The elevator pitch for Gemina goes something like this: imagine a cross between Aliens, Die Hard, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Romeo and Juliet. Not surprising given this is the sequel to the Aurealis-award winning Illuminae (reviewed here), a book that managed to mash up elements from Battlestar Galactica, 2001, 28 Days Later and possibly something by Nicholas Sparks. Gemina, a geek’s delight, has all of these elements and plenty more (even Firefly gets a shoutout). It advances the corporate conspiracy plot of Illuminae while focussing once again a few incredibly resourceful teens.
At the end of Illuminae (spoiler alert) the survivors on the Hypatia are heading towards a wormhole that will jump them to a space station called Heimdall. Gemina opens on Heimdall on the eve on an invasion organised by the Beitech Corporation trying to clean up its mess by destroying the Hypatia. Hanna, the daughter of the station commander, Nik, a member of the House of Knives crime gang, and his cousin Ella end up being the only ones standing between the twenty-four armed to the teeth mercenaries and destruction of the Hypatia. Well, them an a bunch of hungry, slimy, four-headed aliens loose on the station.
Gemina is not a “graphic novel” but it is a very graphic novel. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff play with the text creating an almost cinematic experience and the illustrations by Marie Lu bring Hannah’s visual sense to life. While once again the text is composed of a series of documents and transcripts there is a lot more straight narrative than in Illuminae with much of the action laconically described from video feeds. And there is plenty of action to describe from running gun battles to individual martial arts showdowns to the possible end of the universe.
It feels a bit snarky to complain about the amount of time the main characters spend flirting and bantering even when they are in mortal danger. Particularly as this is a book aimed at an audience who will want to identify with these characters and will relish this aspect of the narrative. But in this respect the characters sometimes feel a bit too samey to the leads in Illuminae (although, to be fair, Hannah is decidedly more kick-arse than Kady and Nik is a bit more bad boy than Ezra). And to be honest, quibbles aside, the YA audience will not be the only ones hanging out for the concluding volume of this series.
This review first appeared in Aurealis #96, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, www.aurealis.com.au.