Review: “Obsidio” (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

***Warning: This review contains unmarked spoilers from “Illuminae”, “Gemina” and “Obsidio”. I highly recommend you read all three lest you miss a wonderful reading experience.***

It’s the final installment of Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff’s highly praised, highly original and highly anticipated “Illuminae Files” trilogy, and boy have I been waiting for this for a while. If you’re wondering why I’ve stalled with reviewing this, it’s because my life’s been a bit busy. However, there is no way I would ever forget about reading this novel and not give my two cents for everyone who watches Reader’s Boulevard.

Anyway, let’s discuss “Obsidio” and whether or not it brings closure to one of my favorite science fiction trilogies of all time. Does it succeed like its predecessors?

After the events of both “Illuminae” and “Gemina”, the Heimdall Jump Station is destroyed and the universe is still intact, leaving the survivors of Kerenza’s invasion on the Hypathia with zero chance of returning to Earth and not enough oxygen to return back to the war-torn planet. Determined to testify against BeiTech Industries for their attempted genocide and various war crimes committed by the mega-corporation, our four main characters—Kady Grant, Ezra Mason, Hanna Donnelley, Nik Malikov and the reformed artificial intelligence companion, AIDAN—must find a way to save themselves and the Hypathia’s survivors while drifting between from remains of the Heimdall back to what remains on Kerenza IV.

And this time, they have the Mao, Cerberus Falk’s fighter ship. Now theirs.

Meanwhile, there are remaining Kerenzan citizens still alive from the colony’s destruction, as well as BeiTech soldiers stranded and occupying the desolate planet. Enter Asha Grant, Kady’s cousin and member of the resistance moment trying to take

The Kerenzan revolution will not be televised, everyone.

back the colony from BeiTech. Unfortunately, Rhys Lindstrom, her ex-boyfriend from Earth, is among the BeiTech mercenaries who helped destroy her home-away-from-home. Now they’re both trapped between bitter reunion and hostile coexistence on the icy planet.

However, their drama is the least of their problems. Using the Kerenzan civilians as forced labor to extract fuel for their stranded ship, BeiTech’s mercenaries intend to remove every trace of their invasion once and for all. Will all the sacrifices and tribulations faced by our heroes be for nothing, and will BeiTech succeed in their war crimes? Do Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have an obsession with forcing young adult romances where there doesn’t need to be?

Despite how much I’ve been praising this trilogy for its ambition and creative storytelling, there is one aspect of this which can be distracting for some readers: it is visibly repetitive when it comes to plot points and characters. I mean, think about it: we have a male and female teenager who are trying to survive the consequences of Kerenza’s destruction, both of whom seemingly don’t like each other, but are forced to work together for the rest of the galaxy to hear their story.

In the first two books they were more tolerable because of their situations: Kady and Ezra broke up not long before the invasion happened, were separated on different ships and depended on each other to survive before they got back together (plus, I felt her believing Ezra to be dead in the last third of “Illuminae” helped make her highly appreciate him in her life even more). In “Gemina”, Hanna and Nik came from two different worlds living on the same spacecraft, with her a bored commander’s daughter and him a mobster’s kid exiled on the Heimdall. They rarely—if ever—talked to each other outside of dealing drugs, which made it compelling when they needed each other as well in order to survive BeiTech’s attempted cover-up.

With “Obsidio”, it’s essentially Kady and Ezra again but with the ex-boyfriend working for the enemy (how big is this infinite universe of theirs again?). Why not switch it up a bit? If it’s the far future, why not have it be a couple you’ve never seen before? Maybe have them LGBT, two estranged family members, former friends, or have them be together early on?

While we’re at it, why not have it be where the two protagonists don’t fall in love by the end of the book? I know this is a strange thing to have in young adult novels given Ripley_sees_Bishop's_bloodthe specific demographic, but there doesn’t always need to be a romantic subplot involved. In “Aliens”, Ripley didn’t need to fall in love with Bishop or Hudson by the end of the film.

Alright, I’m done ranting. What do I think of this now? Honestly, despite this little pet peeve, this has to be the most intense and well-choreographed novel I’ve read recently. Say what you will about the previous two novels and how many characters there are, but Kaufman and Kristoff knew to keep the narrative fixated on the two protagonists. With “Obsidio”, there’s the four previous main characters plus AIDAN and the two heroes on Kerenza, all packed in 600 pages. And EVERYBODY gets equal focus.

