Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 18 2016
Genres: Young adult, Science fiction
Format: Finished hardcover
The nitty-gritty: A feast for the eyes, Gemina surpasses Illuminae in both story and format. This is one science fiction series you need to be reading!
According to Goodreads, I finished Gemina on December 7th, which was about three weeks ago. Due to life-stuff, I haven’t posted any reviews since then, which I feel terrible about! I nearly skipped writing this review, because the year’s almost over and I keep thinking “what’s the point?” But I loved this book so much that I wanted a chance to gush about it in writing, even if I am one of the last people on earth to post a review, LOL. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Gemina was fantastic! This series just keeps getting better and better, and Kristoff and Kaufman are such a great writing team. I was worried that the graphic format the second time around might feel like “been there, done that,” but believe it or not, this story felt fresh and new in every way.
If you haven’t started the series, there may be spoilers for Illuminae, so beware. The story picks up soon after the end of Illuminae, but focuses on mostly new characters (although some from the first book do make appearances). In Illuminae, the ships are headed for Jump Station Heimdall, a circular space station that surrounds a wormhole where ships can “jump” to far off planets in the blink of an eye. Hanna Donnelly is the space station captain’s pampered daughter, and she’s bored stiff, because let’s face it: life on Heimdall is pretty dull. Her boyfriend, Jackson Merrick, is an officer on the space station, and she’s even got a drug dealer, a boy named Nik Malikov who keeps her in “dust,” the drug that makes life a little more interesting.
But on the night of a big celebration called Terra Day, Hanna’s dull life on Heimdall suddenly turns deadly. A team of assassins from BeiTech—the company that tried to destroy the planet Kerenza in book one—has just infiltrated the station and is set on destroying Heimdall as well. The team is here to tie up some loose ends—in other words, the escapees from Kerenza who are heading towards the wormhole, in an effort to let the world know what BeiTech has done. If BeiTech can successfully power down the station and disrupt the wormhole, no one will be able to travel through it.
What the assassins didn’t count on, however, was a teenage girl with combat training who is determined to stop them. With the help of Nik and a tech-savvy girl named Ella, Hanna begins to pick off the team, one by one. But even as the assassins and Hanna start to face off, another threat enters the picture: an alien life form is on the loose in the air ducts of the space station, and it’s hungry…
Gemina follows the same formatting idea as Illuminae, with a variety of communications like emails, text messages, journal entries, video transcriptions and more that first introduce us to the characters and the set-up, and later describe the exciting action sequences as the people on Heimdall are threatened by both humans and aliens. It takes a few pages to get into the groove of how these communiques move the story forward, but once things get going, it’s literally impossible to stop turning the pages as fast as you can. Kaufman and Kristoff were smart enough to ask fellow author Marie Lu to contribute sketches to the book, which comprise Hanna’s personal journal. These added visuals were a wonderful addition to the story and really helped capture the sweet but stubborn personality of the captain’s daughter. Hanna’s journal sports a bullet hole in one corner, with an ever-widening splotch of blood around it as the pages are turned. It didn’t take long for me to figure out what was going on!
The characters were so much fun! I loved Hannah, who starts out as a spoiled teenager, the captain’s daughter who pretty much gets everything she wants. But once the BeiTech squad starts its rampage, Hanna shows her true stripes by revealing that her father has been training her for years to fight. Nik was one of my favorite characters. He’s in a gang called the House of Knives, where members wear tattoos that show their various accomplishments. Nik has no illusions about the things he’s done in his family’s name, but after he gets to know Hanna, he begins to regret that life. Nik’s family produces and sells a narcotic called “dust” which is made from the slime of an alien worm-like creature called a Lamina. I won’t go into detail about how the Lamina are bred—trust me, it’s disgusting and yet I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page!—but let’s just say the Lamina play a big part in the story.
Nik’s cousin Ella was also a favorite character, a super-techy girl who is instrumental in helping Hanna and Nik beat back the BeiTech team. I did feel like Ella’s character was used more as a device, since she’s often the go-between for Hanna and Nik, who are separated for most of the story, and can only communicate through the ship’s technology or through Ella. You’d think with such a distance between them there wouldn’t be any way a romance could form, but you would be wrong. Like Kady and Ezra in Illuminae, Hanna and Nik’s relationship develops sweet and slow (well, as sweet as it can be when aliens and assassins are trying to kill them…)
The authors aren’t afraid to kill off beloved characters, so my recommendation is not to get too attached to anyone. But they do incorporate a very cool twist at the end (which explains the title of the book, by the way) that makes the deaths a little easier to swallow. There are still many questions that need to be answered, for example, who has actually compiled all this information and bound it together in the “Illuminae Files”? I’m hoping the answers lie in the final book of the series (whose title has yet to be revealed). Highly recommended!