A few weeks back, the Dear Author site sponsored a raffle of several advance reader copies of Grimspace by Ann Aguirre. It’s a SF romance; not a genre I usually read, but the concept was interesting, so I entered it. To my surprise I won a copy.
(For those on my flist unfamiliar with ARC, they are basically copies of a book that are sent out before the publishing date to generate buzz for it. I’d never seen one before, but Grimspace is about the size of a trade paperback, with no cover art, but with blurb intact. It was really exciting to receive.)
The story follows Sirantha Jax, a “jumper”, a individual who possesses the rare J-gene granting her the ability to navigate through space by jumping through grimspace while guiding her pilot-partner.
The book begins after a horrific crash which killed everyone on board including her pilot and lover, Kai. (Pilots and jumpers often are lovers as well as professional partners, because the process of jumping is a very intimate one, with both people sharing the same consciousness during the jump). We open with Jax in a detention cell where she’s been subjected to torture by the Corp she works for, supposedly in the hope of finding out how exactly Jax messed the jump up. She’s broken out of her prison by March and his crew, who have plans of their own for the rogue jumper….
The story is told in first person; not a POV I’ve read much of in the last few months. It works to give Jax a distinctive voice, but makes the transition between chapters a little shaky. The author also does not fall into the trap of long expository passages, which always slow the story down, (and is why I’m still stuck in the middle of “The Lies of Locke Lamora”), but at the same time for someone unused to the SF genre, there’s a lot to learn about the world she’s set up and fast. I believe this is the first of a series though, so there was a lot of worldbuilding which might get easier to follow in subsequent books.
What worked very well I think is the romance between Jax and March. Jax is recovering from the death of Kai, with the added complication that she’s still not sure if she accidently killed him. And she has to learn to jump with March quickly if she wants to survive.
Few romances I’ve read (and it’s always possible I’m just reading the wrong ones) do a good job with the issue of past lovers. Mostly, I suppose, because a large number of romances work on the “true love” concept which can only be found with one person in the world (or in this case, universe). That’s why, even if the previous relationship was a happy one, there’s the inevitable comparison in favor of the new one. Aguirre makes the burgeoning relationship between March and Jax romantic and heartfelt, all while being respectful of Jax’s previous romance, and without dismissing the fact that Jax misses Kai, and that the loss is a profound one for her.
There’s also a good number of interesting secondary characters. A favorite of mine was the precocious Keri, and I would personally like to see a story centered around her.
To sum up, Grimspace was a strong start to a new series, and I’m interested in seeing the next one.