When I finished reading “Gemina”, I remember wanting to see more interactions between all of the protagonists, and we get plenty of great scenes like Ezra & Nik discussing strategy and their love lives, complete with quips about their accomplishments. Followed by that’s another great scene where Hanna, Nik’s tech-savvy cousin Ella and Kady talk about their plans to leave SOMETHING for their story to be told in case of the worst, leading to the latter saying this book’s most poignant line, “Live a life worth dying for.”

Much like a Marvel fan seeing the Avengers onscreen for the first time, I didn’t get bored listening to them interact and work off of each other. My favorite scene of them (aside from the second-to-last chapter) has to be when Ezra, Kady, Ella, Nik and Hanna are formulating a plan to take back the Mao from Garver’s mutiny—in comic-form drawn by Marie Lu no less. My third favorite also has to be with every moment involving


AIDAN still being an inhuman treasure, turning from HAL 9000 into GLaDOS (seriously, that scene with Nik’s cigarette had me laughing!).

The other two main characters are interesting as well. Rhys Lindstrom is clearly not happy about his position. He’s ethically sound yet quiet with himself and wants to do the right thing even though he’s on the side that wants to commit genocide. Even though the trope of the boyfriend being with the bad guys has been done to death, it’s still fascinating to see him juggle with being humane and knowing he’s placed himself on the side that is ethically wrong. Rhys isn’t a monster, but he knows speaking out against his comrades & superiors will risk him his life. He kind of reminds me of Elias from “An Ember in the Ashes” (and yes I’m going to review Reaper at the Gates soon!).

The same can be said for Asha Grant. At first, I felt like she was basically a second version of her cousin Kady, and yes you can sometimes find it hard to distinguish the two, but there are distinguished differences that separate them from their relatives. For one, Asha isn’t a teen hacker with a prodigal mind, but instead a normal teenage girl who made mistake and adjusts to them. Granted I think we could’ve used more dialogue of her and her sister, since it is a driving factor in why she’s on Kerenza, but it is refreshing to have a protagonist who isn’t prodigal or perfect.

I also like the addition of realism and consequence, such as some members of the Heimdall questioning why they should listen to the kids, while at the same time you know they only care about their survival. In my first review of the trilogy, I mentioned these books having elements of a creepypasta and “Aliens”, but there’s also nods towards “Starship Troopers”, anime, “Interstellar”, etc. This world may have familiarities, but it definitely knows how to stand on its own.

Once again, the format of classified documents and files makes the center stage of this space opera. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff still know how to craft a story from this unique style that makes each page feel like a government dossier. Recovered emails, transcripts, notes and video footage descriptions paint a futuristic world that is harsh, realistic and awfully familiar in how immoral some humans can be in certain situations. Reading this blurs the line between what you’ve seen on the news and what you’re reading. You are with the characters every step of the way. The stakes of what’s about to be lost are clearer than before, and it feels like real lives are on the line based on each choice made.


If I had to choose one other big problem, I felt the reveal of Ezra’s mother being a member of BeiTech responsible for the Attack on Kerenza didn’t add much to the story. Let me rephrase that, I felt the authors didn’t explore it enough to warrant being an addition. Maybe it would’ve helped if we learned more about their past as a family, it might have made the final confrontation more powerful?

Regardless, that doesn’t change my stance on this book. “Obsidio” is a finale that does not disappoint hardcore fans. It isn’t hesitating to push you out of your comfort zone into the darkest aspects of horror humanity is capable of, you didn’t know was capable of, and pull you back out of that cosmic Hell before ending on a perfect note. If you’re an average reader looking for adrenaline-rushed novels that take tropes to either subvert or use them to an advantage, then the “Illuminae Files” is a trilogy that takes you across the cosmos of human willpower.

Here is a link for those interested:


Thank you for taking your time here! 🙂 Please leave a reply or comment below. Knowing that someone is reading this is what keeps me going, and I’d love to know everyone else’s opinion is on these books or any recommendations for future reviews.

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Review: “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker

What makes the bond of an owner and a pet so special? What makes that bond so inseparable in someone’s youth and adulthood? These are questions I’ve asked ever since my first dog died over a decade ago, and I’ve learned the answer to as I grew up.

“Pax” is a novel I initially noticed while visiting a local bookstore, and was drawn to how simple yet detailed Jon Klassen’s illustration of the cover showed. Add Sara Pennypacker’s heartwarming and poignantly timeless writing style similar to “Coraline”, and you get s novel that left me yearning for a good ending.

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Top 10 LGBT YA Novels I Recommend

Before you read, I’d like to dedicate this post to all the families and victims hurt in this morning’s tragedy. For those who for some reason haven’t heard, a lone shooter mercilessly massacred fifty people and injured just as many at a gay nightclub (called Pulse) in Orlando, Florida. Police are still investigating into further detail, but it is a known fact that this wasn’t just a random shooting. This was a hate-fueled attack meant to kill and harm innocent people.

