Friday, 1 June 2012

CBR4 Book 54: "Grimspace" by Ann Aguirre

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: May 13th, 2012
Date finished: May 15th, 2012

Sirantha Jax has a rare gene that allows her to jump spaceships through Grimspace, allowing them to travel huge distances in relatively short amounts of time. Hence she's been prized as a navigator for the Corp. However, on Jax' last journey, the space ship crashed, killing the several hundred passengers (including a very beloved diplomat), as well as the pilot (Jax' lover). Jax is in jail, being questioned and blamed for the disaster, but has absolutely no memories of what happened.

Jax is broken out of jail by a band of mercenaries, who want her help in starting up a rebel academy for navigators, to challenge the Corp's monopoly in space travel. One of the down sides of being a Jumper is that travelling through Grimspace takes a heavy toll on the navigators who do it, and they tend not to have very long life expectancies, because they burn out. Jax has survived a surprisingly high number of jumps, and lives with the knowledge that every jump could be her last. She's devastated by the loss of her pilot/lover/best friend, and not all that inclined to help the merry band of rogues who come to bust her out of prison. Yet their jumper burned out on the way to rescue her, so she has to help them at least get away, and once she joins up with them, they become fugitives hunted by the powerful and influential Corp. Will the mercenaries convince Jax to join their noble cause? Will Jax find out what actually happened with the crash? Will she survive the bounty hunters the Corp are sending after her? Can she settle in with a new pilot and crew and get over the massive emotional trauma of losing her partner?

Grimspace was this month's backup book in the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, and while at first glance, it shares many similarities to Gabriel's Ghost, I ended up liking this one a whole lot more. While both books start with a heroine being broken out of prison by the hero (with psy mind powers) they will later develop a romance with, having been set up/framed for some huge accident, the plots of the books then diverge pretty rapidly.

I really liked the concept of the Jumpers, with a special gene that made them unusual and highly valued. Clearly being a Jumper also takes a massive toll on people, though, and Jax is messed up for a whole host of reasons, not just because she's the sole survivor of a massive crash where she lost her partner. Cynical, sarcastic, yet brave sometimes to the point of stupidity, she's a very interesting heroine. She and March (the love interest) start out having a decidedly antagonistic relationship, and as she figures out really quickly that he can read her mind, she keeps thinking of all sorts of horrible things happening to him, just to wind him up.

Having been lauded as one of the darlings of the Corp, Jax' change in situation, where she is imprisoned, then hunted and forced to flee with a band of merry misfits, is not an easy adjustment for her. She's not at all enthused about the idea of throwing her lot in with them, and certainly not keen on the idea of travelling around the galaxies, one step ahead of whomever the Corp has sent after them, to gather recruits for the new Jumper academy that the rebels want to set up. Jax just wants to clear her name and get on with her life. Of course it's not that simple.

With a very prickly, but likable heroine, a pretty intriguing romantic subplot, a cast of interesting supporting characters and very cool world building, Ann Aguirre succeeded where Linnea Sinclair failed. I will absolutely be reading more books in this series, even though I normally avoid sci-fi, and I will probably check out her series of paranormal fantasy books too.

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