Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Review

Hang on while I work on my getting my breathing under control. I literally finished Gemina a few minutes ago and I am still trying to process what just happened. Illuminae was amazing but Gemina takes it further and is absolutely spellbinding. I could not bring myself to stop reading, especially the third act. This was one electrifying read. If you thought the stakes were high in Illuminae, then Gemina is a whole different ball game.

Like Illuminae, Gemina too is written in a similar fashion, that is, the story unfolds through chat logs, surveillance footage descriptions etc with one key and a very welcome addition, there are illustrations that feature most of the main characters. Like its predecessor, Gemina too is a long book but that length becomes irrelevant once you start reading it. The pace is so fast and the narrative so engaging that the time just whizzes past. Gemina is also exceptionally well-written. The really science-fictiony parts seem almost plausible and there is sense of ‘realness’ that’s always present. This is because Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff conducted a fair amount of research before jumping into writing this gem and wormholes and space-time are key parts of the narrative. Gemina is also very entertaining, it’s a fun book and it is as funny as it is heartbreaking. The banter between the characters is one of the most entertaining aspects of the book. Also, the surveillance guy’s commentary is hilarious. He’s possibly one of the most fun characters in the book.

Special shout-out to Marie Lu for the amazing sketches. They added to the experience of the book and I loved them. They were so beautiful. Here are some examples:

    

In Illuminae, we found out about the attack on Karenza, Gemina is about the fallout following those events, the plot thickens. Almost all of the action takes place aboard the Jump Station Heimdall and there were so many layers to the narrative that it was a wonder that it all made perfect sense and came together beautifully. It truly speaks to the writing and amount of care that went into crafting this complex story.

The other strength of the book are the characters. They are among the best realised characters that you are likely to come across. They are so well-written that it was easy to forget that they weren’t actually real and to get sucked into their world. Gemina also has a much larger cast of characters. There are our main characters; Hanna Donnelly and Niklas Malikov, then the secondary characters; Ella Malikova, Isaac Grant and Jackson Merrick and finally the Audit Team; there were quite a few notable characters there as well. To have so many characters with distinct personalities was no easy feat.

If you’re familiar with Illuminae and Jay Kristoff’s books, then you also know that body count is going  to be pretty high and no character is safe until the last page. Gemina was no different and people started dying fairly quickly and early on in the book. That surprised me for a bit because I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. Things start off easy and calm but they don’t stay that way for too long. And once they get going, they don’t stop.

First up, Hanna and Nik. On the surface, these two couldn’t be more different, the former is the daughter of the Station Chief while the latter is part of a crime family and they were both amazing. Hanna was so resourceful and a force to be reckoned with. Every time someone underestimated her, they lived to regret it (if they lived at all) She soon became a painful thorn for the Audit Team and for the longest time they had no idea who they were dealing with. Every time she hit a roadblock, she found a way around it. I loved her because she was fierce and intelligent and she used both of those qualities in her favour. She made use of every advantage she had.

Nik was much the same, his life as a criminal actually came in handy since he didn’t believe in fighting fair. He gave as good as he got and he too was smart and cautious. Hanna and Nik, on their own were dangerous but together, they were even more so and someone the hijackers never accounted for.

I also loved the romance aspect. It was subtle and always in the background. Also, it grew through the course of the book and felt organic and earned. I also appreciated how healthy it was. They were honest with each other and worked well together, like a well-oiled machine.

But they would not have gotten very far without assistance from a certain hacker, Ella Malikova. I fell in love with her as soon as she stepped onto the page. She suffered from disability but you wouldn’t know that from how good she was at what she did. She was a hacker and another person the Audit team did not see coming. She became the eyes and ears for Hanna and Nik and guided them through the Jump Station and made sure they stayed safe. I fell in love with Ella, her snark and attitude were a breath of fresh air. Also, her nicknames for Nik were hilarious. I loved that she was not defined by her disability. Ella Malikova was a badass and anyone who disagrees has no idea what they’re talking about.

There was also a mole aboard Heimdall, helping the BeiTech crew and I had my suspicions early on about this person’s identity and very pleased to know that I right. The BeiTech Crew was also not to trifled with, they made that point soon after boarding the Station. They were ruthless, efficient and a very formidable adversary. Sadly, they had no idea what they had signed up for. I liked the way they were written. They all had such distinct personalities and quirks.

Illuminae had a deadly virus while Gemina had the Lanima. I leave it up to you to decide which was worse. Personally, I’m going to go with the latter, they were way worse. They were creepy and just very unsettling.

I strongly recommend reading either a paperback or a hard cover version of the book. Trust me, there is no comparison between a physical copy and the digital version. The book is so well-designed and it complements the story beautifully. Reading a digital copy will just not do it justice.

Gemina is every bit as amazing as Illuminae and I can’t wait to read the third instalment. It is exceptionally well written with an excellent cast of characters. The story is complex and layered and it is intelligent. I am currently going through withdrawal having finished it not too long ago. Gemina is a must read and must be read immediately. I loved every minute I of this insane ride, I only wish it had lasted longer…

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