There is a sub-genre of science fiction that is perhaps lesser known for its name—space opera—than it is for the books and movies that comprise it. Star Wars, for example, is arguably the most well-known and epic space opera set of movies, but I don’t know many people (even writers) that would think to call it that. Yet it’s a very exciting sub-genre, I think, typified by space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalrous romance, and risk-taking. There is no singing. Well…usually. In Amie Kaufman’s and Jay Kristoff’s Gemina, the most recent book in their Illuminae series, there is plenty of singing, albeit of the pop-wormhole-station-PA-system variety, and plenty of warfare, adventure, romance, and risk-taking. In fact, there may even be too much; if it were a movie, it would be R-rated for its violence. But as a book, it’s brilliant…in a convoluted way.
What Gemina is About
The short, spoiler-free version? It’s about a ruthless special-ops team that tries to take over a space station called the Heimdall, a wormhole-manning waypoint, and the few teenagers who must fight ruthlessly to stay alive. The full, spoiler-rich version you can find on this lovely new site I found called BookSeriesRecaps.com. It’s a graphic novel, meaning it’s told through a collection of chat room transcripts, surveillance footage summaries, autopsy reports, radio transmission transcripts, etc.:
Good Things About Gemina
In some ways, I think this format is brilliant. It’s definitely not something I’ve seen before in the genres of space opera or YA. It makes for a much quicker read than you’d think the book’s 659 pages would necessitate. You don’t get a lot of heavy internal dialogue or emotion to slow down the plot. For an adrenaline junkie like me, this is great.
Some Not So Great Things About Gemina
On the other hand, though, missing those things almost completely means it’s much harder to connect with the characters. It makes the book seem like nothing more than a written version of the Alien movie, except with teenagers as the main characters. To a certain extent, every book, no matter how action-packed it is, needs to show the characters experiencing some strong emotion in order for the plot to move forward; they go on a rampage, for instance, if they get angry in reaction to something the antagonist(s) did. This book moves forward quite frequently on a revenge cycle, with Hannah (the main character) seeking to avenge (start: tiny little spoiler) the murder of the father at the beginning of the book (end spoiler).
And, as mentioned before, there is ALOT of violence. I shouldn’t have read as much as I did of it, but there’s something about reading it in a book that seems to make it a little less horrible than viewing it on a screen. But it’s still depictions of human-against-human violence, which I think there’s plenty of in the news these days. I don’t want to read it in my fiction too. And ALOT of swearing, although most of it is blacked out, as they’re in records that will ostensibly be reviewed in a court of law.
Who Would Like Gemina
If you liked the first book in the series, Illuminae, which I reviewed on Amazon, you’ll definitely like this one. Gemina’s story is connected to that of Illuminae‘s, so it’s kind of a sequel, but centered on different characters in a different setting. Also, if you liked These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, you’d like Gemina; both have high-society-debutante-turned-toughie-girl main characters. K.B. Wager’s Behind the Throne also comes to mind, although the transition from debutante to toughie is reversed in that book. It’s also got a high-octane plot.