Review: Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre

Review: Wanderlust by Ann AguirreWanderlust by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #2
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 312
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Grimspace, Doubleblind, Killbox

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. Jax has worked for the Farwan Corporation her entire career. But now the word’s out that the Corp deliberately crashed a passenger ship, and their stranglehold on intergalactic commerce has crumbled—which means that Jax is out of a job.

She’s also broke, due to being declared dead a little prematurely. So when the government asks her to head up a vital diplomatic mission, Jax takes it. Her mandate: journey to the planet Ithiss-Tor and convince them to join the Conglomerate.

But Jax’s payday is light years away. First, she’ll have to contend with Syndicate criminals, a stormy relationship with her pilot, man-eating aliens, and her own grimspace-weakened body. She’ll be lucky just to make it to Ithiss-Tor alive…

Thoughts: Ann Aguirre is one of those authors who can make me cry like a baby, keep me on tenter-hooks during an action sequence, and make me drink coffee at 4am so that I can keep reading. The only reason this book isn’t getting 5 stars is because it falls slightly short of it’s predecessor Grimspace – but not by much.

Everything I love about science fiction is in this book. The familiar-yet-different worlds, species with bizarre cultures taking the lead – it’s like Star Trek meets Firefly meets, well, Ann Aguirre. This woman can write action and drama and romance, all while developing a stunning universe for her characters to play in.  Although there isn’t quite as much mind-blowing action and drama in this book (although I don’t see how that would have been possible, given how much happened in Grimspace) there’s still a whole ton of it. I am constantly amazed by just how much plot Aguirre can pack into the pages!

I loved that Vel, who had a brief but essential part in Grimspace, returned for Wanderlust. He is not just alien in his appearance but in his attitude, and something about that makes me want him to love Jax. If any of you watch The Good Wife, the relationship between Jax and Vel is rather like that of Alicia and Kalinda. Vel is just so otherworldly and aloof, you never know quite how he’ll react. But when he does act in Jax’s favour? It makes it that much more meaningful.  As for Jax herself, she really grows into herself and her relationship with March in this book. She is one of my very favourite characters – nitty, gritty, kick-ass, and screwed up. And let me just say that the scenes between her and March? They made me cry without making me want to kill either character (quite a tough job!).

Unfortunately, there was one reveal towards the end of the book that had me thinking “seriously?”. It was just a bit too cliche and threw me slightly off-kilter for what would have otherwise been a fantastic ending.

Bottom line? A fantastic sequel in a fantastic series.  I’d recommend Ann Aguirre’s books to anyone who wants their books both character-driven and plot-driven – Wanderlust has both in spades.

Review: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Review: Grimspace by Ann AguirreGrimspace by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #1
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 320
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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Rating:
Also in this series: Wanderlust, Doubleblind, Killbox

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.

Thoughts: I loved Grimspace so damn much, which obviously made this review nearly damn impossible to write!

Let’s start with the lead character, Jax.  Jax is seriously kick-ass, but God, is she far from perfect. We meet her at her lowest: she’s grieving, vaguely suicidal and – unknowingly – a bit spoiled.  Jax is the corporate-gal who needed to lose everything to see what assholes her employers are.  So while she goes through some pretty horrific trauma in Grimspace, it helps her “grow up”.  She doesn’t doesn’t truly change, per say, it’s more like she grows into herself.

It is fabulous to read, because honestly, who doesn’t love some good old-fashioned character development in their fiction.

Grimspace is filled with non-stop twist and turns.  Space battles, crazy alien planets and new enemies at every port – kicking ass and running like hell.  I am in love with the verse.  I’m also in love with Aguirre’s writing style.  She managed to turn the whole tale around half a dozen times without making the book bi-polar.  In retrospect, it was one of the most coherent novels I’ve read – although it seemed out of control (in a “Dude, that’s crazy awesome” sort of way) while I was reading it.

I also want to go on a fangirl rant about March, who was one of my all-time favourite male characters.  Ann Aguirre writes what I consider the ideal “bad boy”.  I use that term lightly, because what I actually mean is this:

Bastard. But I don’t mean it. […] I wouldn’t trade March for someone nice. Well, I don’t mean that like it sounds. March is a good man, just not a nice one. Does that even make sense?
Chapter 33 – Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

March is a good man but he can be cruel.  In fact, he is constantly struggling to keep from letting his cruelty take him over.  And that ever present instability?  It is exactly what makes him exactly the kind of hero you love to learn to love.  He isn’t easy and he isn’t kind, but he always has his heart in the right place.  There’s a fine line between a honest and cruel, and Aguirre straddles it perfectly.

Grimspace is labelled “Sci-Fi Romance” by some, and while it has a seriously epic romance… I think I’d keep it off the romance shelf.  Grimspace follows zero romance rules: it does not centre around a single relationship, has a heroine with more than one “tru wuv” and forgoes the whole dual-POV.  And considering the strong, mystery-filled, dangerous world Ann Aguirre creates in Grimspace – I think it would be a shame to read it solely for a romance.

Bottom line? READ THIS BOOK.  It has intergalactic global corporations and human trafficking, lesbian mechanics and scarred strippers, adorable bog aliens and unionised!bounty hunter aliens.  It’s brilliant.

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