Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016.
I got this ARC from winning the Barnes & Noble B-Fest trivia contest as part of my FirstInLine membership. I know it is a highly anticipated release, so I felt all special getting to read it early. This review will be spoiler-free, so no worries, chums. Here we go.
Gemina is the sequel to Illuminae and is the second book in what will eventually be a trilogy called The Illumine Files. The books are structured as case files that detail catastrophic events of the past. So it’s non-narrative, and you don’t know whether any of the characters will survive anything they are put through because you are essentially reading the documents that have been compiled to tell a story of what played out in the past. The documents include chats, surveillance transcripts, journal entries, etc. The case files you’re reading are being used as evidence to show what really happened during the events, as the big bad company to blame for the chaos is trying to cover it all up. Got it?
The unfortunate thing about reading the ARC was that a lot of the final artwork was not yet finished for the printing. And in the case of this book, a lot of the story is told through visual means, so it sucked turning the page on an exciting part only to see a blank page with the text “Final Art TK.” I guess I’ll have to check the book out from the library after its release on October 18th to see what I missed. The story still made sense; I just didn’t get the full effect of some things. Anywho.
This book was just as fast-paced and exciting as the first. The story picks up on the space station Heimdall, where residents have no idea what happened in book 1. Meanwhile, Kady and Ezra and everyone on the Hypatia are trying to get to Heimdall through its wormhole so they can tell everyone how they survived the devastation in book 1 and that BiTech Industries is to blame. But BiTech Industries can’t let that happen of course, so they plan to wipe out…everyone. And on top of the whole BiTech-wants-to-kill-us-all problem, there is another problem: the station becomes infested with a slimy, terrifying threat that I will say no more about other than it’s creepy af (although not as terrifying as Phobos in book 1, imo).
The story again has a romance component, and it’s between the rich daughter of the station’s captain and a member of what’s basically the space mafia. After reading both Illuminae and Amie Kauffman’s Starbound novels, these romantic patterns do start to get old. In this book especially, I didn’t find the romance particularly convincing because the heroine was originally in love with someone else and ends up falling instead for a guy who she knows very little about – and who frankly uses pretty cheap (and even demeaning) flirting tactics. Thankfully the plot is what takes the spotlight in these books, so the sketchy romance can take a backseat in my criticism.
The plot is again full of twists and turns, and you can never trust where you think it might go next. I will say that one of the bigger twists (and the ultimate solution to said twist) seemed like a stale sci-fi trope that had me bored and disappointed. (For those who’ve read it or don’t care about spoilers, I’m referring to the whole multi-verse situation.)
On to the good stuff. A great thing about this book is how good the bad guys are. (Or how bad the bad guys are. You know what I mean.) The team of villains in Gemina is so bad-ass and entertaining that you kinda secretly love them. At least I did. Call me crazy, but I love a good villain. There wasn’t really one single (human) bad guy in Illuminae, so it was refreshing to see a classic good vs. evil battle with guns and shit. (Maybe “refreshing” was the wrong term….) Also, Hanna is a totally kick-ass heroine who pulls some pretty incredible and clever stunts. The female characters really dominated the heroics of this book, which was awesome: Ella, the tech wiz who saves many asses via computer hacking, is both a female and a person with a disability, so that was really freaking cool.
Ultimately, Gemina is a solid follow-up to book 1. Illuminae was so stinking good that it was probably a challenge to follow it up with something equally complex, and I think they largely accomplished it. Of course, as with any heavily plot-driven series, its quality now hangs in limbo as the final book will determine just how good it truly is. This ending is going to matter. High stakes, people.
I give Gemina 4 stars for another winning plot, great heroines and villains, an unconvincing romance, and weaker twists.