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  • Writer's pictureTedy Rafailova

Illuminae, SciFi YA novel by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

Illuminae is not your typical YA – SciFi – post apocalyptic – space based – star crossed lovers – novel. Yes, there is love. Yes, there is a trail of tragic events. And yes, it is set in space. But no, the compresence stops here.

If you love SciFi – this book is for you!  If you love fast paced action books – go for it! If you like zombie themed video games – oh, you’ll enjoy this! If you like politics and strategy – yes, got that too! If you’re interested in artificial intelligence –go meet AIDAN!

 There is so much I can say about this book and it still won’t be enough! When a friend of mine asked me how the book was going, while I was still reading it, I said: “Lovable characters are dying like in a “Game of thrones” episode and soon I’ll die too.” That is the only way I can describe what I felt. 

 The book is structured in a form of a dossier – composed of reports, documents, messages and diary entries. The story is told from multiple points of view and each character has his own story. [In the audiobook they all have different voices and even accents!]

In fact, I listened to the audio book before buying the paperback, but I have to admit they both have their values.

  1. First, the audiobook: 

 The audiobook is narrated by Olivia Taylor Dudley, Lincoln Hoppe, Jonathan McClain and is published by Audible Studios. The different voices, some of which are altered, the sound effects and music, makes it an almost cinematic experience. 

 At the beginning of the book, it felt like I was listening to a documentary, or the morning news – it was that real! [now, if you’re a history addict like me, you will probably get that itchy feeling of wanting to google things, to learn more, but then… oh, well, you can’t.]

 Listening to this audiobook, brought me back memories from when I visited the Red Cross museum in Geneva, Switzerland. They had this interactive room where you can sit and listen to interviews with refugees and civil war victims, all telling their stories. At moments it felt just like sitting in that interactive room, listening to a survivor’s story and wondering “Why do we do this to ourselves?”

Also, let me just mention in passing, the great name naming in this book! Alexander, Copernicus, Hypatia, Heimdal – every name has you imagining and is adding to the “all – too – real” believe.

  1. The paperback:

 As I said, the book is structured as a dossier. So in the paperback edition you can find all the documents, pictures, maps, sketches and most importantly plans of the ships. 

[At some point, you may even find a hidden Pink Floyd reference..]

It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s everything an “aesthetics geek” would love!

What I really appreciate about this book is how it explores the psychological aspects of collective obsessional  and moral panic.

 Now, imagine your planet was just attacked, you are now a refugee on an overcrowded space ship whit an enemy on tale, and 6 months of space travel ahead of you. You don’t know where or if your loved ones are alive, you don’t know what is happening, you have never been out of the planet…and now, the command is asking you to help with military space..?..yep, freaked yet?

 Or something else, imagine you’re a ranking officer, your ship answered a distress call and now is overflowing with scared, sick and injured civilians, while a battle carrier is hunting you. No help to come. Half of your crew is dead, your friends. Nobody tells you anything. Rumors are circling. Where will you go, when you can’t go anywhere?

 And yes, that is just the beginning – I don’t want to give any spoilers. 

 The book explores the politics of the questions of mass panic and military discipline, the conflicts between what is moral and kind and what is necessary, but cruel. Every character faces moral dilemmas as they go. And as I read the novel I found myself wondering what my choices will be in that situation. Now, I have always praised myself as a very decisive person, but this was a whole new level..

And yes, in this book as in all thing there is love. 

There is always love. 

And hope.   

P.S.: I will continue with the rest of the series.

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