Review: GEMINA by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Ember
Page Count: 659
Release Date: October 18th, 2016
Series: THE ILLUMINAE FILES, Book 2
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead for earlier books in the series. You can read reviews for those books here: ILLUMINAE

Gemina

Nik and Hanna don’t have a lot in common. He’s a member of the House of Knives crime syndicate and she’s the daughter of the captain of the jump station Heimdall. They meet up once in a while so Hanna can buy drugs for her parties, but aside from occasional flirting, that’s as far as their interactions go. But when a strike team takes over the Heimdall, Nik and Hanna are among the few people who aren’t captured and have a prayer of rescuing the rest of the crew. But time is ticking away: unbeknownst to them, a ship named the Hypatia is en route to Heimdall, and the strike team has orders to make sure that ship never reaches its destination. Unfortunately for everybody involved, there’s a third player involved in this scuffle: a parasitic alien predator that doesn’t care about politics, just where its next meal is.

GEMINA is a gripping sci-fi action tale that both builds upon and is distinct from the fantastic ILLUMINAE. Unlike ILLUMINAE, GEMINA doesn’t have to spend a lot of time setting up the world of the series, and can jump much more quickly to the meat of the story. Readers of the previous book will remember that Heimdall was the destination the Hypatia and the other ships were desperately trying to reach while being pursued by an enemy battle cruiser. GEMINA starts readers off immediately with the knowledge that the Hypatia is just a handful of days away – and that BeiTech is pulling out all the stops to make sure that ship is destroyed. That means that even during the early pages, when characters are discussing holiday plans and other mindless chit chat, there’s an ominous cloud hanging over everything as readers brace for things to inevitably go wrong.

But while there’s certainly an aura of foreboding shared across the books, GEMINA manages to feel like a completely different genre. If ILLUMINAE was channeling the movie ALIEN, then GEMINA is channeling DIE HARD. It’s a full on action movie that happens to be on a space station (and happens to have an alien infestation running about in the background). Never fear though, GEMINA gets its claws into you just as deep as ILLUMINE did; I read nearly 400 pages in a single day, unable to put the book down once the story kicked into high gear.

While GEMINA picks up storylines from ILLUMINAE, it is told from the POV of a new cast of characters. The charming bad boy Nik I found to be an improvement on last book’s Ezra, who was a love-sick puppy with not a ton else going for him. Hanna is both a social bee and a bad ass. Sure, it’s a bit absurd that the station’s daughter just happens to frequently train at the local dojo (and probably has multiple black belts) and that she spends time with her dad learning military tactics, but is that any more absurd than a New York City cop happening to be at a Christmas party taken over by terrorists?

(Also a quick shout out to Ella, Nik’s cousin and ace computer hacker who is a delight to read on every time she appears!)

Returning to GEMINA is the format of telling the story through such mediums as chat transcripts, analysis of video footage, emails, and word art that plays with typography in inventive ways. The authors have used some new formats to reflect the new characters. I particularly loved the art journal pages pulled from one character’s notebook, and not just for the insights provided about that character. As the book progresses, those pages start to have tiny blood droplets on them; as the book goes on, more and more blood appears, increasing the dread that SOMETHING happened to that notebook, and we are getting closer to that event.

I also really liked the choice the authors made in how they tell the side of the story that has to do with the terrifying alien predators. The tact they used makes those scenes extremely creepy (and they already were pretty creepy) through their dispassionate narration.

GEMINA continues to make THE ILLUMINAE FILES a must-read series for fans of sci-fi adventures. It’s the kind of writing that makes a book hard to put down, and the clever use of the epistolary format works at every moment to heighten the tension and ambience of the story. I absolutely cannot wait to read OBSIDIO and to see how this story comes to a close.

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