Prepare yourselves for Illuminae, a new YA collaboration between award-winning authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The sci-fi thriller (out Oct. 20) is told through a dossier of hacked documents, including emails, schematics, military files, medical reports, and more. Here’s the official description:

Here’s a look at that cool cover in GIF form. And here, Kaufman and Kristoff answered some of our burning questions via email. Then check out an introduction and exclusive excerpt from Illuminae.


EW: First of all, tell me about the cover. This book has a really unique look.

JAY KRISTOFF: The cover is actually two covers—on the outside, there’s a transparent acetate wrap, with “windows” that show through to the hardback cover underneath.

AMIE KAUFMAN: On the hardcover underneath, you get a peek at the redacted documents you’ll see inside the book. You may also notice the cover features explosions. This is an explodey book. (Our editor isn’t convinced explodey is a word…)

The whole book has a really unique look with that kind of content. Can you talk about the art concept?

KAUFMAN:The whole book is made up of emails, IM conversations, blueprints, medical reports, maps, security reports, posters, and the rambling of a mad artificial intelligence. Basically, we kept waiting for our editor to say “too far” and she kept saying “more!”

KRISTOFF: Our illustrators and designers were amazing, and we contributed some artwork ourselves, too.

Why did you decide to partner together on this book.

KAUFMAN:We’d been friends for ages. (We met when Jay helped me figure out my American tax forms—we’re Aussies and your tax is confusing!) And to be honest, I had an anxiety dream that we were writing a book together. I’d forgotten what it was about, but couldn’t admit it. Lots of “hey, so, uh, what do you think should go in the next chapter, Jay?” When I told Jay, we laughed, then went “Hey, hang on…”

KRISTOFF: That, and Neil Gaiman was busy.

What’s the process of co-authoring like?

KRISTOFF:There’s a fairy story called the “The Shoemaker and the Elves” where this old cobbler keeps leaving leather out overnight and wakes up the next day and there’s a new pair of shoes. Co-authoring is a little like that. You send off the manuscript to your partner, and a few days later, you check your email and hey, there’s more book in here! How did that happen?

KAUFMAN: It’s about working with someone whose writing meshes with yours—who makes what you do better, rather than just making it into their own. It’s amazing having instant feedback, someone there to laugh at your jokes, gasp over the heartbreaking bits, or dig you out when you’ve fallen in a plot hole.

How would you describe Illuminae to someone who hasn’t heard anything about it?

KAUFMAN:The short description? Illuminae is like Battlestar Galactica meets Ten Things I Hate About You. It’s got explosions, surprise attacks, a deadly plague, a mad artificial intelligence, conspiracies, a desperate fight for survival, and also kissing.

KRISTOFF: We promise it’s like no book you’ve ever read before.