I’ve done soft chicklit reviews so to speak (Gini Koch) so now the time has come for something like more hardcore sci-fi chicklit or space opera.
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Ace (February 26, 2008)
Genre: sci-fi/fantasy/romance/space opera
Target audience: adults (well, PG-13 will do too)
A passenger spaceship “Sargasso” with over 80 important people on board, belonging to the Farwan Corporation, crashes. Only one person survives – the navigator Sirantha Jax. Navigators, also called jumpers, are the carriers of a special J-gene which enables them to see the outer space in a more profound manner and feel different navigating beacons around. Only Farwan trains them – quite a monopoly. Sirantha is one of the best navigators for more than one reason – not only she feels around the Grimspace like no other jumper but also she has survived a bigger number of “jumps” so far. Usually navigators burn out very quickly so there is a constant demand for them – only their unique skills make the long-haul space travel possible.
After the crash Sirantha is transported and kept in a mental health hospital. As she heals her horrible burns different psychiatrists try to break her and make her confess to having caused the crash. The narration starts when she is kidnapped (or rather liberated) by an ex-mercenary called March who has his own agenda Jax knows nothing about. She is not sure about his intentions but she grabs at that straw as any fate is better than a forced breakdown in a mental hospital and a prison sentence. While they are pursued she has to “jump” into the Grimspace again (her version of the cosmos) with him as a pilot, no matter the costs. What follows is a journey through space as well as a journey through Jax’s soul. Let only say it complicates the situation a lot.
Apparently the bond linking a pilot and a jumper must be really strong to make them succeed. Although Sirantha is still mourning the death of her previous pilot, friend, colleague and lover, Kai, soon enough she finds March more than an adequate substitute. It makes her very uncomfortable to say the least of it but she can’t help it. The man is a mind- reader (Psi) and it seems their theta-waves are very similar. As a result they can literally talk to each other into their own heads and March knows instantly what Sirantha is feeling. That’s only a beginning of a truly griping story about solving one mystery after another while asking many difficult questions.
What I liked:
How many female sci-fi writers do you know? I must admit I haven’t heard about one until I stumbled on a review of Grimspace. It made me interested so I decided to give the book a try and whoa, it was an exhilarating, although a bit scary roller coaster ride from the very beginning.
It is a character-driven, first-person narration novel and Sirantha Jax is one hell of a character too. She is damaged goods from the start – unstable after the accident, depressed, horribly scarred, being tortured mentally by those ugly shrinks to boot – but still she fights her way out no matter what. She has grit and determination of several men and women being an interesting protagonist with a lot of potential, I think. . Small wonder March, although grudgingly, falls for her after a while head over heels.
I must admit Ms. Aguirre has a touch for excellent characters and she can build very plausible relations between them. It’s her strong ground. I am not a big fan of romance and there’s a romance which is incredibly well-done and which I liked. In general the interactions of Jax, March, and the supporting cast are very interesting and funny to read. All of them are damaged to some extend but, unlike other novels, it works rather fine.
There’s also one unique character of Velith Il- Nok, an alien from a planet where big, intellgent mantis-like bugs live, which really got to me for more than one reason. Let me only tell you I’ve never liked creepy bug aliens before (especially after watching several sci-fi movies) but also I’ve never met bug aliens with a sense of humor and propriety before. That was unexpected.
The plot is another big asset of the book. It flows very nicely, you don’t get any sudden illogical changes of direction (meaning most often that the author had no idea what to write next), there are no glaring inconsistency errors. The book ends where it should as soon as it should – you don’t have a feeling that the author ran out of steam or had an editor with a band of cruel mercenaries with AKs-47 banging on her door for not meeting the deadline.
What I didn’t like:
There were little quirks of writing style that drove me crazy after a while, like the incessant use of the word “frag” as a swear and Aguirre’s habit of leaving off things like proper nouns from the start of a sentence. For example, you’d get “Could have seen it” rather than “I could have seen it”. This became really frustrating fragg–er, but for all of that, I found it pretty easy to keep reading.
Discovering authors like Aguirre is an absolute thrill. This is a grand space opera in the best tradition of Star Wars but without the false, pompous nobleness of the Jedi knights. I can’t wait to read the next installments only hoping they will be equally good. If you like kick-ass heroines and/or sci-fi it is the perfect series for you.