REVIEW: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
Dear Ms. Aguirre:
I’m not sure why I respond so well to urban fantasy stories. I think it has to do, in part, with the escapism factor. These books are often gritty but because of the otherworldly nature, it is easy to take. Easy to lose oneself in an entire other world. While Grimspace is not an urban fantasy story (i.e., no retelling of myths and legends) but rather a space odyssey, it still works for all the same reasons.
Sirantha Jax has the J-gene, a sensory gene that allows her to be a jumper. Jumper’s are vital for interstellar travel and therefore minor gods. Only Jax made a mistake or someone made a mistake and her last jump ended with the death of her pilot and lover. Pilot and jumpers are often lovers. Its nearly impossible not to be because the pilot and the jumper become one for that infitesmal moment that the ship and its occupants are “about to slingshot through our target beacon and back out to straight space.” Some pilots can’t even get it up without being “jumped in”.
The world opens up to me, an orchid unfurling at accelerated speed. I think of it as the primeval soup from whence all life originally came, a maelstrom of chaos and energy, sights the human mind isn’t supposed to be able to parse, let alone convert into coherent images that can be used to navigate.
Because of the J-gene I can sense the beacons, feel them pulsing like sentient life, and perhaps they are, for all I know. Perhaps if we could find their frequency, we could converse with them, and discover we’ve long been diving down the gullets of cosmic dragons and shooting out their cloacae to somewhere else, and guess what, they aren’t exactly happy about it. On second thought, some mysteries simply shouldn’t be delved.
I loved that phrase “an orchid unfurling”. I could really envision the stars and the pulse of light that I imagine the ship would give off as it released into the galaxy.
Sore in heart and body, Jax is in the Corp lockup awaiting judgment for the mess she just survived. She knows that the future for her isn’t pretty. Most jumpers only have a set number of jumps inside them before they flame out. Some go crazy and some choose to retire but many know when their last jump is their last jump and refuse to go quietly into the night. That’s Jax or that’s how Jax wanted to be.
March is a man with a savior’s complex. Jumpers are virtually limited to the Corp which means the Corp has the stranglehold on interstellar travel. The Corp is the one making new discoveries, new treaties, conquering new lands. Everyone else is left in the dust. March wants to change that by finding people in remote places that might have the j-gene and turn those people into jumpers but he needs a jumper to do that and when Jax is incarcerated, he sees his opportunity.
This book is probably going to be shelved in the fantasy/science fiction aisle, but it could easily fall into the romance section because it is a romance, just not a traditional one with traditional folks playing traditional roles. Sirantha Jax is not a loveable being. She’s not even particularly honorable. She is, though, a survivor, one whose thirst for life draws you in like a beacon.
He shoves me toward the boarding ramp of a cutter that’s seen better days. From his manner and the way he’s dressed, I expected a big hauler or a sporty little cruiser, something with a high price tag and a lot of amenities. Not this junk bucket that looks like it should’ve been decommed before the Axis Wars. The gray squad closes on us with military precision; using cover and working the perimeter in a metric circle. Soon they’ll be on us, boarding the ship. A laser blast sears the metal at my feet and I fall back, further up the ramp.
Talk about ass choices. I’ve got this shit bucket and a nutcase or a bunch of Gray Men coming for me.
He reads my look and shrugs. "However she looks, this ship is sound. Can you jump, Ms. Jax? Our lives depend on it."
Jump? But I don’t have a pilot.
My look or my mind? Because he adds, "Yes, you do."
My throat tightens, and I feel a fist curling around my intestines. It’s a cramp, rising nausea. It’s being told you have to remarry before your husband’s cold in the grave. Before I can say a word, he boards. No more conversation. It’s up to me now. Stay or go. Reluctantly I admire the fact that he doesn’t bullshit, doesn’t explain, doesn’t persuade. Maybe he knows I can’t resist a mystery or a challenge or both. Or maybe he just knows I’m not looking to die today, because the Gray Men are almost on me.
March and Jax want each other but Jax’s loss is too fresh to allow herself to feel anything but lust. With her strong ties to the Corp being severed, Jax is at a loss. She doesn’t know quite who she is and what she wants to be.
The drawbacks in this story is that it is a bit plotless and episodic in nature. I know that bothers some people but I felt that the emotional development of Jax and Jax and March as a couple were enough to smooth out those issues.
While the book is set in some intergalatic future, the core of the story is about Jax’s character development and how she falls in love, again, with March. The writing is evocative and as someone who really isn’t a fan of a) space travel books and b) first person present tense, this book worked for me on nearly every level. I’m very excited about the future of space travel presented by Ann Aguirre. A-
This book will go onsale on February 26, 2008.
I was chatting via email with our new reviewer, Jia, about whether she was enjoying the reviewing gig. Sure, she is getting free books, but not every book she gets is going to be one she is interested in reading. She replied in one of our various exchanges that it is the book that you receive that you wouldn’t have read but that you really enjoy that make it all worthwhile. Ann Aguirre’s book is one of those. I wouldn’t have read her if I saw it in the store because science fiction is just not my thing.
So I am glad that she opened my eyes to the fact that a good story is a good story no matter the setting. I hope I can do that for some of you. I am privileged to be able to give away 20 ARCs of Grimspace. The catch is that you must post about the book at some public place, whether it is a message board, forum or blog and you must send me the link. We’ll choose one review to repost at Dear Author on the day of the release of the book.
Ms Aguirre has a contest on her blog as well which you can check out here.