>> Tuesday, March 04, 2008
TITLE: Grimspace (excerpt)
AUTHOR: Ann Aguirre
COPYRIGHT: 2008 (it was released last Tuesday)
TYPE: Sci-fi romance
SERIES: Starts one. Will be followed by Wanderlust in September.
REASON FOR READING: So much great buzz! I was actually one of the happy ARC winners at DearAuthor. I know I'm a bit late with my review, but I've had a complicated last couple of weeks (and to my defense, the ARC took a while getting here). Still, better late than never, I suppose.
By all accounts, Sirantha Jax should have burned out years ago...MY THOUGHTS: Please, please, please, if the new wave of sci-fi romance is going to be like Linnea Sinclair's Games of Command and Grimspace, can we have some more of it? A lot more of it? Could it please become the next trend? *g*
As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace -a talent that cuts into her life expectancy but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she's navigating crash-lands, and she's accused of killing everyone on board. It's hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash.
Imprisoned and subjected to a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom -for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel -and establish a new breed of jumper.
Jax is only good at one thing -grimspace- and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime...
I've always liked sci-fi, especially that involving long periods travelling through space. I suppose it's because it's a kind of extreme variety of the road and cabin plot... you just can't beat the isolation and forced proximity of being stuck in a spaceship! That can make for some very interesting, intense relationship developments. And when you combine this with a wonderful romance (as Grimspace does), and although you have your characters go through several external adventures, it's their growth that drives the story forward (as Grimspace does), I'm in heaven.
The story is narrated in first-person present-tense (more on that later) by Sirantha Jax, our heroine, who's spent all her life being a jumper for the Corp. The Corp is a huge company which holds a de facto monopoly on long-distance space travel, as they control the scarce supply of jumpers like Jax. So what's a jumper? Quite simply, people who carry a gene that allows them to instantly jump a ship between two locations in the universe, however distant, through what's called grimspace.
As the story starts, Jax is being held in prison by the Corp, after the ship in which she was working as a jumper crashed, killing everyone on board but her. She's accused of being responsible for the accident, and she's spent the last few weeks being subjected to interrogation so severe that it amounts to mental torture.
Jax is also grieving for her pilot, Kai, the man she loved. Pilots and their jumpers share a unique kind of mental closeness, being connected as they go through grimspace, so his loss hit Jax especially hard. By the time a mysterious man named March breaks in and rescues her, spiriting her off in his ship, Jax is fighting for her sanity and life just out of habit, not out of any particular desire to stay alive. But this changes as she joins March and his companions' mission to create an academy for jumpers that will provide some competition to the Corp.
Jax is a fantastic character, and seeing her growth as the story progresses is what makes the book so wonderful. As I mentioned, she starts out being practically suicidal. As she's grieving for Kai, having to immediately work with another pilot feels like a betrayal. At the beginning the idea of being killed doesn't strike her as something to fear, but rather, as something that might give her a rest, at least. She doesn't particularly want to live. But she comes to want to. She comes to want to live and to want to have a life that she wants, rather than the one these people think she should have just because they saved her life. She also comes to realize that she can be very different from the cocky and arrogant jumper she used to be, and that she can love again. And she does.
The romance wasn't really the point of the book, but it was a lovely one, nonetheless. One of the things I found most interesting about it was that we soon find out that March has some psychic abilities. He can't usually read minds, but his brainwaves and Jax's are so compatible that he can read hers, pretty much all the time. A priori, I would have thought this would be creepy and a relationship-killer, but Jax is not your typical person, so this worked for her and March. She's just completely out there, a person with absolutely no interest in hiding what's in her mind. After a while, she even starts toying with it, teasing March through her thoughts, and even missing him when he's out of her head. I suppose I bought that she'd so easily accept it because it's a kind of extension of the normal pilot-jumper relationship and closeness, anyway.
The fact that in some situations the connection is a two-way one also helps flesh March, because we don't see his POV at all here. Actually, I wish we'd seen more, because I didn't feel I completely knew him by the end of the book. I hope there's more insight into his very intriguing past in the next entries in the series. Still, Aguirre does succeed in making him real. The scene where you finally see how he feels about Jax is amazingly powerful.
The plot was very well-done. It's a fascinating world that Aguirre has created, and the crew's adventures were entertaining. Jane mentioned in her review that she'd found the action a bit episodic, and I'd mostly agree with that. It didn't bother me, though, because I thought there was enough of an overarching "mission" to tie the episodes together. However, I never did find that mission, the whole jumper academy, that compelling. I wasn't quite sure why March and the others would be so willing to risk their lives for something like that. Fortunately, Jax keeps pretty much aloof of that, seemingly sharing this readers opinion *g*.
Oh, before I finish the review, a word about the first-person present-tense POV. If you're worried about this, don't be. I can't say I'm a fan of it, but I can say that I stopped noticing after a couple of pages. That said, I didn't really think it added anything that couldn't have been conveyed through past-tense narration. I know the author mentioned the reason she chose this way of narrating the story was because:
...I thought it made the action seem more uncertain. Events unfold as the reader rides along with Jax, and nothing is set in stone. When an author writes in past-tense, the reader has the unconscious security of knowing that everything must’ve worked out in the end, or the narrator wouldn’t be able to relate his story.But... doesn't the fact that there are still X pages to go before the book ends give me that same security?
Well, whatever. All in all, a fantastic discovery. I can't wait for Wonderlust. Which reminds me: for those of you reluctant in embarking in yet another new series, this one stands alone just fine. You get perfectly satisfying emotional and plot closure, even while leaving the door open for plenty more adventures.
MY GRADE: An A-. I was going for a B+ before I started the review, but as often happens to me, thinking back about the book and about how much I'd enjoyed Jax made me appreciate just how good it had been.