by Ann Aguirre, futuristic (2008)
Ace, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-441-01599-3
Grimspace is marketed as science fiction rather than romance, and therefore, it is to be expected that the romantic elements of this story remain mostly in the background. But if you are one of those readers who wrote to me in the past complaining that many of the books in the Shomi imprint are too conceptual or even confusing, you may be happy to learn that this one is definitely not too conceptual. In fact, it reminds me more of the science-fiction novels I used to read in the 1970s rather than, say, those The Matrix movies. It's a road trip story, in other words, only with spacecrafts.
Let's get the concept thing out of the way first. Grimspace in this story is... well, it's quite hard to describe it in a summary, so for the sake of this review, let's just say that it's similar in some way to those wormhole/hyperspace-type "paths" that allow one to cut short the distance and time required to move from one point in space to another point. Apparently you need a gene - the J-gene - to navigate through grimspace, so you have to be born a "jumper". The genetic aspect of this story is rather iffy, in my opinion, but hey, if genetic evolution can make a certain Ororo Munroe control the weather, who am I to argue with the premise of this particular story?
Anyway, traveling through grimspace has its cost - the jumper will eventually burn out that there will be inevitably that one jump into the grimspace that she will never come out alive. Jumpers know this, but because jumping into grimspace often gives them psychological and emotional fulfillment that they rarely find elsewhere due to their unorthodox, let's just say, psychological profile, many of them would rather die making the last jump rather than to chicken out of the final glory.
Our heroine, Sirantha Jax, is a jumper with the Corp. The Corp is the obligatory Big Brother-type corporation that controls, owns, and runs what seems like everything and everyone. However, Jax's last mission ended up the crash of the spacecraft on which she is the jumper. She was the sole survivor and is currently being held for "observation" and "questioning" in Perlas Station. She can't remember much about the crash, the poor dear. When a bunch of folks, including the pilot Marsh that she will have a thing for later on, show up to free her from her confinement, she soon finds herself part of the crew.
That's about it from me where the synopsis is concerned because the rest of the story sees Jax encountering one adventure after another as she follows the crew around the place. Perhaps that is the biggest reason why I find this story too easy to put down at times - the story is structured in such a way that it's more like a collection of adventures rather than a story with build-up. Even the denouement, while expected, is incorporated in a way that it appears out of the blue as the reason for that event to occur is rarely mentioned during the middle portion of the story. Also, the denouement feels rushed, with many events happening in such a small number of pages. Therefore, I believe that I can say that Grimspace has some pretty severe pacing issues.
However, this book remains readable despite its pacing problems. Ms Aguirre has a distinctive voice and style that I can enjoy, although in the case of Grimspace, I wish she has allowed Jax to be a little different from the usual and increasingly generic self-effacing and sarcastic urban fantasy heroines out there. I find myself not really caring too much for Jax because she's such a familiar heroine, and because Jax is the first person narrator of the story, I feel less emotionally invested in her story as a result. Coupled with the meandering pace of the story, Grimspace becomes way too easy to put down. I think it says a lot that the character I care the most for is that cute baby reptilian creature Jax and Marsh picked up along the course of the story.
Grimspace is at the end of the day a polished and pleasant read. I just wish that it is a more memorable one.
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