My thoughts on the Illuminae Files

On July 26, in the middle of the night, I finally finished the Illuminae files. And I say finally because it took me ridiculously long to pick up Illuminae in the first place, and then another year to continue the series. For absolutely no reason at that; I loved Illuminae!

I have to admit, it took me a very long time to pick up the first book. I knew how everybody was gushing about it, and that everyone should read it, but the truth is, the layout kind of put me off at first. I had never read any story in this kind of format, but when I ~finally~ did pick it up, I was hooked!

Anyway, the reason for this review is that I have some strong feelings about this series, and I need to put it in words instead of continuing to unintelligibly screech. I might do some deeper thinking concerning AI technology and become all philosophical. You have been warned. One thing is certain, I don’t think I’ll ever have to go to a theme park again after this rollercoaster of emotions.

Let me begin with Illuminae. It has been a good while since I’ve read it, so forgive me that this part will be a little on the short side. I am pretty sure that I read the entire book in about a day. Once I got used to the format I found myself incredibly engaged in the book. Normally, I read the words, I take in the words, but Illuminae made me look for the words. This book, and entire series therefore, is so insanely creative. I loved the illustrations, the chat logs, the constant feeling of dread, and the plot twists. Speaking of plot twists, once I finished Illuminae I told myself I would never fall for this level of deception again.

And as always, I was wrong.

I read Gemina far more recently (last week, ha), so this is more fresh in my head. It took some time for me to get used to new characters, but like with Illuminae, it took me a day to finish the book. Gemina had a lot of concepts that I absolutely loved. See I love reading books about space travel. I’m already slightly anxious on a regular plane, so imagine my feelings if I were hypothetically on a spaceship hurtling through a vacuum of unfathomable size. Especially Gemina made me feel continuous dread, which I loved. When I read a book I want to be scared for the characters.

One of my favorite concepts in Sci-fi ever is the idea and execution of multiverse theory. I’ve read a couple of books where multiverses come up, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the concept executed as well as in Gemina. Also, remember when I said I wouldn’t fall for deceptive plot twists again? Yeah, this was the part where I was wrong. I totally did not see a multiverse switch coming even though the evidence of what happened was right in front of me the entire time.

Now about Obsidio. No multiverse accidents here, but still lots of action to unpack. For me this book was the most heartbreaking out of all three. There was so much pressure and angsty anticipation. And again I totally fell for all the deceptive plot twists. I swear I will never learn.

Obsidio is also the book that made me think the most about similar real life concepts. For example I find the concept of Artificial Intelligence incredibly interesting. In a lot of movies and books AI technology always evolves into a disaster. The AI develops its own will and outsmarts it human creators. I’m then curious if AI in real life can become more intelligent than its makers, and develop its own will even if its programming would not technically allow it. Obviously this is what happened with AIDAN in the Illuminae Files and it led to both heartbreak and victory. Next question: can AI then develop feelings? Would they know the difference between good and bad, or is every decision made based on calculations and cost-benefit analyses?

Speaking of good and bad, especially Obsidio poses a lot of interesting questions regarding good and bad and the ethics of war. In Illuminae and Gemina it was fairly obvious who the baddies were, but Obsidio I think is the only book in the series that showed that characters on the other side of the conflict are human, too. I get really excited when conflicts in books are not as black and white as they at first seem; it really forces me to think critically and it always makes me reflect on the real world as well.

Also I hope I’m not the only one that totally forgot Nik still had that parachute.

Some more general observations that were made and thoughts that were had now. One of my favorite things of this series is that Kristoff and Kaufman got away with so much profanity without actually writing the profanity. Let’s not pretend that the audience for which this series is written is not familiar with at least 50 different ways to fill in the censored words. Thus one of my favorite activities was filling in the blanks when they came up. It allowed for a lot of creativity on my part, too.

Second I love how Kristoff and Kaufman were able to give every character a very own texting style that properly conveyed their personality. I think that’s really impressive, and that despite the seriousness of the entire situation there was still plenty of humor.

I’ll leave my ramblings at that, before this post accidentally becomes a novel. Obviously I cried a lot again, so I might have to adjust my sob-post from a while ago to include this series…

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