The Illuminae Files: Illuminae

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just broken up – badly. As if that wasn’t enough, the day of their break up is the day their planet is attacked and they become refugees. What else could go wrong?


The first of the Illuminae Files series, Illuminae is the story of Kady and Ezra as they try to maneuver their new lives after their planet is destroyed by the BeiTech corporation and their warship, the Lincoln. Now aboard to separate space ships and having lost all of their family (except for Ezra’s estranged mother and Kady’s father, who might or might not be dead aboard the Heimdall space station), they have no one else but themselves. During the six months they are aboard the Alexander and Hypatia making their way towards Heimdall, the two teens are soon thrust into a war they didn’t originally intend to be a part of.

Kady, aboard the science vessel Hypatia, is becoming a proficient computer hacker. Certain that the military personnel on the Alexander is keeping secrets, she becomes acquainted with the known hacker Byron Zhang and attempts to find out what it happening. She learns that there is a virus aboard a third ship, the Copernicus, and that the virus is mutating. She also learns that the AI unit known as AIDAN on the Alexander might have gone insane and is trying to kill them all. The only person who can help her uncover the truth is Ezra. But she’s not talking to him…or is she?

Ezra, having shown proficiency in all physical aspects, is recruited as a Cyclone pilot on the Alexander. Things don’t seem quite right when his first official mission is to destroy the escape pods that evade the destruction of the Copernicus – which may have been caused by the Alexander. Since Kady is aboard the Hypatia, her hacker skills are limited unless she can get a foothold on the Alexandar. Ezra is that foothold, and he will do anything for Kady.

Things come to a head when the pursuing Lincoln makes its way closer to the retreating Alexander and the mutating Phobos Beta virus is released onto the Alexander. As if things weren’t complicated enough, the reactivated AIDAN has threatened to destroy the Hypatia if she tries to run from the crippled Alexander.

How are two lovesick teens supposed to stop it all?

Illuminae is a unique novel written as a series of interviews, reports, dossiers, schematics, and transcribed footage. I thought because of its unique writing style that it would be a difficult novel to dive into, but it is the opposite; the writing style just sucks you in. It’s a very quick read because of this style (I finished all 600 pages in a single day). There are a number of pages that contain very little words, some written in phrases that mimic the movement of missiles, others are a single word or phrase repeated and creating a picture. Some pages contain nothing but a single word or two. One would think such a style would have difficulty conveying emotion, but again it is the opposite. I found the style very gripping, noticing my heart race at certain scenes or my breath catch in others. There is not a lot of prose in Illuminae which means few descriptions of characters beyond certain features, but that’s fine. Your imagination tends to fill in the rest.

I found myself comparing the afflicted – those who had succumbed to Phobos Beta – similar to the Reavers in Firefly. The one distinct difference is the afflicted still have their mental capability and wits, but the feeling of fear when Kady is barricaded in a room with no exits was the same as watching the crew of the Serenity trapped at the end of the same titled movie.

There are many questions still left unanswered at the end of the novel. What is BeiTech? Why did they attack a planet harvesting hermium and what do they want with it? What happened to Kady’s father and the Heimdall? I suppose these questions will be answered in the sequels, which I’m looking forward to reading.

Note: author Laini Taylor is mentioned briefly in this novel. See if you can find where. 😉

My rating: 4.5/5

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