4 Rated Books Book Debate

On the Attack: Grimspace

I feel like such a Debbie Downer when it comes to these much buzzed over romance novels. But, I got nothing else if I ain’t honest, so here goes.

Review Number: 27ish?


Grimspace by Ann Aguirre is the author’s first science fiction book, published by and marketed as a sci-fi novel. Presumably, this is the first novel in a series focusing on protagonist Sirantha Jax.

Sirantha is a Jumper. She is born with the J-gene which means that she can access Grimspace and with the guidance of a pilot “jump” a ship from one point to another in interstellar travel. Because of the stress of Grimspace, a jumper only has a finite amount of jumps in them and will eventually burn out (lose their minds) or sense they are nearing the end and retire. Jax is an exceptional jumper, lasting longer than any other (she’s in her early 30s) and is being blamed for the destruction of a passenger ship full of people–her pilot and lover among the deceased. She’s broken out of solitary detention by an unknown man named March, and whisked off on a daring escape in a rusty old ship (don’t worry, like the good ships Serenity or the Millennium Falcon, the bucket of bolts only looks dilapidated but in fact is quite sturdy). The crew needs Jax for her jumping ability, and also because they have a Grand Plan to find jumpers before the Eeeevil Empire does, train them, and create a new breed of jumpers that (through the ship doctor’s genetic tinkering) won’t ever burn out.

Given all the buzz around this book and the stellar reviews it has received, Ana and I decided to read this one and give it a joint review.

Unfortunately, all the buzz in the universe couldn’t salvage this one for me.

The story is told in the first person present tense, from Jax’s POV. Right off the bat, I’m not crazy about the style in which Ms. Aguirre writes. Sirantha’s voice sounds kind of robotic, or as though she is speaking through a Captain Kirk monologue–“Ship’s Log, Stardate Twelve-Twenty One-Oh-Six.” It’s as though Sirantha is talking TO someone in her narrative…which feels hokey to me. Personally, I feel like the narrator is the author who is being lazy and copping out by writing to the audience through a cardboard character. This is a matter of taste though, I’m sure some readers like it. I can deal.

But then, I see it: “If I were allowed to roam the station, I’d jump the first freighter I found bound for the rim worlds. Desert. Frag my contract.”

Frag. Hastily, I look up the publication date of this book. 2008. Great. Now I’m not saying Battlestar Galactica has sole rights on the word “Frak” or “Frag” or any derivations of such word (many other scifi shows/movies/books have used some kind of f-bomb synonym), but I’m kind of disappointed at the lack of originality here. Sure, it’s a fine idea, but it’s kind of like when you get a cool new distinct haircut–say you get bangs–and then your little sister or best friend comes over the very next day with the same haircut. Not to mention in Grimspace “Frag” is used as a synonym for “Fuck”, but the word “Fuck” is still used widely throughout the book. Uh…what’s the point of having “Frag” then?

But I realize this looks like I’m merely nit-picking. POV, colorful euphemisms and stylistic matters aside, how does Grimspace stack up?

Mmm…not so well. Sirantha Jax begins the story sounding like every other Urban Fantasy badmouthing wiseass heroine that has been published in the last 10 years or so. Anita Blake, what hath thou wrought!? I don’t mind wiseass heroines, but Jax has no reason to be a wiseass. She can jump, but she can’t fight, she doesn’t know jack about anything, she seems to have lived a pretty privileged life without any prior trauma…so what’s with the smart mouth? Pushing this strange characterization aside, Jax (initially at least) also lacks any real depth or color as a character. I’ll quote one amazon reviewer for the book, who says that Sirantha Jax has all the character of industrial paint.

As Jax escapes on the bucket of bolts ship, the Folly, it becomes clear that Jax also is a moron. It is here that the “mechanics” of Jumping are explained. Jax admits to the audience (whom she is speaking pretty much directly to) that she doesn’t understand the physics of Jumping, she just ‘does it’. Basically what happens is, humans were looking for a way to traverse great distances in space, trying to unlock FTL (Faster Than Light) travel (which is impossible). Instead, they found out that they could bend spacetime with these Jumpers that create sort-of-wormholes between ‘beacons’ placed in grimspace (a sort of hyperspace) that allow ships to jump from one location to another. But Jax doesn’t really understand how it all works, just that it does and she does it. This seems like an incredible cop out to me on the author’s part. I’m reminded of a section at the beginning of S.L. Viehl’s space opera, Stardoc, where Cherijo goes through space travel but doesn’t really detail what’s going on, and admits she doesn’t know how the physics works. I was cool with that scenario because Cherijo is a surgeon and her lack of knowledge makes sense within the context of her character. She doesn’t make her livelihood (not to mention won’t die) navigating spaceships. Jax not knowing anything about her job strikes me as ludicrous, and incredibly easy way to get around research or extra description.

