Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace-a talent which makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. Then a crash landing kills everyone on board, leaving Jax in a jail cell with no memory of the crash. But her fun's not over. A group of rogue fighters frees her...for a price: her help in overthrowing the established order.

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**Warning: Contains Mild Spoilers**

This book grabs ahold of you almost from the beginning, drags you into the story, and then hardly ever lets you go. There is action almost from page one, and only brief respites where the characters get downtime since the author doesn't spend a lot of time telling us about what they did day by day during a 3 week space trip, for instance, but keeps the momentum going by simply summarizing such lulls and then getting right back to the action. Jax's voice as the first person narrator is often quirky, sometimes snarky, and overall helps to both get you involved with what's happening on a more personal level, as well as doing more to hint at and illustrate Jax's frequent mental instability than if the author were simply to tell us about her mental issues. Instead you get to see them first hand by looking through Jax's eyes and hearing her often depressed, depressing, and frequently paranoid internal monologues.

Sirantha Jax is a Jumper - someone who was born with something known as the J-gene which allows her to see and navigate in grimspace, a sort of dimension of space that's similar to what other works would term hyperspace. She apparently has been one of the Corp's star Jumpers, lasting longer and doing more jumps and discovering more new worlds than any other Jumper in their history. As the story begins, however, she is being held captive in a hospital prison of sorts, presumably receiving "treatment" for the mental trauma she's suffering from since the ship she was on crashed, killing most everyone aboard, including her pilot who was also her lover and partner. She is rescued by March, though at first it is as much a kidnapping as a rescue since she is effectively his group's captive for the first while that she is with them until they finally get around to explaining to her why they saved her and what they want from her. She is given a choice about whether or not she will help them, though in reality she doesn't really have any other options available to her besides agreeing to help, and soon she's setting off into space again with March and his crew, most of whom are mildly to opening hostile toward her at first, though slowly begin to warm to her. This includes her relationship with March, for they get off to a rather rocky start, neither all that happy about having to work together in what are relatively intimate circumstances during Jumps, but doing so because they don't have much choice in the matter. Over time, the hostilities between them lessen as they grow to trust and like one another more and more, though the relationship progresses slowly and at a fairly realistic pace, and isn't' without it's fair share of setbacks along the way.

We never really learn a lot about March's past, though he hints fairly broadly that it was pretty dark and that he's done things in the past that most, including himself now, would consider to be despicable. When we first meet him, he's a very gruff individual who seems to be lacking much in the way of compassion or understanding for those who aren't part of his immediate group. He's somewhat angry at the universe due to recent personal tragedies in his recent past, and, at least at first, at Jax in particular since he initially believes her to have been at least partly responsible. He soon learns otherwise, and as he softens his attitude toward her and treatment of her, we eventually come to learn that in his own way he's just as fragile as she is mentally speaking. He hides it better usually, and he's had more real help in learning to deal with his issues, but underneath it all, he's just as broken inside as Sirantha is.

The tale of how these two broken people come together and become first friends, then lovers in the physical sense, then finally lovers in the fullest sense of the word is a compelling one, and one that rarely has a dull moment. For from the time that March rescues her from the Corp facility she'd been imprisoned in they find themselves in almost constant danger and have to navigate their way through one crisis after another, taking casualties of one sort or another at almost every step. You almost start to wonder if the story is going to have a positive ending or not, but then just when they're in their darkest hour and seem to have come to have run out of options and come to the end of the road, they receive help from an unlikely source that manages to upend the world around them and turn a grim ending into a hopeful new beginning. Their immediate struggles may be over by the end of the book, but it's clear that their story is far from over and that they have just as much, if not more, hard work and challenges ahead of them in the future. I for one will be looking forward to reading more in this series to find out what happens next for them.

Fans of science fiction, paranormal tales, psychological fiction, and romance stories alike will find things to like in this book. While it may not satisfy truly hardcore enthusiasts of these genres, still, the blending of them is intriguing, and works in a way that is somewhat unexpected. The characters are real, with real and believable problems, and there aren't always easy solutions to those problems, making them characters that are easy to identify with and care about. The nearly non-stop action keeps you involved in the story and turning the pages, and the breaks in the action, when they come, are just enough at the right times to let you step back, assimilate what's happened and get ready for the next round before it starts right back into things. All in all, a book that I'd recommend to most anyone interested in the above mentioned genres, and possibly a few others as well.

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