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A Planet Plundered, a Crazy AI, and a Deadly Disease  

By Lauren Vizcarra 

“Illuminae” is a young adult fantasy/science fiction epistolary novel. Written by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, it is the first book in the trilogy, “The Illuminae Files.” “Illuminae” is unlike your typical book, as the story is told with a collection of documents like emails, pictures, diagrams, interviews, instant messages, and transcripts. Goodreads, an online review site, grants the book 4.28 out of five stars. 

An epic tale of loss, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. Photo from

The unique format of “Illuminae” invites readers to utilize keen detective skills. The collection of documents must be pieced together to form the story. It is definitely a different way to read and does take some getting used to, but it is well worth it. The unique storytelling enriches the plot and helps the reader understand what is happening on a different level compared to a typical book. 

The story opens in the year 2575 with the devastating aftermath of the invasion of planet Kerenza. The citizens of Kerenza formed an illegal mining colony. When their competitor, BeiTech, discovered the colony, instead of turning them in to the authorities, they attacked, hoping to take over mining operations. As they frantically assemble their defense, the Kerenza settlement manages to dispatch a distress call. 

 Kady “Astro Princess” Grant. Photo by and A Touch of Magic Designs on Instagram.

Three spaceships, the Alexander, the Hypatia, and the Copernicus, respond to the SOS signal. After a massive firefight, the three ships rescue as many Kerenza citizens as possible and destroy all but one of BeiTech’s warships; only the Lincoln is left standing. In a flight for their lives, the vessels, carrying a few thousand Kerenza citizens, race through space to the nearest jump station hotly pursued by the Lincoln. BeiTech is determined to eliminate all witnesses to their crime of mass genocide. 

Just before the invasion of their planet, main characters Kady Grant and Ezra Mason end their relationship. What starts out as a bad day turns into an apocalyptically worse one. Both characters make it off Kerenza, but on different ships—Kady on the Hypatia and Ezra on the Alexander. They have a six-month journey to Heimdall, the nearest jump station, with the Lincoln hot on their heels. 

Adding to the misery, a mysterious disease breaks out among the crew and civilians of the Copernicus as a result of biological warfare deployed by the evil BeiTech. The disease is nicknamed “the shakes,” due to the first symptom that the infected passengers develop. Infected patients quickly move into a psychotic stage, become paranoid, and finally devolve into crazed killing machines. 

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Piloting the Alexander is AIDAN, the Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network system. Damaged during the battle on Kerenza, AIDAN begins acting oddly. Fleeing the doggedly pursuing Lincoln, a rogue AI adds to the challenges by ignoring direct commands from the captain.  

Separated by more than a screen. Photo by Bxromance and A Court of Candles on Instagram.

Together with friends, Kady and Ezra work together to uncover the truth behind the deadly disease, the malfunctioning AIDAN, and what the higher-ups are trying to hide. They communicate through the chat rooms, emails, and journal entries that make up the book.  

Will the Alexander, the Hypatia, and the Copernicus make it to Heimdall before the Lincoln intercepts and destroys them? Will the deadly breakout on the Copernicus be contained? Will our heroes be able to pull back the curtains and find out what’s really going on? 

Pick up “Illuminae,” a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat space thriller. Eavesdrop on characters exchanging witty banter. Lose track of time as the vivid imagery keeps pages turning long into the night. Only readers adamantly committed to traditional prose should avoid this novel. Take a break from studying for finals and immerse yourself in the world of “Illuminae.”  

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