Judging A Book By Its Cover: Gemina

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

Gemina is the exciting sequel to Illuminae and unlike its predecessor, I actually read the book before taking all these pictures. Photographing the first book was just as mind-boggling as reading it was and I was constantly wondering what the hell was going on as I looked at all the non-traditional page layouts.  This time I had a better idea of what pages I wanted to capture. The jacket design is by Ray Shappell with book design by Heather Kelly and Jay Kristoff and journal illustrations by Marie Lu (which I belatedly realized I haven’t taken any pictures of.) Published by Knopf in 2016, ISBN: 9780553499162.

Book Review: Gemina

By Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman

My Edition:
Hardcover, 659 pages
2016, Knopf
ISBN: 9780553499155

Gemina’s plot overlaps some of Illuminae, but now we’re introduced to the residents of the Jump Station Heimdall and the difficulties they face as the Hypatia makes its way towards them, still fleeing BiTech Industries. Hanna is the station captain’s daughter and her dealings with Nik have been primarily to score dust for her and her friends. But BiTech Industries isn’t finished with their recent attack on Kerenza and now they’ve arrived at Heimdall to finish the cleanup and Hanna and Nik must team up to try to save their home and everyone in it.

I won’t say much about the plot here, as this book is relatively newer and I’m likely not the last person on Earth to have read Gemina (or Gemima as I keep writing and saying aloud), as I was with Illuminae.

Once again, we have a book made up of found documents, primarily chatlogs and write-ups of video feeds from various cameras across the jump station, compiled by the all-seeing Illuminae group. So let’s talk format first. I did still enjoy the documentary style and found it just as engrossing as the first book. The actual layout of the pages was slightly problematic though. There are significantly more graphics in this book than the first, including some sketches from Hanna’s diary, which I enjoyed, and chatlogs with dark backgrounds that made the text incredibly hard to read, which I did not enjoy. I think they tried a bit too hard or went a bit overboard with the design, as there were many more pages with spiraling text or sentences that zigged and zagged across multiple pages. Turning a nearly 700-page hardcover this way and that isn’t easy and it became tedious to keep up with some of the designs.

Now for the characters – Hanna was likable, though very similar to Kady in some ways. Her father is the captain of the jump station (while Kady’s is a chief officer or something similar) and she’s tough, determined, physically fit, smarter than most of the adults around her, etc. However, despite this, I liked her. She wouldn’t make a top list of characters for me, but she added to my enjoyment of the story. Nik was dull, considering his criminal background and I never got much of a feel for his cousin, Ella. The BiTech mercenaries were numerous and often referred to as both their real names and their call signs, so with the exception of a core few, I never had any idea who the story was talking about. I also thought that Hanna, Nik and Ella’s conversations had a bit too much levity considering the amount of danger they were in and the numerous deaths they experienced once the BiTech group came in. I know there were comedic moments between Kady and Ezra in Illuminae (and maybe there’s an equal number in each book) but Gemina felt like it had too many. Never having been in a life-threatening situation before, I clearly can’t speak from experience, but I don’t feel I’d joke quite so often.

I keep mentioning Illuminae and while reading I couldn’t help but notice that Gemina hits many of the same beats as its predecessor. Again we have:

  • Smart, talented teens holding their own against trained military personnel with little to no help from adults
  • A twist on who the main antagonist is (though with Gemina this twist was so confusing I had to backtrack to the near beginning of the book to wrap my head around it and it killed any shock I might have experienced)
  • A young, hacker extraordinaire
  • An extra element of danger (here we have aliens instead of zombies)
  • Character death fake-outs
  • Convenient ending is convenient (though Gemina takes the cake between the two)

Despite some tedious graphics and familiar plot points, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it over the course of two days. I wouldn’t rate it as highly as Illuminae, as the shine of the new experience has worn off, but I can’t wait to read the next book. If you liked Illuminae, it’s a safe bet you’ll enjoy Gemina as well.


Book Review: Illuminae

By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

My Edition:
Hardcover, 599 pages
2015, Knopf
ISBN: 9780553499117

When Kady and Ezra’s home planet is brutally attacked by a competitor in the mining industry, they are lucky to escape the planet alive when a nearby group of military ships responds to their distress call. The small fleet of three ships houses the refugees and they’re fleeing for their lives as one of the enemy ships pursues them. Any useful refugees are quickly conscripted as they try to outrun the enemy, but after a tragic incident, it becomes clear that all is not well among their fleet. Kady, expert hacker, works to find out the truth as Ezra trains to become a fighter pilot. The secrets they uncover are more deadly than the enemy ship that’s hot on their trail.

Ok, my blurb is shit, but there’s a lot going down in this book and it’s hard to sum up without spoiling anything – though why I even tried to sum up Illuminae is beyond me because even if you haven’t read this, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it and at least have some idea what it’s about. I should have just said, crazy shit goes down in space and is revealed to readers through found documents.

I bought this book a while ago, primarily because it’s sci-fi and the design was too cool to pass up. I was a little wary of the YA aspect, because, let’s face it, more often than not I’m disappointed or downright pissed off by much of the YA I read. I’m not trying to trash the genre and I always keep my eye out for YA reads that I think I’ll enjoy, but it’s not my favorite group. Anyway, this book is rad looking – you might recall I did a judging post on it a while back. I’ve wanted to read it for quite some time, but without the recent read-a-thon I participated in, I’m honestly not sure when I would have made time for this book.

I’m so glad I did though! This was a fast-paced story and despite the seemingly impersonal, or perhaps, less detailed aspect of government documents, conversation transcripts, journal entries and IM conversations, I was fully immersed in this book and was easily able to picture action scenes in my head. I feel I have a good idea of who Kady and Ezra are and what they stand for and I was hooked from page one.

I also liked that there was no love triangle! Kady and Ezra have a pre-established relationship, so there was no love at first sight, soulmate, which boy should I choose crap that usually has me wanting to throw a book out the window.

There’s even some crazy, overly-poetic artificial intelligence in this book – I love sci-fi where there’s the question of whether the crew controls the ship, or the other way around, and Illuminae delivered.

There are several twists in this book and once or twice I found myself talking out loud about what happened. I did have my suspicions about the ending, that proved correct, but that didn’t lessen the excitement for me.

Overall the format flowed like a regular novel for me and I am hoping to read the next book early next year! For the first time in quite a while, I can say I highly recommend a YA novel and I’m so pleased!

You can visit Jay and Amie’s websites.

Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Illuminae

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books, or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

This book is AWESOME looking. I have no idea what it’s about, honestly, but who cares right!? I mean, I can’t be the only one that blindly buys books because they have cool see-through jackets and writing all over the place and pictures…right? I mean, I know this is YA and there’s some alien stuff, or something paranormal? I don’t even care, it’s just so cool looking. This is a Knopf edition, 2015, ISBN: 9780553499117.