Rated Reads

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, book 1)

by Amie Kaufman

Rated: Moderate

By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

It’s the year 2575, and Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just broken up. Oh, yeah, and just a few hours later, their town gets attacked. Kerenza IV is a freezing planet far away from the much of civilization but is home to a settlement where a large interplanetary corporation does illegal mining. After four huge ships owned by a competing corporation, BeiTech, attack the colony, the two teens and thousands of others are rescued by the United Terran Authority’s ship Alexander, a battlecarrier that was in the area and heard the calls for rescue.

The battle goes from land to air, and the survivors, on the Alexander and a couple of other ships, face six months of travel to get to a jump gate where they can travel more quickly through space to reach safety and get the word out about what BeiTech has done. But one BeiTech ship that was part of the attack, the Lincoln, survives the battle as well, though all the ships sustained major damage, and is following the Alexander, the Hypatia and the Copernicus.

Kady and Ezra are nursing their wounded feelings even as they worry if they and the many other escapees will survive the next months.

Ezra gets conscripted into the military, as do many of the other older teens who have any skill at all, to help defend the group of ships, and Kady surreptitiously uses her tech skills to do plenty of hacking to find out what’s going on — and to slowly start communicating again with Ezra, sharing some of the strange things she’s finding out. Because as much as she initially hates to contact him, she needs his help.

A complex computer, AIDAN, which controls most of the function of the Alexander, is acting very strange. And some passengers on one of the ships are showing signs of being infected with a terrifying disease that’s making them paranoid — and violent.

The story is told through the “dossier” that’s been put together after these events by the Illuminae group. The plot unfolds through collected e-mails and IMs, interviews, transcripts of video surveillance, audio files and data streams from AIDAN. It can make for slow going at first as the reader tries to make sense of the various bits of information that are pieced together, but it starts flowing better as the book proceeds, and by the second half or so, it gets quite compelling. The pace just picks up more and more until the last section, where it’s then impossible to put down.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, and what came at me was a complex story of peril in space, secrets and conspiracy, and plenty of heart-pounding moments of danger. There are lots of twists and turns, and I have to admit, I did not see several big ones coming. I grew to really care about Kady and Ezra, who, along with many others, lose people they love and put their lives on the line to save others. I’ll be starting on the next one fairly soon to see what comes next.

Rated: Moderate. The official who requested the “dossier” asked for bad language to get censored, so almost any profanity is blacked out in the book. Sexual content includes a kiss and some crude banter in several spots between young men who are fighting battles together. Violence and gore are fairly high, with more and more details later in the book about how infected people are killing noninfected people, and it’s not pretty.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, book 1)
  • by Amie Kaufman
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: