It’s been a while since I read Illuminae and from what I read on the internet, that’s a good thing. It means, I came to this second book in the trilogy with fresh(ish) eyes. Most reviews mention that if Gemina has a fault, it’s that it’s too similar to the first book. But if you let enough time pass between the books, that’s not a problem. For me, this was even better than Illuminae and I flew through the 663 pages in only two days. So yay, go me! Spoilers for Illuminae below!
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published by: Knopf Books, 2016
Hardcover: 663 pages
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
My rating: 8/10
First sentence: …over seven hundred thousand employees across dozens of colonized worlds. Is it that difficult to believe?
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
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.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
Hanna Donnelly is the Heimdall station captain’s daughter and while she may seem like daddy’s little princess at first glance, there’s more to her than meets the eye. Nik Malikov is a member of the House of Knives, a crime syndicate that deals drugs, is as corrupt as you’d expect, and has a history of murder. But he’s also just a teenage boy who is more than the tattoos he wears. He also has a serious crush on Hanna.
If you’ve read the first book, you know that the ship Hypatia is currently on its way to Heimdall station to jump through the station’s wormhole. You will also know that the BeiTech Corporation is trying to do its very best to keep that from happening. So, as any corrupt corporation trying to hide its dirty tracks would, they send a team of criminals to take over the station and let a fleet of drone ships through to the Hypatia to eliminate it. Except that team didn’t expect to meet resistance by a couple of teenagers with serious skills…
I loved everything about this book! The way it is written is the same as in Illuminae – we get chat protocols, descriptions of surveillance footage, journal entries (featuring really lovely artwork!), transcripts of radio communications and so on. It may feel like a gimmick and maybe it is, but that doesn’t mean it was any less fun to read. The chapters were also very short and I believe the comination of interesting media and short chapters is what made me read this book so quickly. Oh, and also that the plot happened to keep me at the edge of my seat for hours on end.
It was so easy to like the characters, right from the start. Hanna is a kick-ass girl who may be a bit spoiled (I mean who spends that amount of money on an outfit?!) but she’s smart and resourceful, she’s incredibly brave, and she wants to do what is right, even if it means she may not make it out of this alive. Nik may come across as cocky, but it’s also clear from the beginning, that he is hiding things, that there are mysteries in his past, that he may not exactly be happy with his life as a crime lord’s son. The guy may need some serious grammar lessons, but his heart is in the right place. I also really liked his cousin, Ella, whose hacking skills save the protagonists’ asses on more than one occasion.
The plot reminded me very much of Die Hard (thus the title of this post). While most of the population of Heimdall is held as hostages or locked away somewhere, Hanna and Nik are free to run around and make the terrorists’ lives as hard as possible. As soon as shit hits the fan, there is barely a moment of rest for our heroes. This was so much fun to read, almost like watching a blockbuster movie unfold in your mind. There are action-packed scenes, lovely character moments, and a beautiful development of relationships. I was all the more impressed with that last point because in the media the authors chose to use, there is no description of what the characters were feeling at any given time. It all happens through what they say or do and occasionally through the description of the video footage where the (unknown) transcriber speculates about their emotions.
To say this was a riveting thrill-ride is an understatement. I couldn’t have put this book down if I wanted to! So much happens and if it had simply been two teenagers defending their space station, that would have been enough for me. But Kristoff and Kaufman don’t mess around. There is quite the twist at the end that left me sitting there, mouth agape, thinking: “Shiiiiit, how are they going to fix this mess?” I may even have shed a tear or two because, despite all the action, there is always this undertone of despair. Our characters have lost people they love, their lives as they knew them are definitely over, no matter how this ends, and they don’t even get a moment to simply sit down and grieve.
While I liked the ending, it was clearly only the build up to the last book in the trilogy. I want to wait a while before I read that one because that worked really well for me this time, but I honestly don’t know that I can. I need to know what happens next, I want to feel that thrill of a truly exciting story again, and even though the romance is always visible from miles ahead, I can’t wait to see what butterfly-inducing couple this fabulous author duo comes up with next.
MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent!