Written by: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Published by: Listening Library
Release date: October 20th 2015
Runtime: 11hrs 41mins
Add on: Goodreads
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.
This review is incredibly late in coming, considering I listened to this audiobook back in October, but hey, better late than never!
There’s been a lot of buzz around the print edition of this book — for very good reason. Its format is beyond unique, and on top of that, the story is amazing, so I’d really urge you to check out my original Illuminae review if you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts about those things. But if you want to skip that, just suffice it to say, this is one of those books that completely lives up to the hype that surrounds it.
But what about the audiobook version? If you’ve already read the original book, you’re probably wondering how, exactly, they made an audiobook of it — the book isn’t written in normal linear narration.
Well, first of all, the audiobook is full-cast. That’s right, every single character gets a unique narrator. And that aspect is amazing (even though, personally, I’m not a huge fan of Kady’s narrator). The audiobook also has amazing sound effects for things like countdowns, ship-wide communication, and alarms; and lots of cool stuff was done to characters’ voices — to make it clear when they’re ‘narrating’, to differentiate different environments, and to mimic computer glitches. The audiobook as a whole is an incredible production — it doesn’t have quite the depth of sound you’d hear in something like a radio play (has anyone here listened to any of the Doctor Who Big Finish Audios? no? you’re missing out), but it’s somewhere between a full-production audio and a voice-only audiobook.
Personally, I love using audiobooks as a way to re-read my favorites. And for that purpose, the Illuminae audiobook worked perfectly for me. It was super fun to re-experience the book by listening to this production — because that’s what it is, a production.
However, I do feel like, for the first-time reader, you lose a lot in translation if you only listen to the audiobook. Illuminae was originally crafted (painstakingly so) to mimic paper and electronic documents — words and other typographical elements that were meant to be visually represented. However, by only listening to the audiobook, you lose a lot of the original intention behind things that don’t translate to the spoken word.
How, exactly, does one interpret “O_o” or “akldjalksdjf,” or the indication that [inaudible murmuring] is happening? Instead, the narrators say things like “hmmm” or “arghhhhh!” or “ohhh, I don’t know…” — which, for me, takes away some of the original charm and meaning. The narrators are trying to voice things that aren’t meant to be spoken, so they end up sounding a little weird in context. Additionally, there are some pretty essential elements having to do with the shape of the words on the page, which are completely lost in the audiobook. There’s no way to narrate a block of text and have it be understood that that text is actually typed in the shape of a heart, for instance.
I know I might sound overly critical, but I truly did enjoy this audiobook. It’s incredibly engaging and fun to listen to, and it’s especially great as a method of re-reading. But I do recommend reading the paper book first — it’s a fast read, and there’s a lot of stuff there (pages and pages and pages) that cannot be represented in an audiobook. But the audio is an awesome experience, and something that, if you’ve read the print book, you should definitely check out.