Explosions, Alien Worms, & Multiple Universes: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

4.5 stars

Considering Gemina came out back in October of last year, I’m a little bit behind on the times in both reading and reviewing it but I’m going to do it anyway because I want to. But for those who still haven’t read it and have actually managed to track down this review, I’ll do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum.

I realise now that I should probably outline the first instalment in the series, Illuminae before I write about the second book so here goes. In book 1, we’re introduced to Kady and Ezra, two teens who used to date and whose relationship is currently a little on the awkward side. BAM the planet gets attacked by some super evil mega corporation called BeiTech because they want to take over its illegal mining operations. Part of the population manages to flee into space and it begins to try and make its way to a space station called the Heimdall for assistance. Whenever I hear the name, my brain just immediately jumps to this:

The Dark World GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Anyway, while they’re on this journey they have to deal with a whole lot of crappy circumstances. First, they’re being chased by a super-powered BeiTech ship determined to get rid of all witnesses to the planet takeover. Second, there’s a crazy zombie-like virus loose on one of the ships turning people into aggressive crazies, and last but not least, AIDAN, the AI on one of the ships has decided now is a great time to completely lose its marbles and cause havoc. Throughout the book, the crew has been trying to hail the Heimdall and tell them what the hell’s been going on but for some unknown reason, they’re not picking up. Dum, dum, DUMMMMMMMM!!!! The ships in the fleet are destroyed over the course of the book until only one remains, the Hypatia, which continues its journey onward towards the station.

RIGHT, let’s get stuck in then shall we?

PLOT

As Kaufman and Kristoff said before the book’s release, Gemina is part concurrent story and part sequel. This is because the story takes place on Heimdall station and explains why it’s been ignoring the Hypatia’s communications. At the beginning of the story we meet a brand new hero and heroine – Nik and Hanna. The latter is the blonde, slightly spoiled teenage daughter of the Heimdall’s station captain and the former is a member of a dodgy crime family who happens to be Hanna’s drug dealer. Nik has the hots for Hanna but Hanna only has love heart eyes for Jackson, her boyfriend of six months who works on station and apparently has an attractive British accent (I feel you, Hanna). So before you can get in any way bored with these interactions, there’s some icky criminal activity involving alien worms and cows (trust me, you don’t want to know) and a massive attack on the station by BeiTech forces. People with super armour and guns shoot a whole bunch of people and take control of the station, and like any good hero and heroine do, Hanna and Nik set out to fix the situation. Oh, and before you ask, yes, Kady and the Hypatia do show up but not until about the last third of the book.

Just like its predecessor, the plot of Gemina is pretty great. Three young people facing off against a bunch of trained mercenaries to save a space station is difficult to make boring. The characters are split up for large chunks of the book which gives us as a reader a wider view of what’s happening on the station. We also get plenty of scenes focusing on just the “bad guys”. However, I do have to say that while the book was great and I devoured it in less than a day (unsure if this was due to the quality of the story or the fact that I realised yesterday I have 29 unread books sitting around on my bookshelves) it was a little…exhausting. This is one ACTION PACKED book. One minute the characters are having a conversation and the next it’s all…

Gun GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

giphy-5

My feelings of being overwhelmed by the action were probably due to the fact that I DID read it so quickly, maybe if I’d spread it out a little my brain would have calmed down and I’d have appreciated it more. But just to summarise, this book has explosions, alternate dimensions, brain sucking alien worms, martial arts fights, and the return of a crowd favourite AI to help save the day. K & K also continued to maintain their ability to throw plot twists at you and have them actually be a shocker (a rare skill these days in fiction) – that AIDAN-Ezra twist from book one gave me serious trust issues this time around.

Romance wise, the subplot was actually fairly realistic and not over the top which is fantastic. Having read so many young adult novels now with ridiculous, saccharine, and annoying insta-love romances, I’m a lot more critical these days. I won’t say much more because SPOILERS, but it was good and once again linked into that twists thing I mentioned above. It’s probably best summarised like this:

Cary Elwes GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I do have to say that another thing that ever so slightly disappointed me was the defeat of the villain. It was quite short and felt the teeniest bit anticlimactic after all the build-up. This was a scene I was actually expecting to have lots of action so I mentally prepared myself to find that it kind of fizzled out with a mild concussion grenade and a gunshot (although points for the unexpected and perfect return of a particular character).

CHARACTERS

Let’s start off with Hanna. While there are some clear and significant differences between Kady and Hanna, I do see a slight similarity between the two. It’s probably because they’re both witty, impulsive, badass women. While Kady’s skills lie behind a computer screen, Hanna’s are more physical in that she’s a martial artist who’s trained with her father in battle simulations since she was young. She can produce quotes on war at the drop of a hat and plays strategy games like chess to hone her strategizing abilities. It was great to follow an awesome female character with the capability of beating the bad guys using both her body and her mind. She can be a little GO-GO-GO sometimes but she never made any decisions that would cause me to do a Captain Picard and facepalm. Smart characters are good characters.

Nik seems like he’d be your typical troubled bad boy character but he actually steps out of this mould easily in that he’s a kid who’s grown up in a sucky family situation and generally tried to make the best of things.  There’s a little mystery to him and his attempts to hit on Hanna never fail to entertain. Nik’s horrified reactions to the actions he has to take to survive ground the character and maintain realism. However, I do wish the book had dealt with the guilt you’d expect him to feel over his involvement in the way events began.

Rounding out the key three is Nik’s computer savvy cousin Ella. Ella is a fifteen year old tech prodigy with partial paralysis after a terrible illness, and key to Nik and Hanna’s ability to survive on Heimdall. She’s terrible at keeping fish alive, drinks a lot of energy drinks, and swears like a sailor. There were moments when Ella’s character bordered on annoying and I still can’t explain why, however, she grew on me over time to round out the trio in a fulfilling way.

WRITING

If you’ve read Illuminae you’ll be no stranger to K&K’s writing style variations. As before, the story is told through online chat conversations, letters, log entries, and descriptions of camera surveillance footage. Usually I’m pretty vanilla when it comes to methods of writing – stories told through e-mails or diary entries don’t really float my boat as I often feel like I’m missing out on the action and getting it second-hand. With these books I never feel that way. All the dramatic decisions are being made ‘on screen’ during the online convos and we’re given additional context through the surveillance footage descriptions (essentially your basic third person story-telling).

The chat conversations in this book are easier to understand as only one of the three central characters is a computer genius utilising tech speak, plus the humour in them is pretty great. I actually laughed out loud at certain points, which is fairly rare these days. One thing that did bother me a little was a section towards the end of the book in which the writing varies to allow for two different characters’ stories to happen simultaneously. The events are divided up into one character’s actions on the left page and the other’s on the right. I appreciated what they were trying to achieve here and half of me found it fascinating. The other half of me was mildly annoyed and also felt that due to the natural way our eyes move across a page, the purpose behind it couldn’t be fully realised in practice. Additionally, it went a little longer than I expected and it covered the villain-hero face off which was a little unfortunate and distracting.

Overall though, will I read the next one? Yes. Was it awesome? Pretty much.

4.5 Stars

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