Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Best Second In a Triolgy Ever

Book club loved Illuminae so much that Gemina was the next choice, and thank god because 1) weren't we all dying to read it? and 2) I needed a densely action-packed page turner to balance my other reads and my state of mind.  It was just the roller coaster I wanted it to be.

As I was reading Illuminae, I wanted to talk all the time about the big questions the book posed, about the lies an organization tells to keep its constituents safe, about the renegade whistle blower and whether being right means everyone needs to know everything, about the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few--I could go on.  Gemina didn't raise that kind of question nearly as much--it was a much more personal story, about a few humans against a few humans.

I still want compulsively to talk about it, though, only this time I want to talk about it as a work of craftsmanship. I want to discuss how in the world the authors built this incredibly intricate machine full of moving parts. In Illuminae, the hits just kept on coming; in Gemina, the pieces were there, laid out for you, and you watched them click together.

The story takes place at the same time as the first book--the Illuminae characters are fleeing toward the Heimdall station, where they can jump through a wormhole back to a busier part of space and be rescued. Gemina is about all the awful things that are happening on Heimdall during that time--the intended cover-up on the attacks from the first book.  Heimdall is taken by a team of commandos, and on one level, it's pretty much just Die Hard in space.  Plus terrifying space worms and a malfunctioning wormhole.

The parts that go into this! To make the assault team interesting bad guys, individual people, and sometimes almost likeable, in spite of everything--that alone is not a simple task.  (There are photos of the team in the book; the fact that they are all hotties in their early 20s who look like vampires from Twilight--and that the team leader literally looks like one of the specific vampires from Twilight, may be the weakest part of the book.)  

This face just screams "head commando"
You've got a hero and heroine who are about as far from Kady and Ezra as you can get--if Kady is the goth geek girl at the back of the class, Hanna is the prom queen who is also a black belt in marital arts.  Ezra is your boy next door clean cut good guy; Nik is a fast talking hustler who's not quiet bad enough for his crime syndicate family.

And Ella.  Oh, Ella, who is a delight. I will spoil nothing, but I love Ella very much.

Like, I said, moving parts. Gemina is in many ways (though not page count) a smaller book than Illuminae. There are fewer individual players acting, and though there aren't actually that many fewer elements in the big bubbling cauldron of plot, most of the action plays out on a hand-to-hand combat level. This is about an assault team taking the station and the renegades stopping it; there is a lot more at stake and a lot more balls in the air, but this is a book about boots on the ground.

I'm going to say it officially; I think this is the best second installment in a trilogy that I've ever read.  It doesn't sag at all.  It doesn't suffer from trying to force some kind of weak stakes to tide us over while we set up the pieces for part 3.  It doesn't suffer from giving us a new set of characters--quite the opposite--though it also gives us a some time with some of our favorites from the first book.  It advances the overall plot while working perfectly well on its own level.

Best. Sequel. Ever.


Lianna Williamson said...

Aaaaah, we're perfectly in synch! I just read this last week! (Also recently finished Crooked Kingdom, which I see you're also reading now.)

I loved this, though I agree it was a smaller plot. Too funny about the "audit" squad looking like Twilight vampires. I was fascinated by the pages that showed them being literally x-ed out.

Ella was indeed amazing, and while I know some readers were turned off by Nik's aggressive flirting, I kind of loved him and his dynamic with Hanna.

Lianna Williamson said...

BTW, I hear the 3rd book of the trilogy will take place on Kerenza!

Aarti said...

Wow, I know nothing about this series! SO exciting that the middle book is just as good as the first, though - that's hard to do!