Illuminae Review

Amie Kaufman’s and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae is an epic space opera told on a personal scale. It’s the story of Kady and Ezra, but it’s also the story of what it means to be human; whether it’s right to put the needs of the many above the needs of the few; how tragedy shows us who’s truly important to us.

It’s a mind-warping, brilliant ride through space.

What you can steal

1. Creative storytelling

Illuminae is told through IMs, emails, transcripts, video surveillance footage, and more. It’s an incredible experiment with the narrative form and the authors execute it flawlessly. At times, the book reads like a screenplay, with only dialogue filling the page. But despite the limitations of this kind of storytelling, the authors never stumble. Each character has a unique voice, and though readers rarely get a direct view into what they’re thinking or feeling, the characters are complex and compelling. Show, not tell to the extreme.

2. Raising the stakes

Raising the stakes means giving readers a sense of urgency and real uncertainty about the challenges the characters face. Will they make it through? Can they?

Some books pull their punches and deliver watered-down, half-hearted existential threats. And while it can be relieving to know for a fact that the main character will be able to overcome her obstacles, higher stakes usually means higher engagement and a better story for readers.

Illuminae has one of the best examples of raising the stakes I’ve ever encountered. These characters suffer incredible losses that deeply matter. They face terrifying dangers and the violent destruction of their ships and the thousands of people aboard. These heart-pounding high stakes kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime, and made the story real in a way that watered-down action never can.

Final word

If you want your mind to be blown, read this book. It’s a spellbinding, page-turning, thought-provoking, path-blazing behemoth of a crazy space opera. And I mean that in the best way possible.

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