Gemina: Is the novelty losing it’s luster?

Gemina is the hotly anticipated sequel to Illuminae (see my thoughts on Illuminae here), which gained a ton of hype because of the unique formatting. You’re not reading a traditional book here. Instead, you’re reading a compilation of documents, and sometimes these documents get pretty abstract. It makes for a very interesting reading experience, but I do wonder if it hinders the story in some places. I was looking forward to Gemina since I enjoyed Illuminae so much, but I found that I just couldn’t get into it as much as its precursor. Is it because the novelty is wearing off or is it the story itself? Hard to say.

Gemina: Is the novelty losing it’s luster?Gemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 18th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 608
Format: Hardback
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Barnes & Noble, Buy from The Book Depository

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.
Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

summary in three
spaceship hijacking, parasitic-worm killing, and life defending

Things that I liked: 

  • The formatting is, of course, the biggest draw to this book. Without the formatting I don’t know if these books would be as popular as they are. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman manage to tell a pretty compelling tale using only documents and chat room logs. (To see more photos of the formatting, check out my review for Illuminae where there are numerous photos of the neat pages!)
  • At first I was sad that the main characters of this novel weren’t the same as Illuminae, but it turns out these main characters are just as fun. You’ve got Hanna Donelly, the daughter of the ship’s captain, Jackson Merrick, Hanna’s boyfriend, and Nik Malikov, a drug-dealing gang member. It makes for quite the motley crew. The best part is that you still get to bits and pieces of information from the our beloved Kady and Ezra from Illuminae throughout the book (yay!).

gemina 3

Things that were meh: 

  • Throughout the book, there are parts of the story that are told via a “vidtech” who is dictating what is occuring on a video feed. I felt like the use of the video surveillance feed was a cheap and easy way to tell the story. If the authors wanted the person who was dictating the video feed to seem realistic, they shouldn’t have had him describing things like how the shadows appeared on the ground or describing moisture dripping off of the walls. This is too literary! It should have been far more to-the-point, because in reality we’d only be interested in the essential facts. Every time I got to a video feed description in the book I was annoyed. Maybe it’s just me, but you can’t deny it was an easy way to get around the barriers they’ve imposed upon themselves by using documents as the sole form of story-telling.
  • I had the same issue with Illuminae, and it’s that no matter how well the authors manage to tell these stories, the formatting makes it really difficult to become invested in the characters. I managed to care about them by the end of the book, but that was 500 pages in, and when the book is only 660 pages, that’s taking a lot of time!
  • The first half of this book dragged on to no end! I read the second half of the book in one sitting, but the first half took me a week! I think a lot of video feed surveillance and chat room discussions could have been condensed considerably.

gemina 1

final star count
single starsingle starsingle star
At the end of the day, I did like the book. I really liked the ending, but I considered stopping the book so many times in the beginning half that it ends up balancing out to 3 stars. I can’t decide if I’ve grown used to the formatting. While it’s still fun, it isn’t enough to make me forgive certain bits of the story.

chime in
What did you think of Gemina? Have you read Illuminae? These types of books aren’t for everyone, but if you enjoy sci-fi and a unique read, then I’d definitely recommend picking it up.

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  1. I haven’t read Gemina yet, but I felt the same way about parts of Illuminae. There were certain parts I just wanted to skip. Because the formatting was so new to me then I think it helped make me dismiss that feeling, but now I’m wondering if ill end up feeling the same way as you about Gemina. I can’t wait to start reading! Great review!

    1. Yes, I’ll be eager to hear what you think! I think I was definitely less forgiving in Gemina because the formatting wasn’t so novel anymore. The second half definitely moves faster than the first, so if you’re dragging in the first have a little faith it will get better!

    1. Right?! Or when I am bored with the entire book until the ending. I just finished a book like that – I feel like it falsely give the book a rosier color to me, and I have to remember NO – You did NOT like reading the majority of that book!!

  2. OMG YES! The first half of the book was really dragging and I wondered whether I was the only one who was bored because everyone seemed to be raving about it! Though for me, I don’t think the novelty wearing off is the problem. My problem is the characters (whom I don’t dully attach to) and the too-many surveillance footage summaries this book had. It was too narrative and yes, too details and unrealistic! I mean, if I were a surveillance feed analyst I wouldn’t describe the details of how the room looked like or whatever. I’d just talk about what the people did in it. Great review 😀

  3. I love reading books with innovative formats and ideas, but it’s like you said, it needs to be realistic and make sense. If the author can’t make it that way, they should stick to more traditional formats. It’s just like fashion hahaha
    Great review! Very concise and to the point 🙂

      1. Hahaha well it just feels like people are trying to be super original in both areas, without really taking into account how well it plays out or whether it will work for their audience. Style over substance, in my opinion.

  4. You know I absolutely LOVED Gemina so much! That ending just blew my mind so much and omg, I had to re-read it and harp on about it and I’m now listening to the Illuminae audiobook (and soon to be Gemina lol). I did think there were more surveillance footage areas here to help the reader and less crazy formatting, but I liked it because I got to know the characters a bit more. Lovely review Ali!

    1. you crack me up with how much you love these books – I can’t believe you’re listening to the audiobooks now (*insert laugh/cry emoji*)! I’ve heard they’re awesome!

  5. I’ve actually put off reading this for the same reason Ali. I loved Illuminae, but so many books tend to suffer middle book syndrome that I’m concerned it’ll ruin the romance of an epic series. I didn’t even realise that the characters are entirely new either, following the same lines as the These Broken Stars series it seems. I think I might wait a little while longer until the hype dies off,.and hopefully by then I’ll enjoy it even more. Brilliant review Ali, really enjoyed it <3

    1. I think that’s a sound plan! Waiting until it dies down and you’re READY to read it will probably make you enjoy it a whole lot more!

  6. I’ll be honest here and say I haven’t read your review completely because I was scared of spoilers. I’m going to start reading Illuminae soon, and I only heard GREAT things about it, … and Gemina just as well. I think I’ll get into this series with a little less expectations now, and I hope I enjoy the formatting, this is what scares me the most haha.

    1. I think you will enjoy the formatting! It at least makes you read really fast, since there are so many less words per page. It does take some getting used to at first, but then you’ll get your groove. If you end up reading it, I hope you love it! Most people tend to. And I’d say most people loved Gemina so I’m a bit of an outlier on this one (:

  7. Although I did enjoy Gemina – I gave it 4 stars in the end – I do kind of feel the same because it didn’t live up to Illuminae. I felt like a lot of the same stunts were pulled in Gemina, so when people died I was like “yeah but they’re not dead are they?” and there was always a bit of doubt that made it all less exciting. I didn’t have much of an issue with the pacing though, and I’m really looking forward to reading the third one after that ending and also to see whether they find a way of being even more imaginative.

    Great review Ali 🙂

  8. Ah…this reminds me that I need to finish Illuminae. I’m got half way through the novel, set it down to read some novel with a deadline, and then I haven’t picked it back up half a year later. I have no idea why either because I recall it being pretty engaging and fun! That being said, I’ve tried reading other books with “unique formatting”, but my attempts were largely unsuccessful. The other books I tried out had a week story and no amount of mixed media could make the story engaging.

    1. That’s the tough part about the unique formatting- sometimes I think they rely to heavily on that but forget the story needs to be good too!

    1. Thank you (: I do agree it helped clarify certain stuff – I just wish it hadn’t been so casual. It felt wrong to me for some reason.