If anyone is reading this, don’t pray for repentance or hate, but pray for the families and friends that have been affected by what many are calling the worst mass shooting in United States history. Do not call for gun control. Reports are coming in that the gunman was posing as a security guard and guns were not allowed in the club. If there is anything we should call for, it’s for the acceptance of LGBTQA+ people everywhere, and to fight homophobic attacks like this with love and understanding.

To everyone affected by the shooting, everyone is hearing your cries. And to everyone else, I have a quote for you from a Holocaust survivor named Henry Golde, “Hate is nothing, and love is everything.”


          Gay literature is an iconic part of the LGBTQA+ community, especially towards teenagers and young adults, so in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I’ve decided to make a Top 10 list for the best gay young adult novels I wholly recommend. Now, there are a few rules to this for anyone who’s reading. The first rule is that these entries have to have an LGBT person as the protagonist and not just as a side character. Second, it cannot be explicit and must be readable for anyone from fourteen to even nineteen years of age. And third, having no more than two of an authors’ works is acceptable by my standards because granted, I haven’t read every gay book for young adults; heck I’m even including ones I’ve reviewed on here already. And keep in mind that this is a recommendation list and not a list of the greatest LGBT young adult novels.

With that said, here’s the Top 10 List of LGBT YA Novels I Recommend.

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Review: “Openly Straight” (Openly Straight #1) by Bill Konigsberg

For my first post of LGBT Pride Month, I’m reading a gay romance novel that caught my eye while looking in a bookstore. The cover seemed nice, but the idea behind the book and the possibilities of it really caught my attention. I’ve heard of a few people say that they do not enjoy gay literature because according to them it’s the same old awkward romance you see in regular love stories. While it can be true in some cases, I have to disagree. Typically a gay romance doesn’t always have to have the romance as its focus, such as “Willful Machines” (which I reviewed a while ago). Much like zombie stories or horror films, a gay romance can be good with different variety and good characters, as well as an interesting story. And “Openly Straight” by Bill Konigsberg is one of these stories.

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Review: “Breaking Sky” by Cori McCarthy

If you ever grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s like I have, you might also look at fighter-jet/plane action movies like “Top Gun”, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” or even a bad Michael Bay film like “Pearl Harbor” the same way I do. They are fun and seem like okay films, but there comes certain times where you want to see yourself in a jet or fighter plane like an action hero. With “Top Gun” I remember the video game more than the movie, since it focused more on interactions with characters rather than dogfights.

In Cori McCarthy’s “Breaking Sky”, it feels more like a futuristic “Top Gun” if the setting and characters were more interesting. Is it a good young adult book though, as well as a good thrill for literary thrill-seekers?

In the far future, it is the Second Cold War (technically aren’t we in one right now?) and  Continue reading

Review: ‘Username: Evie’ by Joe Sugg

Okay so this week’s read is a recent one you’ve probably never heard of called “Username: Evie”, but you probably know the author and his team. From what I know, the author of this is a new one. His name’s Joe Sugg, though most of you better know him as the British Youtube personality named ‘ThatcherJoe’.

And with him to help make this comic come to life are the ‘Sugg Squad’, consisting of Amrit Birdi, Matt Whyman, Joaquin Pereyra, and Mindy Lopkin. Looking these guys up as well as Joe Sugg, I never would’ve guessed right away he wrote comics, especially with the art style involved. . And after finding this at the local book store, I decided to give it a quick read and honestly?

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Review: ‘Dog Country’ by Michael Cross

Some of you may have never heard of Malcolm F. Cross in real life, but he is a well-respected furry author who goes by the pseudonym ‘foozzzball’ on the Internet. He’s been well known to write erotica, science fiction short stories, and even an occasional novella here and there, specifically set in this fictional universe he’s created from his online story series “Stories from San Iadras”. I never got the chance to check it out, but his latest novel “Dog Country” caught my eye and I couldn’t resist.

In the far future, the world is starting to accept the rights of ‘gengineered dogs’,

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Creative Types

Anyone who writes, draws, sings, or makes people laugh should read this. Not only is the animation good, but the video itself will make the average creator shed a tear…

Credited to AnimatedJames on YouTube.

Review: ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ by Ruth Ware

Whenever I read books about a group of strangers meeting in an isolated place and being thrust into a horror story, I often can’t help but roll my eyes. If you remember my review of ‘The Rules’ in October, you may recall it kind of left a foul taste in my mouth. It was by no means terrible, but it left me wanting more variety and depth. I wanted an original story with new characters, a sense of chilling atmosphere, and be genuinely scared and care for the characters.

