Gemina, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

You know when you read an awesome book that totally blows you away? And then you know that there’s a second part to that book series, yet you’re a little skeptical that the second book can live up to the sheer awesomeness of the first book?

Well, that’s how I went into Gemina, the second part of The Illuminae Files. I love the first part, and so far in 2017, it’s the measuring stick for books I’m reading. And when I heard that the second part would focus on a different set of characters, I was even more skeptical. I absolutely adore Kady and Ezra and AIDAN from Illuminae, so how could I possibly learn to adore new characters? Is it even possible?

Well, it turns out that even if there’s a one-in-a-zillion chance of an alternate universe where the second book at least lives up to the first given these circumstances, then the team of Kaufman and Kristoff can pull it off.

Before I go any further, please be aware of my spoiler policy. I keep my reviews spoiler-free for the book I’m reviewing, but I may have to reveal details of the previous book. You have been warned.

In Illuminae, the people of the mining colony Kerenza had been attacked by BeiTech, a rival corporation. The rag-tag group of survivors flee in three ships, but are pursued by the bad guys. Also, there’s a disease outbreak that turns its victims into paranoid, bloodthirsty zombie-like people. The ship’s artificial intelligence AIDAN makes some choices to save some of the people, but ultimately, only one ship—the science vessel Hypatia—is the only one that gets away. It’s on course for the Heimdall jump station, where a wormhole can take them into core space and they can report the attack.

Gemina takes place aboard the Heimdall space station. The workers and residents of the station are unaware of the exact details of what happened. Even more pressing, they’re unaware that BeiTech is out to cover its tracks. An assault fleet is headed for the wormhole to destroy the Hypatia before it can arrive and expose the attack. But first, a team takes control of the space station, killing some crew members and locking down the others.

Can our two main characters save the day? This time, the reader follows the stories of Hanna Donnelly and Nik Malikov. As the daughter of the commander of the Heimdall space station, Hanna has lived a life of privilege and tactical training—she’s well versed in some martial arts. As a member of a crime family, Nik has spent some time in prison, but he and his family are breeding really scary animals that make a powerful psychotropic drug. Hanna and Nik have a business relationship at first, as she’s trying to procure some “party supplies” for a station-wide celebration, but it’s near their meeting time when then the attack on the station begins.

I won’t go into many details, but they’re among the only two that are in a position to fight the bad guys. Like the first book, Gemina is told via transcripts of chats between the characters (typed emails and IM conversations, and spoken conversations via the station-wide WhisperNet), descriptions of security footage, and memos and computer logs. And like in the first book, it’s a fascinating way to tell the story, and it still works because the characters and situations are compelling.

But unlike the first book, I found an even higher level of immediacy in the story. In Illuminae, they were being pursued externally by the bad guys and threatened internally by the virus. The former was the enemy threat, and the latter was an unfortunate coincidence. Here in Gemina, the enemy is ever-present on the station, and there’s another unfortunate coincidence internal threat—and these combine to make the station one really scary place, never mind the external problem of the unseen assault fleet coming. All these conflicts, mixed in with the character histories they’re trying to keep secret from each other, make this at least as compelling as the first book. Maybe more so.

I fanboyed whenever there was a reference to Kady, Ezra, and AIDAN from the first book. I love when and how they were integrated into this story.

My mind was blown again. And there’s a cataclysmic event revealed near the end of the book that not only blew me away, but the way in which the actions of the characters are presented on the pages blew me away. If the first book blew me away, I think that this one did it twice as much.

Now it’s going to be about another year until the third part comes out, and I have high expectations for it. This series is like seeing a brand new set of stars, and Gemina deserves its spot in the sky next to Illuminae with FIVE STARS.

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Gemina is available at Amazon.

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