Review: “Grimspace,” Ann Aguirre

Pros: Such fantastic characters
Rating: 5 out of 5

I’m finally reading Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, Book 1)! I’ve heard wonderful things about it, but just hadn’t gotten to it before now. Sirantha Jax has the rare J-gene: she’s able to guide ships through jump space, enabling quick space travel. Unlike most others with the gene, she’s gone more than 10 years without any sign of burnout. Recently she was the jump space navigator on a ship full of diplomats, and it crashed and burned, leaving her the only survivor. Bad enough that her pilot, also her lover, was killed, but now it seems like the corporation is going to blame the crash on her. She’s having trouble remembering the vital moments of the crash in order to figure out what happened, and the psych docs seem to think that the best way to provoke her memory is to make her relive the crash–over and over and over. She’s close to breaking when a man named March shows up and gives her the opportunity to escape. She knows she’s going to be used as a scape goat for the whole thing, so she takes him up on the offer. Soon she finds herself traveling with a motley crew who’s determined to find and train a source of jump navigators outside of the all-powerful Corp. Unfortunately, the Corp has labeled Jax a terrorist and sent bounty hunters after her.

I love the characters in here. Dina, the other woman on board the ship, seems at first to fall into the cliché of being hostile to the new girl, but it turns out she has very specific reasons for being hostile, is kind of an irascible curmudgeon in the first place, doesn’t have a rivalry with her over a love interest (Dina is a lesbian, after all), and their relationship evolves over time. March is really interesting–again it would have been easy for him to fall into a stereotype of the taciturn, glowering, sexy guy, but he doesn’t. He has people he cares about, and morals that matter to him, and again, he has legitimate reasons for glowering and being taciturn (and again, his relationship with Jax evolves over time). The other characters are equally entertaining and interesting. I particularly like the fact that Jax is a bit on the ribald and sarcastic side–again, not what I immediately expect from this sort of setup.

Because of Jax’s time in the hands of Psych, she’s more than a little bit paranoid, and seems to have a nice case of PTSD going. It’s handled really well. Because the story is told in a thought-filled first person, it’s easy to get swept up in Jax’s thoughts, especially when she’s getting paranoid. It’s very effective.

Aguirre does one thing that I find unusual–there are some plots in here that your average writer would work for distance, whereas she cuts them short. This is a great way to surprise your readers, I have to admit. There are definitely unexpected losses.

Content note for sex and death (not a lot of it).

Huh, so this is what altruism feels like. It chafes a bit.

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