Not to mention, in such an advanced society that has mastered interstellar travel, wouldn’t these scientists have figured out how to isolate the “J-gene” and work on programming this into a computer? Since J-gene carriers are so incredibly rare and can only live for so long before going batty, wouldn’t it be more profitable (not to mention practical) to isolate and then engineer the gene somehow? Certainly it would be a lot less hassle than tracking down, training, and dealing with J-gene carriers.

Questionable physics (or lack thereof) aside, the plot itself didn’t do anything for me. The secondary characters all sounded and felt the same, speaking with the same voice as Jax, never really fully described or fleshed out to the audience at all. Grimspace is also a romance between Jax and March (the man who broke Jax out of prison), and seems to come out of nowhere. I believe it is somewhere around page 40 where March already is in love with Jax (for no discernible reason) and crooning to her that he’ll always come back for her. Blech. Mmmkay. Also, turns out March isn’t just a badass and a pilot, but he’s also a PSI PILOT (psi=psychic, not pounds per square inch). Again, incredibly convenient, as March luuuurves Jax because she speaks her mind and this explains his inexplicable early attraction to her (despite her cussing him out every five minutes). Although I didn’t ‘believe’ that they fell in love with each other, I have to admit that once things got going and they become Official, I enjoyed the interaction between the two characters.

Anyways. After much predictable danger, running for their lives, jumping through prettiful, colorful grimspace, we get to the climax. Sirantha is scooped up by a bounty hunter and taken in as prisoner back to the clutches of the Eeevil Empire. In one of the lamest endings I have read in a long time, everything magically ends up A-OK! Jax is cleared! Jax and March are in love and fly off into the sunset together! Everyone is happy! (Did I mention that everything–climax and incredible!happy!ever!after! ending all occurs within 20 pages or so?)

I like sci fi. It doesn’t necessarily have to be hard science fiction, but part of the fun of reading this genre is to see the laws that the author creates in their universe and how characters interact in them. The previously mentioned Stardoc novels are a fine example of a space opera that captures the reader’s attention and is well written, with little to no bother with technojargon or astrophysics. AND the Stardoc books have a believeable, well developed romance subplot to boot. In comparison, Ms. Aguirre’s Grimspace pales and appears second-rate. For a supposed page-turner, this book took me an unprecedented four nights to read–and I was forcing myself to read, at that.

Notable Quotes/Parts: Hmm. Well the last 20 pages are infuriating and ridiculous. But I can’t quote those here, lest I spoil someone the delight of reading the contrived happy ending.

The L-Gene

Oh, ok maybe just one spoiler. In addition to dear Jax having the J-Gene, it is postulated that she also has the L-GENE!!! She can jump around to her heart’s content without burning out! Huzzah!

Maybe next time if someone is near death, Jax will discover she has the R-Gene (for Resurrection) which will bring fallen comrades back to life!


Additional Thoughts: *crickets chirping*

Verdict: I actually threw the book across the room after reading the last sentence. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled. This was on the verge of being a DNF for me, but I trucked through it and almost wished I hadn’t. I’m not sure why this elicited such a strong, negative reaction from me–even though I particularly disliked the writing style, it wasn’t “badly” written. I suppose it felt very recycled to me, and highly unoriginal. Very stock Badass Anita Blake type heroine, in a BSG/Firefly/Star Wars knockoff universe. Maybe also because of all the positive hype, I had my hopes up for a lively story. Whatever. Point is, I really didn’t like it. Eye-rolling factor was somewhere near the level of the dreaded Kresley Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other.

Rating: 4 Bad, but not without some merit

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  • Carolyn Jean
    April 11, 2008 at 5:16 am

    Okay, I haven’t read this one yet, and I totally plan to. I love sci fi and romance both.

    But you know, as somebody who has ALSO thrown widely praised books across rooms, wondering if the blogworld is insane, I sure do relate. It just shows how subjective this whole thing is.

  • Christine
    April 11, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Hi Thea! I appreciate your honesty in your review. I have to admit it is more fun commenting on a less than favorable review. It gives us more to debate!! WEEeeee!! πŸ™‚

    I wasn’t too keen on the use of ‘frag’ either. Not for your reasons… I just like ‘fuck’ better. It packs more emotion, anger, whatever. So in my head, I just replaced ‘frag’ with ‘fuck’ every time I read it and I was good to go.

    I think Jax was such a smart mouth because she was basically full of herself. She thought she was God’s gift to the galaxies and was so used to being treated like a spoiled celebrity. I think during the course of the book she learned some valuable lessons and subsequently became more humble and she gained a sense of altruism, which is great.

