Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

gemina-fron

5 out of 5 Exploding Stars

This is the 2nd book in the Illuminae files. I would give my left pinky for the third one right now And I didn’t even know until after I had read Illuminae that the 2nd book doesn’t follow the same main characters as Illuminae. I had a sad.

And to be honest, I didn’t get into this as quickly as the first. It’s told in the same way, with IM chats and military reports – only there is a lot more “transcripts” from security cameras, so there is way more text that reads like prose than the first one. Hanna is a little space princess, or so I believed – stuck out on Heimdall Jump Station with her overprotective dad. It’s made pretty clear she’s the apple of his eye and they are really well off – she doesn’t lack for much of what she wants. The first communiqué between main characters, we see is between Hanna and a “guest” id, which is Niklas Malikav, member of a Russian crime family, who is her drug dealer. There you go. YA has really expanded. I mean to be fair, this is a sci fi space opera – you could just call him a space pirate. A space drug pirate. His presence on the jump station is less than official – the House of Knives, as his families organized crime unit is called, aren’t exactly official inhabitants. They use the way station as a place to do business and grow alien worms that excrete psychotropic slime. You know, the usual.

Let’s just say, the above tropes… not really my favorite. Bad boys allegedly have their charm, but I find them to always be more trouble than they‘re worth. I also don’t like useless, spoiled people, and drugs and drug use is a real turn off for me, I mean this is all just personal preference. Add in her cutesy journal pages, picture perfect boyfriend and I was kinda like… gag. But, man was I wrong.

What happens next kind of throws off our fun times. Getting her boyfriend Jackson to cover for her, Hanna’s on her way to pick up her fundust from Nik before a boring party being held by her dad. There’s a holiday coming, called Terra Day, so most of the staff have left on vacation. All those left are sort of required to come to this ceremony in the atrium. Then all hell breaks loose. The station has been infiltrated by BeiTech soldiers, there to try to lock down the station before the Hypatia, with her cargo of witnesses to BeiTech’s atrocities arrives. There is a fleet of drone ships on the way to use the jumpgate to go back to Kerenza and finish the nasty job. There is even a spy on board, who has made sure no emergency transmissions are getting through anywhere. No help is coming. Everybody is a sitting duck. All the command people are holed up in the bridge, locked behind titanium doors, or captured in the atrium. But Nik and Hanna are on the case.

illuminae-spines

I remember the precise moment I fell in love with Hanna Donnelly. I always tab my books, marking the juicy descriptions or wise prose. I want to try to include more quotes in my reviews – I doubt they will ever be this lengthy – but this right here is just too damn beautiful to not include in its entirety. Hanna finds herself caught by one of the invading operatives. Or so we all thought.

What happens next takes 2.7 seconds, so I had to slow the footage down and check it frame by frame to work it out.

Donnelly tucks her chin and  rounds her shoulders, shoving her butt against Nightingale’s hips and doubling over, dislodging the muzzle from the back of her head. The pistol discharges – the noise must be deafening, but she doesn’t flinch – and she swings her right hand up over her left shoulder, stiffened fingers finding Nightingale’s left eye. Nightingale screams as the Silverback (gun) fires again. Donnelly spins to face her, bracing the woman’s arm across her chest and shoving hard. Nightingale falls backward and twists to land on her side, still screaming, one hand clapped to her bleeding eye. Donnelly drops one knee onto the medic’s ribs, the other on the side of her head, knocking her out cold.

Bet you it’s the first time a Danae Matresco jumpsuit’s seen a workout like that.

Donnelly scoops up Nightingale’s pistol, pulls off the woman’s commset and plugs it into her own ear. Using the zip ties to secure the operative’s writs and ankles, she leaves her unconscious on the floor, then reaches inside her jumpsuit to pull out her lipstick and leans down to scrawl a message on the floor in bright crimson.

Who’s next? Come play! HD xoxo

Oh my god, what a girl. What a kickass, name taking, dust-snorting bad ass bitch. See, her protective daddy wanted his little girl to be prepared for life out on the edges, in military headquarters, and thought military tactics was a good way to spend daddy/daughter time. Nik is also a badass fighting machine, having already done time in the slammer. Plus, they have a secret weapon on their side. Like I said, the House of Knives aren’t exactly a legit presence on the station. One of their members is a 14 year old spider… Ella, Nik’s sister, is a wizard on the keyboard. With her help, they are able to break through some of the BeiTech’s tech that takes over the station.

Again, this book was an amazing story of layers. Everybody was fully fleshed and had a rich backstory. And there are characters tying us back to Illuminae. Kady’s dad is the 2nd in command on the station and an engineering genius. And Ezra’s evil bitch of a mother is the one who sent the troops in the first place. We also have the little love triangle going on – which isn’t badly done. Hanna’s boyfriend Jackson is Mr. Perfect by-the-books (only…. he sure knows a lot about blocking her com signal so she can sneak off to buy dust, and how did he manage to get himself locked away unable to help when the shiz was going down?) He’s played off against charming Nik, who doesn’t have a lot to recommend him until you get to know him better. He was raised in this crime family, but he lives with his uncle because of stuff that went down with his dad. A lot of really intense shiz can go down when you are running for your life from trained corporate killers.

So. Much. Happens. They figure out the Hypatia is on the way and some corporate level intrigue is going down. The wormhole that swirls inside the jumpstation is off-line for maintenance, and causes a lot of drama and danger, because the bad guys want to open it up again. The kids want to seize it to stop it from being used. But all this back and forth with a rip in time and space is a little bit dangerous, don’t you know. And we do get to see Kady and AIDAN. It’s just a slam-bang thrill fest with lots of feels. Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do.

We have a diverse cast of characters. I know everyone thinks of Russian/Eastern European as just white/European people, but in Europe that isn’t how things are viewed – there is a lot of racism against people of Eastern European ancestry. (I do tend to be American-centric, but I’m aware of that so I’m pointing it out for people not in America.) Again, we get pages of pictures with characters on them, and we can see they are all colors and age ranges and genders. There are as many badass, kickass, and horrible women as men. There is a character with a disability. I also found that a lot of time, because all the soldiers went by call sign, I wasn’t always sure of the gender of the person. There was some sexual banter going on – I may have missed if any of the relationships were LGBTQ because of that. I thought all that was a plus for the story and the level of diversity.

In then end, though it took me longer to get into than Illuminae and a little longer to read, I loved it just as much, I was completely enthralled and as caught up with the characters and the amazing plot as the last one. I loved it so much. I cannot wait for the next one.

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