Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Title: Gemina
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published: 2016
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi

Synopsis: Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion. When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

My Rating: red-starred-starred-star

Gemina was my most anticipated book of the entire year. I read Illuminae at the end of January and I was blown away. It still sits at one of my top 5 books of the year. Illuminae is an amazing, inventive and unique story that will play with your emotions, entrance you and make you care for characters you never thought you would. Gemina? Not so much.

In Gemina, Kaufman and Kristoff attempt to recreate the feeling of the first book and it shows, I can see the pen marks on the margins. The problem with attempting to recreate another story within the same universe that has the same feel is that it feels just like the first book but a sort of knock-off. We are introduced to two new protagonists – Hanna and Nik. Hanna is the daughter of the station captain and Nik is a drug dealer. The station where the story takes place, the Heimdall is mentioned in Illuminae and some of the characters are connected to the original one but this is its own story. The reason I think this story did not work was because of the format and I see how it sounds strange because the same format worked so well in the first book but there is a distinct detachment in Gemina that was not found in Illuminae. In Illuminae, the case brief is attempting to show what happened and the action is there from the beginning. In Gemina we are given a brief filled with extraneous information that do little for the plot. The first 200 pages there is a severe lack of urgency and given that we are stuck learning about the story via this format it creates a vacuum of dispassionate narration. K & K also have the characters spending a lot of time in vents and this produces inactivity for a good majority of the story. Illuminae also gave us great side characters, a captain we hated, another one we rooted for; Gemina had 4 characters and then the villains who were generic killing machines with stamped personalities.

The second major problem this book had was the lack of AIDAN. Now, please please stop reading if you have not read Illuminae.

Illuminae becomes poetic prose because half of the book is narrated by an artificial intelligence that is attempting to understand humans and control them. The exposition is brilliant and the moment when AIDAN becomes self aware was masterfully executed. His rationality for murdering humans while attaching himself to others was fantastic and he inspired terror because of his all-powerful ability within the ship. Yet K & K were able to still make us love him by the end of the book, the characterization was ON POINT. Gemina does not have an artificial intelligence and AIDAN’S involvement is reduced to minimal pages at the very end.

Now let’s talk the monsters – in Illuminae we have a zombie-virus loose on a contained ship that is being hunted down by a war ship on top of that you have an artificial intelligence that is murdering its own crew for the salvation of others. You have forces coming from 3 places, you feel the tension, you feel the anxiety. Gemina’s monster are 20 worms. I just… it was lame. So killer worms get loose and start killing mainly the invaders (professional killers) that are sent to destroy the Heimdall station. Like… a worm I can kill, I can empty my gun and destroy it. A virus is in the air – you breathe it, you become a zombie and the virus multiplies – you don’t just have 20 zombies, you have an entire spaceship quickly being turned to zombies.

The last 150 pages were a definite improvement however, they suffered greatly from a convoluted plot. In conclusion – narrative detachment, lack of poetic prose in the form of artificial intelligence and lame villains made Gemina a run of the mill YA scifi – it was OK… it was not necessary and I think K & K would’ve had more impact had they left Illuminae where it was, up in the air and up to our own interpretation.

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