Author: Ann Aguirre
Release Date: February 26, 2008
As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash. Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom—for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel—and establish a new breed of jumper. Jax is only good at one thing—grimspace—and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime…
Grimspace is a so-called romantic sci-fi, also known as a space opera. I’d never heard of these genre distinctions before picking up this book and was a little wary, but Grimspace is so gripping that I soon forgot it was even a sci-fi book. There is some slang and scientific lingo characteristic of the Grimspace world, but never so much that I felt lost as a reader.
Emotionally and physically scarred, Jax is prickly, pragmatic protagonist with a very distinct narrative voice. There are portions of the book in which her actions are selfish and hard to sympathize with, but she quickly reasserts herself as a strong MC trying to overcome her troubled past. And she’s funny, frequently annoying certain characters just because she can, which is always a plus.
And March. At first, I suspected he might be a bit too gruff and closed-off to be likable, but he soon proved me wrong. He is, in his own way, as complex and conflicted as Jax herself. There are other character in Grimspace worth loving, too: Baby Z, an amorphous alien blob-baby, Vel (my personal favourite), and of course the quirky crew of March’s ship.
The first person, present tense POV keeps the pace moving along at a fast clip, never really allowing Jax to focus on what she lost in the shipwreck that changed her life; however, readers are given glimpses into the abrasive but ever-confident pseudo-celebrity she was, and insights into her past make Jax an even more compelling character. The romance had me really rooting for the characters – it is a bit predictable, but in the best possible way, since as a reader I was invested in the outcome and wanted them to ultimately reconcile their differences. Also, though enjoyable, the romantic elements in no way overshadow the main plot, and there is plenty of space adventuring and action to balance it out.
Okay, so I liked the characters, but what about the setting? Since this is sci-fi, I was prepared for lots of alien life forms and weird worlds. Grimspace doesn’t disappoint – there are man-eating parasites and peaceful alien creatures – but I often felt like I was missing something in terms of the setting. Certain worlds are interesting, but others left me a bit confused as to the geography and background of the place; since this book isn’t too long, I think more time could have been spent delving into those elements of the setting. I also never totally caught on to the concept of space “jumping,” which is so integral to Jax’s character, although Aguirre does a great job of relaying the dangers and temptations associated with being a jumper.
My issues with the setting aside, Grimspace is a fast-paced and character-driven read, and its tough-funny heroine, space adventuring, and romance should appeal even to readers who don’t usually like sci-fi.
Cover Thoughts: Pretty! The girl doesn't look as tough or wild-haired as I imagine Jax would, but they share superficial similarities (the dark hair, blue eyes, scars). Overall, I really like it.