Have you ever found a novel that isn’t in your normal comfort zone, and yet when you read it, you can’t put it down? Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre was like that for me. I don’t have anything against science fiction, but there are some novels that are just a bit out there for me. If I can’t relate to the technology involved, then it’s kind of hard to get into the story when you’re not really sure what’s going on. For this reason, I tend to stay away from the outer space science fiction novels. However, I kept hearing so much hype about Grimspace that I became interested and I’m glad I finally picked it up.
The story revolves around Sirantha Jax, a jumper or nav-star, who is pivotal for any ship who wants to travel through space. It can take months to go between worlds, but a jumper can get into the grimspace and cut that time down by a lot. Jax loves getting into the grimspace and she’s made a career out of it; however, when one flight goes wrong and everyone on boards is killed, she’s suddenly blamed for the loss and she doesn’t remember what happened. She ends up being rescued and is thrown into a whole new situation that she has no control over. Her new crew is a bunch of renegades who add new meanings to the word dysfunctional and she ends up trusting them far quicker than she thought would be possible.
The development of Jax’s character is really good. As she heals from the crash and learns to trust, and love, again, you’re there knowing what her thoughts and feelings are. She’s not shy and she has no problem saying what she is thinking. I think that is one aspect of this novel that I really enjoy. Jax doesn’t try to play mental games or anything with anybody. Whatever she is thinking, she’ll say it as well. She’s not the most eloquent fighter we’ve seen, but she knows how to throw a punch. Her interactions with the male dominant figure, March, are especially good. Their relationship starts out hostile and not all that friendly. March breaks Jax out of the interrogations from the crash, but he doesn’t immediately like her. The only reason he’s breaking her out is because he, and the people he works for, need her alive and sane. However, March ends up becoming her pilot (a nav-star/jumper can’t flight a ship and navigate the grimspace at the same time) and through this connection, they begin learning things about each other. They go from feuding colleagues to intimate relations in such a smooth manner that you’re not sure where it comes from. You know it’s going to happen, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when everyone’s feelings begin to change. The emotional transition for the entire crew is so seamless that it just engulfs the reader. Honestly, there were times I was reading and it didn’t seem like a lot of time went by and then I realize that it’s been hours because the characters lives were so interwoven, and yet independent, that it didn’t take any work to move between scenes.
Usually, with science fiction novels, a writer has to develop their own technology, their own back history. Their own futuristic goals for our reality. If they do it successfully, then everything they write becomes a new unexplored world that makes the reader eager to see what it’s like. I’ve come across a lot of novels that haven’t mastered this technique, but Aguirre has. She includes some interesting mechanics, but everything had a root in something familiar to me so I never once got lost or couldn’t understand the use of something. One of the characters has a personal datacom…a PDA with it’s own AI. The idea of it wasn’t so far fetched that my head was able to just accept it as part of the story and continue reading. I never once got stuck on the innovations that were being used or began to wonder what was going on.
Overall, Grimspace ended up being a better novel than I thought it would be. I’m not a huge science fiction fan since a lot of novels tend to include technology that seems really out there, but Aguirre’s world doesn’t have that issue. Everything you come into contact with make sense, not only in her novel, her world, but also in the here and now. The things she includes could happen and I’m really surprised we don’t have some of the techonology already. Her characters are abrasive, honest, and so engaging that you can’t help but feel for them.
I will be honest, I did read Aguirre’s short Renegade before I got my hands on this novel. Renegade is March’s story before he meets up with Jax. It actually explains how he comes into contact with his employers in Grimspace and reading it first was a good introduction into Aguirre’s world. It also explained some of March’s personality quirks that Aguirre didn’t go into (however she really didn’t need to) in Grimspace.
Again, I loved this novel and play on buying it as soon as I can. Her next novel, Wanderlust, comes out August 26th and I will be at the bookstore on that day to get my hands on it. One last thing…if you’re a fan of Joss Whedon’s Serenity, then you’re going to love this novel.