    I don’t think March actually loved Jax already on p. 40. I think he already knew he would always come back for her because (1) he knows how rare, unique and important she is for his mission and wouldn’t chance losing her and (2) for the first time ever he actually enjoys being in someone’s mind… and that someone is Jax because she is naturally honest and oftentimes amusing. So maybe he does start to fall for her rather quickly, but I’m thinking if I finally came across someone who’s mind was finally a place I wanted to be… I think it would be hard not to fall for them.

    I do agree with you about the finale being a bit too easily resolved. I think that law enforcement would have at least arrested March, and it would have taken a bit more effort to absolve him. I would have liked those final scenes to have been more elaborate.

    Thankfully, Velith made the ending of the story all the more worthwhile. I was surprised at the introduction of a secondary character so late in the story, but his character was great. I loved the interaction between him and Jax. What did you think of him?

  • Thea
    April 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Carolyn Jean–oh definitely πŸ™‚ I remember reading The DaVinci Code and thinking, “THIS is what all the fuss is about”? But that’s a good thing right? Different opinions facilitate healthy debate and discussion, and that’s all part of the fun with literature! πŸ™‚

    Christine–WEeee indeed πŸ™‚

    I agree with you on using “fuck” in general–on tv shows, using mpaa rating friendly words like “gorram” or “frak” work nicely to keep the spirit of things, but in a book a good old fashioned f-bomb works even better.

    I will also have to concede that Jax as a character DID undergo some great growth throughout the book. I guess for me, one problem I had was that I never bought Jax as a badass trashtalker. Her inner thoughts, about being guilty for killing people, her doubts and honest selfishness felt more real to me, and at odds with the nifty little one-liners she keeps dropping. But, I can see where you are coming from, certainly an inflated ego jives with Jax’s smartalec-ness.

    Regarding March falling in love with Jax, you make a good point! His quick fall for her is because of their theta-wave compatible brains (or whatever, gamma waves, something) and finally being able to be β€˜in’ a place that is just as advertized would be an immense relief. I guess that Ms. Aguire wrote the story with this in mind, so later when the theta/gamma wave thing was revealed it would be an β€˜aha!’ moment for the reader. I still find it veeeerrry convenient though.

    Ayayay. The ending! *pounds head* I was getting more drawn into the story, from their daring escape onwards…but then the ending was just so pretty. I kind of felt like the author had a word count limit or was rushing to meet a deadline or something.

    The character of Velith is an interesting one. Besides being probably the worst bounty hunter in the universe (maybe just above Greedoβ€”you know, the bounty hunter that gets wasted by Han Solo in Episode IV), I thought he was all right. He has a cool alien thing going on. The whole Alien as Deus Ex Machina thing kinda bugs though :S

    Great points, Christine! πŸ™‚

    Any other thoughts?

  • Carolyn Jean
    April 11, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    One thing I do have to say in defense of frag (though again, I didn’t YET read this book), but I vaguely remember hearing this was a Vietnam war term.

    Fragging a guy was putting a fragmentation grenade in his tent. Like, guys would sometimes frag their commander. Oh, hell, I guess I could google it. But I’m lazy. But I think that might be what it is. So I could see that being its origin for this use, possibly.

  • Thea
    April 12, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Good point Carolyn Jean! It was indeed a vietnam war term (wikipedia pwns!)…Hmm. Don’t know if that changes how I feel about the use of “frag” in this setting considering how close the book is to Firefly and and other scifi show BSG…and since it was used interchangeably with “fuck”…I dunno. I’m willing to give the author the benefit of a doubt though, and perhapes this was her intent.

  • Christine
    April 13, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    “The whole Alien as Deus Ex Machina thing kinda bugs though.”

    What do you mean? The fact that the alien bounty hunter went soft and saved the day? Was it too contrived?

  • Thea
    April 15, 2008 at 7:53 am

    ***Contains Spoilers!***

    Christine–I think you hit it right on the head for me. I felt the introduction of the bounty hunter was cool and believeable; naturally, a lot of people would be on the hunt for Jax with the price on her head.

    But I hated that the wicked slider bounty hunter suddenly has an attack of conscience (with only a chapter left in the book, no less), believes Jax, and then somehow manages to capture and broadcast the whole affair, thereby exhonorating everyone and placing the government at fault. πŸ™ It felt very contrived to me–I would have much preferred it had Ms. Aguirre didn’t just kept the ending hanging with Jax in the clutches of a bounty hunter and fleshed out the circumstances a bit more.

  • Amanda
    September 22, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I know this is really, really late to the game, but I wound up enjoying this series. I read it the first time in 2010 and really didn’t care for it. I read it again 2013 and had to get the rest of the series. I don’t know what happened between now and then. It may have been a combination of more romance than I cared to read, and that I wasn’t too keen on the main character. I agree with your view of Jax, though. In this book, she’s not a very likable character, but in the following books she really grows as a character.

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