Well…Ruth Ware’s chilling novel ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ is that book. Continue reading

Review: ‘Willful Machines’ by Tim Floreen

Science fiction novels involving machines gone astray is practically a dime a dozen, from Isaac Asimov’s classic short stories to works such as ‘The Matrix’ franchise turning AI entertainment into a clichéd genre. In almost every fictional work, there’s always an innocent AI, a prejudiced character that sees the AI as an abomination, and a heroic bystander who will end up choosing between humanity or the AI (or heck, even destroying the AI to save the world). There’s more variety to other works, but to me that’s the basic gist of AI in science fiction.

So how does new-coming author Tim Floreen make his latest book ‘Willful Machines’ more of a diverse addition to the genre? Making the main character gay of course.

Interesting choice.

It is the (obviously not very) near future, where the world is becoming more obsessed with technology. After a newly created AI name Charlotte escapes destruction via downloading onto the internet, she begins a campaign of cyberterrorism on America. Her demands? Release her other robotic counterparts and let them live equal to humans.

Years later, a new American president has been elected under a new political party that is against AI and values traditional values. Things get complicated though when it is believed that the president’s son, a closeted (and once suicidal) robotics student named Lee Fischer, may be Charlotte’s next target. With only his gruff bodyguard and his best friend at school, Lee doesn’t know who to trust with his life (and secret), probably not even Nico Medina, the new boy in school he has a crush on.

Obviously this is a weird setup for a story the more you think about it, hell Kirkus Reviews called it a mixture of ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Romeo & Juliet’, which I can honestly say best matches the description of the book. It is a weird mixture, but the author of this clearly knows it and embraces the strangeness and the commentary to get out of this type of story.

Going in, the main character Lee reminded me of Caleb from the film ‘Ex Machina’, who’s a quietly meek but intelligent and well-spoken young man. He’s a loner, but not to the point of disliking human interaction. And although he still carries suicidal thoughts due to his insecure sexuality, you feel the pain and anguishing struggle.

Nico is also a very likeable character, being a good contrast to the robotic-loving Lee. He’s devilishly handsome but also so eccentric. He’s happily jubilant to breathe life, loves reading Shakespeare, and adores eating the terrible food at Lee’s school. Nico is less of a fictional character and more like the eccentric but good-looking Chilean exchange student you meet in college or a frat house. And when you put him and our main character together, their chemistry is beautiful, especially after a grave secret of Nico’s is revealed (which I won’t dare give away).

The rest of the side characters are good, especially Lee’s best friend named Bex (who reminds me of every liberal feminist you ever see at high school) and his bodyguard named Trumbull, but it is also a problem. Throughout the novel, it feels like the story wants to focus more on Nico and Lee’s relationship, and that’s fine. However, when you have a novel like this where the main character is questioning his sexuality and is genuinely afraid of what his friends and the world will think, it is necessary for us to know about the relationships between themselves and Lee. Don’t get me wrong: they do that, but not as much as I would’ve liked.

For example, there’s a scene in the beginning of ‘Willful Machines’ where Lee and his father, the anti-robotics POTUS, are meeting in his dorm room and questioning why Lee is into robotics. It is a good scene and plays out very well when he meets and approves of Nico as a new friend, but I wanted some more of Lee’s father. Despite his views and policies on family values, the President seems like a father who genuinely loves his son, and only wants what he believes is best for him. He’s kind of (more like is) the football coaching father who has a nerdy son who wants to enroll in Caltech.
Aside from, that I do love the other interactions of Lee and Nico with the other characters, even if I could’ve used a bit more.

Outside of that, ‘Willful Machines’ provides extraordinary commentary on freewill and the idea of whether or not we make choices or our choices make us. One of Lee’s teachers says this one intriguing quote about how humans are no different from machines because the choices we make are based on genetics and in our DNA. That’s a fairly good point, considering how some people believe they choose to be smart when in fact it can be due to good genes (i.e. good programming). She even goes on to say if God exists, humans may be no different from machines, and it is beautifully simple enough to understand for younger readers.

And not only is the ending of this tragic like ‘Romeo and Juliet’, but the ending leaves itself up for a good sequel I hope to read soon. I grew to adore the main couple and want to know what’ll happen.

Drenched in modern gothic storytelling and thrilling commentary on AI, Tim Floreen’s ‘Willful Machines’ is a great science fiction novel for both the straight reader and the questioning one.


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