The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – REVIEW
The layout for this review is going to be a little different because I’ve decided to review all three books from the series in one post. I binge-read them and have so many feelings (plus an epic book hangover) so apologies for the longer-than-usual post.
“You have me. Until the last star in the galaxy dies, you have me.”
I finally decided to pick this series up after buying the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition of Obsidio on a whim and I’m so glad I did because I’ve completely fallen in love with the series and its characters. As soon as you open the book, it’s obvious that this is going to be a completely different reading experience than the one you’re used to.
The book takes the format of a dossier of hacked documents including emails, schematics, military files, instant messages, medical reports, interviews and more. Whilst it’s similar to Sleeping Giants, these books take the format even further, incorporating illustrations and laying out the text in different shapes that make the reader have to actually turn the book upside down at some points. The only slight quibble I had was that sometimes the grey writing on black was difficult to see but I’m not sure whether that was a printing issue.
“He presses the triggers. And like roses in his hands, death blooms.”
Set in space, each book focuses on two main characters fighting to escape from BeiTech Industries, a company trying to eradicate any witnesses to an invasion they orchestrated on the illegal mining planet of Kerenza. In Illuminae we meet ex-couple Kady Grant and Ezra Mason. I love how sarcastic Kady is and her hacking talents are truly enviable. Kady is one of my favourite characters from recent books as she is brave, clever, capable and intelligent. The banter between Kady and Ezra is brilliant and I thought the development of their relationship was wonderfully handled.
“She is catalyst. She is chaos. I can see why he loves her.”
Another compelling character was AIDAN, the AI ship network that seems to have malfunctioned. The extracts pulled from AIDAN’s system feature the most beautiful language despite being full of horrors. AIDAN’s thought processes are especially intriguing as he contemplates what it is to be human and what makes something real. The story itself had a zombie-horror-film quality at some points and had me turning the pages as quickly as possible. Illuminae was a fast-paced and gripping story, and one I think would make a great film. This book honestly gave me all the feels and I immediately bought the sequel Gemina.
“Patience and Silence had one beautiful daughter. And her name was Vengeance.”
Gemina takes place during the same timeframe as Illuminae but focuses on Jump Station Heimdall (love the reference to Bifröst). The format is the same as the previous book but with the addition of journal entries and illustrations from Hanna. The two main characters this time are Hanna Donnelly, the rich daughter of the station commander, and Nik Malikov, drug dealer and convicted criminal from the House of Knives cartel. It would be easy to dismiss Hanna as a spoiled, rich kid (which she is at times) except that she is an extremely skilled fighter and tactician, and willing to do whatever’s necessary. One character I loved was Ella Malikova, Nik’s cousin, and disabled hacker. She’s fierce, sarcastic and filthy-mouthed. Again, the banter between Nik and Hanna was brilliant and I slowly became invested in their relationship.
“And now, born from the ashes, she’s a warrior in bloodied black.”
The plot this time revolves around a group sent by BeiTech to infiltrate Heimdall and prevent help being sent to Kerenza. The ratcheting tension and true horror film atmosphere in this book had me utterly gripped. I barely put the book down until I’d finished. The relationship between Nik and Hanna felt a little rushed compared to Kady and Ezra’s but this is thankfully addressed in the next book. Some of the space science was a little complicated towards the end but (thanks to the knowledge I’ve learned from The Flash!) I was just about able to keep up. We also meet characters from Illuminae, namely Kady, Ezra, and AIDAN, and it was great seeing them work together in preparation for the events in Obsidio. For me, the relationship was a little weaker in this book but the action was even better.
“Every story needs its hero. And its villain. And its monster.”
As soon as I finished Gemina, I picked up Obsidio, the final book in the trilogy. This book features all the characters we’ve met so far as they travel to Kerenza. We do still have a new relationship but it’s definitely not the focus of this book. Asha Grant is Kady’s cousin and part of the rebellion on Kerenza following the invasion. The love interest is Rhys Lindstrom, her former boyfriend who now works for BeiTech and is pretty naive when we first meet him. I loved the interactions between Kady, Ezra, Hanna, Nik, Ella and AIDAN, and the friendships that develop as they unite in their mission and grief.
“The die is cast. But today we will shake the table upon which it lands.”
This book questions how people decide their actions and reasons are “right” compared to others. Using Rhys, the authors explore the viewpoints of BeiTech soldiers ordered to commit atrocities in the belief that they are the righteous side. It’s amazing how I was sympathetic to almost every character at times despite them being wrong or doing something awful. The action scenes were well-written, tense and visceral, especially whenever Hanna was involved. Another character I adored was the sweet Isaac Grant who tried to parent all of the characters despite fighting a losing battle. Overall, this was an incredible conclusion to the series and I can’t imagine a better ending.
If you haven’t guessed yet, this is now one of my favourite series and I already can’t wait to reread it. I’ve never read a lot of science-fiction which might be why I took so long to pick this up but don’t let that put you off. These books are like nothing I’ve read before and I urge you to take a chance on them if you haven’t read them yet. The characters are brilliant, the setting is incredible, and the humour is perfect. If you want to fangirl with me over this series, please leave a comment!