couldn't see much new past the fancy design.
If I'm honest I didn't finish Illuminae. I read about 500 pages, and even though if I have around 100 pages of a book left I'll finish it, I just couldn't anymore. I skim read the end, and I can't say I was surprised by what happened. I can't say I was particularly sad I didn't get to read it either.

I also didn't like the characters. I feel like I'm moaning a bit by now, but in my opinion the Artificial Intelligence had more personality than the rest of the characters put together. I felt like they were all just sarcasm and nothing else - I definitely didn't get the feeling that these were people supposedly suffering from PTSD and anxiety. I understand some people joke as a way to ignore their desperate situation, but they don't act like stropy teenagers and put their ended relationship above everyones safety all of the time. Kaufman and Kristoff wanted their protagonists (and the AI) to go through certain things and so just didn't characterise much else around them - I mean you're supposed to be on board a military spaceship and I don't feel like there was a single responsible, experienced officer anywhere.

The pacing in this book is alright, thanks to the variety of graphics. I can see how in some respects playing around with the formatting helped the story along; considering actually not that much happens in terms of plot twists the various layouts for different conversations or monologues gives a little bit of plot diversity to stop things becoming boring. I mean, I got bored anyway but that wasn't down to the structuring of the story.

I personally wouldn't recommend Illuminae as a story, but it's a nice look into the potential there is to tell stories in more ways than just traditional prose. Having said that I know lots of people that really loved this book - unfortunately I just wasn't one of them.

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