AUTHOR: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
SERIES: The Illuminae Files
RELEASED: October 2017; Knopf Books for Young Readers
GENRE: YA Science Fiction
FORMAT: Library Paperback
KEY INFO: unique story layout, set on a spaceship, romance, AI
REPRESENTATION: female MC’s, AI, female MC with a physical disability, people of colour (side)
CONTENT NOTICES: lots of gory space deaths, some body horror
“The best recommendation you can ever get for a book is the tired eyes of a reader who stayed up reading until 3am because they couldn’t pick the book down. That is literally me right now. How am I going to sleep with SO MANY FEELINGS?!”
(My Immediate Thoughts after finishing Gemina)
I made the complete rookie error of not reviewing Gemina straight away because I have now had to write this review a month after reading Gemina and after reading Obsidio so my brain is just a washing machine full of memories and feelings. So, please excuse the slightly messy review of Gemina!
In the end, I loved Gemina as much as I loved Illuminae, but I was very worried at first. Gemina has the same unique layout as Illuminae and ties in beautifully with the first book, but we’re introduced to a completely new set of characters and I’m not gonna lie, I did not like them at first. Now, I absolutely adore the three main characters Nik, Ella and Hanna especially after I’ve done so much screaming and crying and breath holding over the past two books but it was definitely not love at first sight. To start with I actually found Nik and Hanna kind of annoying. Their humor was so quickfire and their characterization was too similar to our MC’s in the first book, Ezra and Kady. It was actually really hard to connect with the new characters because I just felt like I was reading Ezra and Kady all over again but in a different setting. I feel like the characters did develop into stronger, more distinct personalities as the book went on and, as I said, I ended up falling in love with them in the end, especially Nik and his cousin Ella. (Of course, that love for Nik has absolutely nothing to do with the crush I have on him. Nope. Not at all)
Part of what makes the Illuminae Files so amazing is its unique layout. All three books are told through a collection of emails, IM’s, surveillance footage reports, and other hacked documents. But this time we are also treated to stunning illustrations too (which I believe may be the contribution of Marie Lu?) As our female protag, Hanna, loves to draw in her journal that she carries around everywhere with her, yes even into the midst of a killing spree, we get lots of hand-drawn characters, mindmaps, doodles, comic strips and plans from her. I really loved the inclusion of the drawings as it added something really fresh to the reading experience.
And lastly, THE PLOT! The plot, the plot, the plot. I’m not sure how to describe how fun the plot was without giving anything away but it was SO GOOD. Similarly with Illuminae, I just could not put Gemina down and it only took me 3 days to read all 659 pages of it. I liked that Gemina continued to expand upon the world-building of Illuminae, throwing in lots of plot twists and nail-biting action, but also offered us something new in the way of what was actually happening to Nik, Ella, and Hanna.
The only criticisms I had of Gemina were the aforementioned similar characterization and also lack of textual diversity. In the first instance, there were definite similarities between the characterization of our YA MC’s in Gemina and our MC’s in Illuminae. Although I grew to love them in the end, I definitely think that more could have been done in terms of their distinct voices and personalities to really set them apart as different from Ezra and Kady. In the case of diversity, I think it’s a really difficult one. I’m not overly fond of the absence of explicit diversity in books (although that could just be my interpretation!). Of course, we could read the characters as any number of different races and sexual orientations but it’s never the same as having it explicitly written as canon in the text. I know that both Nik and Ella, in my mind, were not white but it was never really mentioned in the text and I haven’t seen many other readers talking about Nik or Ella’s race. And as another reviewer pointed out, despite the hundreds, if not thousands, of characters across Illuminae and Gemina I cannot think of a single one that is LGBT+ which was really disappointing to me!
But overall, looooovveeeeed Gemina a whole bunch. Love, love, love Nik. And all the love for the Illuminae trilogy.