Narrator: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Lincoln Hoppe, Jonathan McClain
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 11hrs, 41 mins
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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.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
Why I Read a Book I Didn’t Want To
I didn’t want to read Illuminae. I wasn’t even interested in it enough to read the synopsis. In fact, I never read the synopsis. Our story began on twitter, when I saw about three-four people talking about the audiobook. They said it was amazing. They were gushing not just over the story, they were gushing over the audiobook. There were people who were planning on listening to it after they’d already read the book. From that very moment, I was sold if only for two reasons.
- I’d already been contemplating reading Illuminae even though I wasn’t really interested because a lot of people loved it. As someone who claims to be a YA science fiction and fantasy blogger, I should probably have a general idea of what’s hot and give it a chance.
- An audiobook has to be pretty darn good for people to be gushing over it the way they were and I was looking for a new one to get with one of my audible credits.
A Note about the Audiobook
So here we are today, I’m writing this review and you are reading it. Some bloggers said that the audiobook could be confusing if you hadn’t already read the book and, while I can see why that might be for some people, I didn’t really have any problems. There were a few times I had to take a moment to piece some stuff together simply because I was unprepared for the story’s format.
Illuminae is told through a series of recording, IMs, interviews, an AI (artificial intelligence), medical reports, hacked documents… you get the idea. I recognize that this may be an immediate turn off for some people and I would understand that. Picking up a novel and physically reading a story told in such a manor isn’t for everyone, personally, I don’t know if I would have. That’s when the audiobook comes in. There are two points to consider before embarking on this audiobook though.
- If you are new to audiobooks and not adept at ingesting recorded media like this, you may want to try with a story that’s a bit more familiar. By that, I mean something that’s written in a more traditional fiction format. There is a constant shift between the use of IMs and narrative from medical reports, etc. that things can get mixed up pretty fast.
- On the flip side, if you have no problems ingesting this type of media or don’t freaking care, I applaud you and encourage you to make Illuminae your next audiobook.
I’ve listened to a fair amount of audiobooks by now, not a lot, but enough to have heard average narration and jaw-dropping narration. If you don’t know anything about Illuminae or have no interest in it whatsoever, listen to this audiobook. We have been truly spoiled and I am very much looking forward to the sequel. Even if you’re not big on audiobooks, this one is a totally different from any I’ve ever heard. I imagine reading the book and listening to it are two completely different experiences, and that alone makes investing in this worth it. The narration was done by three people but sounded more like a full cast with some very cool sound effects.
Setting and Style
Illuminae takes place in space aboard two ships and is basically your worst nightmare. A disease is set loose on one of the ships. The AI turns rogue and tries to kill everyone in order to protect them. Did I mention this disease makes everyone go crazy and basically kill or torture each other and/or themselves? Creepy. I know. Did I also mention that the AI is insane? Yes. You are in for a treat.
I know this is unappealing for a lot of people, but the audiobook actually bleeps out half the curse words (i.e. you get the beginning but not the end). From what I understand, this is because of the systems the characters are using. Now, there is a lot of swearing in this books (which usually isn’t my thing so content warning), but the way the system would cut out on the characters mid-swear actually kind of made the story more real for me for some reason.
Kady and Ezra are our two main characters and I immediately enjoyed their banter and verbal fights. It got pretty funny at times and just made them as a couple more endearing. I know you don’t hear that everyday but it’s the truth. They’re both sarcastic and snarky but so real. Maybe that’s what I like most about them. They feel like real people.
Now lets talk about the AI, AIDAN. The AI was freaking insane and became more human than was comfortable for the characters (and me, hello, freaky). When AIDAN first started actively narrating, I just thought that was a cool way to tell the story, then it turned into something more. I don’t know about other people, but I kept waiting for the AI to somehow spring into existence as a real human being. Honestly, I would have believed it too and was kind of hoping it would happen because well, View Spoiler »the AI was definitely falling in love with Kady and I was waiting for it to declare its love to her. « Hide Spoiler.
The Part Where I Explain Why I was Blown Out of the Water
By the end of the book, I absolutely cared for Kady and Ezra as well as AIDAN, even though AIDAN was responsible for a lot of the pain they went through. The ending itself shocked me. For a while there, I was numb and horrified by something that had happened. In the closing chapter though, I was mentally cheering Kady on (because I was at work and it’s socially unacceptable to make comments so enthusiastic out of the blue). It completely took me by pleasant surprise. I approve.
Basically, I approve of this entire thing and no audiobook comes recommended any higher than Illuminae.