Review: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) – Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman

gemina-cover

Published: Knopf, 2016

Genre: Young adult, sci-fi, dystopian

My rating: 5/5 stars

Description: The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault. Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion. When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.” (Goodreads)

Why I picked it up: I absolutely loved the first book of this series, Illuminae. I just recently reread it for my university’s book club, and reviewed it as well. When I finished I absolutely couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, so I immediately dived in once I finished my reread of Illuminae.

Summary: I loved this book. I just did. Though it follows different characters than the first book of the series, I still fell in love with them. The plot was fast-paced and exciting, and I could barely put it down.

Thoughts:
One thing I particularly liked about this book was the setting. Gemina doesn’t just follow different characters than Illuminae; the location is completely different as well. Where the first book follows characters on an escaping fleet of spaceships, Gemina takes place in a space station under siege. I was originally a little disappointed at first, but the new location quickly grew on me. It was believable, and easily imaginable in my mind. The authors did a great job of building up a new piece of the world with little help from the original, and the way the story is told through the various types of documents helped as well. With the diary-type doodles of Hannah, and blueprint-type drawings included, it was easy to picture the station and consider how it affected the characters’ adventures.

Another thing Kristoff and Kaufman are particularly strong with in this series (I haven’t read anything else by either author) is fast-paced plot. I don’t know if it’s because of the way the story is told, or the various subplots, or the uniqueness of the main plot line, but I just zoomed through this book. It utterly consumed my life when I was reading it, as did Illuminae. Though I didn’t find there were as many plot twists in this one, they were paced throughout the book so that by the time I had worked one out, I was hit with another. I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff the entire time I was reading. Again, there were several subplots, but they all intertwined with the main plot cleanly. Where it could be a bit messy and confusing, I always felt like I had a good grip on everything. If I didn’t, I figured that was the way it was supposed to be. I mean, I doubt intergalactic war is all clean-cut and easy to understand.

I’ll admit that I missed Kady and Ezra a lot, but I did end up falling in love with Hannah and Nik as well. I was attached with Nik immediately – I’m a sucker for the bad-boy-who’s-actually-super-sweet trope – but it took me a little while with Hannah. She turned out to be quite the badass though. At first, she slightly irritated me, but when the action got real, so did she, and I loved that. Krisoff and Kaufman have a way with writing strong, intense female characters, and it’s something I appreciate infinitely.

Okay, now let’s talk about Ella. Ella is Nik’s cousin, and the biggest badass in this book, quite honestly. I half-hated, half-loved her infinite attitude, but she knew what she was doing and she didn’t hesitate to tell it how it was. Like Kady, Ella is extremely knowledgeable about all things computers, or at least that’s how it seems to me, who knows next to nothing about computers. I love the female tech representation in these novels. It’s just…there. It’s not strange, no one questions it – it just shows that women, even young women, are just as capable at science and tech as boys and men.

The bad guys – I’m not going to name any, or single them out, because there’s a lot and name-dropping some of them will be spoilers. But I will tell you that another strength of this book – and this series in general – is the antagonists. In Gemina, there happened to be a group of antagonists, the group who seized the station, but a few of them played a larger role than others. But the main baddies had reasoning and backstories, which I love. I hate villains who are just villains, and this story gave me some villains who had reasons for being villains, or who were tricked into villainess. They had personalities and stories of their own, making me feel simultaneously angry at them and bad for them. Overall, the side characters were very well-rounded in this story, and I didn’t feel like they were always just there to push the plot along.

Like Illuminae, this novel is told through chat threads, voice convos, secret undercover documents, journal doodles, and surveillance footage. I can’t imagine it being told any other way. For some reason, I just don’t think the plot, as strong as it was, would be as enjoyable without this specific, unique style. It helped keep the pace of the book by switching between longer blocks of texts, like the surveillance footage, and shorter chunks of text, like the chats and doodles. One of the weak points I found was the surveillance footage chapters, though. I felt that they were used more in Gemina than in Illuminae. They read almost like regular prose, which take away from the pace and unique form of the novel. They’re also generally longer, and, for me, not as vivid or interesting. I felt they were a bit overused in the novel, and those were often the places I’d stop for the day. But they lessened in frequency in the second half or so, so that wasn’t too much of a negative point for me. Overall, I thought the style and form of this novel and series was beautifully done.

All-in-all, I loved Gemina. It’s hard to find a sequel that lives up to the original, and Gemina did.

Recommend for fans of: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Host by Stephenie Meyer, Under the Dome by Stephen King

Buy the book: Amazon, Book Depository, Thriftbooks

Find more reviews here!

As always, you can find me in my various corners of the Internet: Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, & Goodreads!

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