What can possibly be said about a series that singlehandedly shattered each and every prejudice I had about a whole genre? Even going in with worries due to the fact that a lot of people didn’t like Gemina as much as the first book, the Illuminae Files continues to shred my heart to pieces, rebuild it, and tear it out all over again.
Piece of Art
Gemina continues to have this very unique narrative. The book as an object is an adventure in itself. That might be the obvious problem for a lot of people and I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I want to get this very obvious characteristic of Gemina out of the way because I know that a lot of people pick up Illuminae for its looks just as a lot of people don’t want to read it at all for the same reason. If you bought Gemina then it probably means that you’re okay with the structure of this series which I personally just love. Although I have to say at this point that Gemina had a very specific “chapter” that even I had my problems with despite the fact that I got into the writing style of the first book really fast. I would love to know how other people read those mirror pages I’m talking about because I do think that the way you read it changes the experience of it all and I myself got sucked out of the zone just because I was too aware that I might ruin the “best” way to read this book by reading it this or that way and I ended up doing this mismatched cross-reading which made it a little hard. That doesn’t mean that Gemina is harder to read than Illuminae, it simply means that in some ways it’s even more brilliant. Completely blew my mind.
Romance Where There Is None
So if we put the structure aside, there is this one point that almost kept me from reading Illuminae and that was the romance. And while I learned to love Kady and Ezra, I found it very hard to say goodbye to them and get used to the idea to yet another couple as the center of attention.
But once again, Hanna and Nik grew very dear to my heart and managed to move me to tears on more than one occasion. The interesting part is that I do love a slow burn romance way more than your typical love story and despite that and rationally knowing that the love story between our heroes was rushed, it didn’t feel like that at all. The characters Kaufman and Kristoff write are so independent in their actions and fleshed out in their emotions that it is hard to buy into their feelings. Hanna and Nik are not “meant to be” and they are not pushed together by an almighty writer duo. It feels like they are just these quirky and badass and very smart people who naturally start to merge because of how they go through those tragedies together. The character work reminded me a lot of Six of Crows in that way which some people might call me crazy for. But I still find these similarities where independent characters grow into unities very naturally and because they really want to believe that together is always better than alone.
So… Gemina gets gross. Once again, if you have a problem with gore or violence, just stay away from this series. You’ll be better off without it. Everyone else? Prepare for quite a ride. Personally, I had nightmares from Illuminae and while Gemina didn’t shook me quite as much to the core, it still comes up with quite a few scenes that feel like straight out of Hollywood alien movie. That being said, the monsters are also the only thing that bothered me because the whole thing wasn’t wrapped up as nicely as I wish it had. It’s a real pity because the general storyline behind them was amazing. It’s just that I kept waiting for more even when it was already over…
Me And Sci-Fi
Let’s get to the personal part of this review. Star Trek is my sci-fi guilty pleasure and that’s because it’s a movie. Other than that, space is a pretty solid argument for me not to read a book. By now, I usually don’t even bother with it anymore because I’ve tried countless times to get into the genre but it wouldn’t work. I always end up thinking that sci-fi stories lack this relatable component that I desperately need to connect to a story. Oftentimes it’s more about the worlds and the political structures while the characters are pushed aside. Sci-fi to me is boring as hell.
Illuminae and Gemina changed all that. Gemina maybe even more than the first book. I know that the story got to me through this almost dystopian element. The protagonists don’t give up. They fight this hopeless battle and keep going even when they’re already declared dead by the rest of the world. The setting is still very much sci-fi and of course there are those moments where they talk about exo-hyper-energy levels (I just made that up) that probably make sense to everyone who loves while it just makes me cock my head in frustration because I understand nothing, but Gemina also makes it so, so easy to fall in love with space and its possibilities.
I need stories like that. I need people who show me that you can stand back up even after you’ve been knocked down and not just once but countless times. I love that I finally found a story that wraps the darkness of the universe, its light and the feeling of zero gravity around the pure will to make it out of tragedy not only alive but hand in hand with the people you care about. And what I love even more than that is that neither Illuminae nor Gemina leave out those typical sci-fi elements of big war ships and science missions and wormholes and intergalactic wars. This series has it all. I want to read sci-fi now. And I can’t wait for the third book.