Reading,  Review

Book Review: Gemina (Illuminae Files 2)

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Like the first book in the series, I went for the audio version again, and for the same reason. The epistolary format of the book (most of the storytelling is done in terms of letters, reports, chat session transcriptions, and so on) doesn’t lend itself well to reading for me. Had I looked past the format of the printed book, beautiful as it is, I never would have gotten through this book by reading it. But as a full-cast audio production, it works, and, as it turns out, it works pretty well for me.

This is a good spot to apologize in advance if this review turns out to be full of comparisons to the first book, but there are a lot of easy comparisons to draw. In a lot of ways, it’s the same book.

Gemina has a very similar plot to Illuminae. Teen romance with SF trappings, more details on the corporate war, chased by commandoes in a malfunctioning space station instead of by space ships wanting to blow your malfunctioning ship up, and replace the zombies with mind-sucking, hallucinogenic parasites.

I have the same problems with tech in Gemina as I had with it Illuminae. With only a few exceptions, this is all stuff that might be easily available to military today, or even off the shelf. There’s not a lot here to make me believe it takes place in the 26th century other than the technological wizardry of wormhole travel and computers big enough and powerful enough that we can actually manage true AI.

I have a lot of the same problems with the character presentation. These aren’t teenagers from 550 years or so in the future, but people who would be believable in any high school drama today, albeit each with a certain skill or trait ratcheted up to 11.

Again, the censoring of swear words seems ridiculous to me, a strange double standard of current Western society. Plenty of death and destruction to be found here, some of it detailed and gruesome, but I might be offended if someone drops an f-bomb (see what I did there?) and we can’t risk that. We’re supposed to understand that these documents and records are being presented as evidence in a court room, but since when is evidence censored?

And again, it’s the voice acting that carries things. A straight narration wouldn’t have worked very well for this story, and probably would have left me flat. But the full-cast audio succeeds tremendously, and after I was through being irritated at the redacted swear words, it let me sink into the story a lot more than I would have otherwise.

Hanna is not Kady. Nick is not Ezra. That’s both okay and a good thing. I think they’re both built better as characters than the couple in the first book, and the circumstances bringing them together have to work harder to do so.

I liked that AIDAN was back, if in a limited way. He’s a little reformed now, and doing what he’s told, so long as Kady gives the orders, but still a reflection of the scary AI who killed thousands in the first book. A good use of him near the end to follow the story track with slight twists in two different universes. Tough for even him, noting that it was a bit confusing.

The only real issue I had with the story itself was the use of Pascal’s Wager by the incredibly intelligent, psychopathic AI to convince a human to trust him? Asking, “what if you’re wrong” with religious overtones? Pascal’s Wager is a tiny piece of philosophy so riddled with holes it can’t be taken seriously, but somehow it is here, and somehow it’s the thing that wins the argument to let AIDAN do what needs to be done.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the story, but couldn’t shake the feeling through the whole thing that the story being told was one I’d already enjoyed. I’m hesitant about the third book. I’m worried we’ll get the same book again next time, just with a different teen couple.

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  • J. Gravitas

    I actually really liked Illuminae, and generally agree with you re: Gemina. I thought I’d ask you about my HUGE problem with that second book.

    *** SPOILER WARNING *****
    For those who haven’t read Gemina, PLEASE do not read the rest of this post! It relates directly to the last third of the book.

    I don’t expect authors or plots to be perfect, but I do expect them to keep consistent with whatever rules they set up. Here, the idea is to “fix” the crossed wires between the two universes by sending back whatever got transferred between them in the first accident, right? Great — aside from the fact that Nik from Universe B dies in a pool of his own blood. Hannah supposedly saves the two universes by sending Nik’s body back in the same shuttle (and with the same corsage!) at the same time HER Nik comes back through the wormhole. BUT: a third of Nik is just pooling on the floor of the train, still in the wrong universe!

    This honestly bugged me so badly that it kept me from enjoying the rest of the book (which has all of the other problems you noted, too). Did you (or anyone else who’s read the book) notice this? Did it bug you?

    • Lance

      Not in the moment, actually, but that’s likely due to the fact that I listened to the book instead of reading it and the voice work carried me along. Later, though, yeah. I did eventually get over it, or at least past it enough to keep going, deciding that the barrier between the universes was a bit flexible and it was the information content that mattered rather than just the substance. A dead Nik, short some fluids, is still essentially a complete Nik, just no longer a functional one. Thin, I know.

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