Review – Ann Aguirre’s “Grimspace”

It was with slight trepidation that I began reading Ann Aguirre‘s “Grimspace”.  There was massive online buzz about this SF romance – however, the last couple of SF romances that I had bought due to online recs hadn’t quite done it for me.

And then there was the “present tense” thing.  Yes, the book is written in present tense.  I’m fine with third-person and first-person narration (I draw the line at second-person), but had never read a novel in present tense before.  Short stories, yes, full-length books, no. 

But hey, I’m always willing to give new books a go.  Especially if the author’s been blurbed by Sharon Shinn.  ;-)

And I’m really glad I did becaused I loved it.

Short summary: Sirantha Jax has a special genetic ability to “jump”, i.e. navigate, through grimspace.  Grimspace is a sort of new dimension (I think – I’m rubbish at science and I wasn’t paying all that much attention to this part anyway) that basically allows you to travel faster in space.  It’s all going well (sure, jumping shortens your lifespace, but grimspace is fantastic *grin*) until her last trip, when she apparently loses control and crashes, killing everyone on the ship with her, including her pilot and lover.  The book starts with her in an cell facing yet more torture – err, I mean interrogation - when this stranger breaks in offering freedom… in exchange for use of her navigation talent.  Of course, this is a romance and I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that the stranger, March, plays the part of the main romantic interest in this book…

Okay, what did I love about this book?  Well, firstly, the fact that the SF and romance elements were part of the whole – in some books, I feel as though one or the other could be removed without affecting the story.  Not so in this case, they’re wonderfully intertwined and together provide an excellent action-packed story.  I really liked Ms Aguirre’s world-building – I felt as though Jax’s world was real. 

The characters normally make or break the story for me, and Jax is a strong heroine – I want to say “kick-ass heroine”, but that has Anita Blake connotations!  She’s faced with some rather dangerous and tight situations yet never does the TSTL* thing in order to progress the plot.  I also liked Jax’s voice – there’s humour and yes, some snarkiness.  The relationship that she and March have is an intense one, but I buy that because of the psychic connection they have as navigator and pilot, and which is intensified by March’s abilities.  The supporting cast of characters are good too, well-rounded with personalities of their own.

And the “present tense” thing?  I can safely say I didn’t even notice it after the first few chapters.  When I consciously thought about it, I would re-read the last few paragraphs and think “hey, it is in present tense”, but it never bugged me.  What I’m wondering, though, is what impact the tense had on how I perceived the story.  I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Ms Aguirre used present tense to make the story feel more immediate.  If I didn’t notice that, does it mean it didn’t make a difference?  Or subconsciously did that filter through?  I’ve no idea.

If I had to be picky, I would say that there are some parts that appear slightly throwaway to me.  But this is the start of a series, so I’m assuming we’ll be revisiting some characters and places in the next books! 

It is not the most original of stories and some SF cliches slip through, but this is a really good read, nonetheless.  My overall grade would be a strong B+ and I’m very much looking forward to the next book “Wanderlust” out in August 2008.

 

*Too Stupid to Live

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Review – Ann Aguirre’s “Grimspace”

  1. I loved the cover of Grimspace but you know my view on science fiction -_-

    Still, I just started to read the Twilight [currently reading New Moon which is tad bit difficult because exams are coming up] and Stephanie Meyer has managed to make me like vampires so why not Ann Aguirre with science fiction?

    On the other side, I doubt the present tense would bother me. French novels are often written in the present tense, because if you write it in the past you’ve got to use the “passé simple” which is a tense we no longer use when speaking, only in books and even in books it’s starting to get old fashioned.

    So I guess, I’ll read it ^^
    Thanks for the review ^^

  2. I’m in the middle of this and I’m having trouble getting through it. I’m not sure why. Okay, maybe I do–basically, I don’t like Sirantha. Or March. :( They both seem so damaged–and I’m trying to appreciate the fact that they’re both still fighting to be sane, good people. But mostly I’m annoyed. It’s just all a bit dark for me.

    But your review has made me think I should keep going. I do like the extremely fast action–you really get thrown into the plot. I’ll give it another 25 pages. ;)

  3. La Plume – Have you had a look at the excerpt on Ann Aguirre’s website (linked above)? If you like it, you’ll probably like the book.

    Jennie – Which bit are you at now? I can identify – if I don’t like the heroine (and narrator in this case), I struggle with the book. I like Sirantha more than March, I admit, but that’s probably because it’s first-person and I don’t know enough about March to identify with him.

  4. They’ve just gotten to the planet where all the amphibious sentient beings who are supposed to be there have disappeared. To be honest, I don’t really understand what they’re trying to do. Were they going to find these primitive froggy people and talk them into coming to a new colony of jumpers? Or were they going to kidnap them? And they’re going to do some cross-breeding thing with other species? I’m guessing I should just keep reading–surely it’s explained better later.

    But the scene that really got me was when Sirantha all of a sudden decided that March was definitely taking her out there to kill her. Argh. Mental breakdowns are depressing.

  5. Hmmm – if you’ve gotten that far and are still a bit iffy about the story, I don’t think you’ll change your mind. I did like the end-result of that expedition though!

    Something I’ve just noticed (because I flipped through to figure out where you were) is that there are a lot of chapters in this book! I’m guessing it’s a stylistic choice – her chapters are quite short, and tend to end on a cliffhanger, which probably contributes to the fast-paced action feel of this book.

  6. I’ve heard a LOT of people raving about this book. And now that I’ve met Ann, I’m eager to read it. She’s wonderful — which means if I don’t like the book, I can never show my face again.

    Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t be TOO eager to read it.

  7. Ana

    Yay, you liked it too!

  8. I think you feel the same way about Grimspace as I did.

    Overall I enjoyed it, but there were some parts I was going Huh? Don’t get that. And other parts where I really wanted to find out about some of the other characters and we didn’t get to.

    I didn’t really notice the present tense at the time, but maybe that’s why it didn’t flow as well for me as stories usually do. Bit like the attention span was too short.

    I loved how snarky Sirantha was, but didn’t feel I knew her as a character that well. Again maybe that’s down to the present tense.

    I’m definitely getting Wanderlust so hopefully some gaps will be filled in.

  9. Ahh, so you liked it? :p

    Other than over at our place, I haven’t read a negative review for this book yet! I feel like a fish out of water, or some witty analogy I can’t think of.

    But I’m glad you ended up enjoying this one :)

    Jennie–I really really didn’t like this book, primarily because I didn’t like Sirantha. At all. We were reading it for a joint review, and I had to force myself through the book, so I totally feel where you are coming from.

  10. Susan – Def give this book a go! I’d like to hear what someone else thinks of this book :-)

    Ana – I’m very much looking forward to Wanderlust now, not that long now…

    LesleyW – Yes, I did feel as though she spent time developing characters/places that were then left unexplored. Apart from that, I just went along for the ride!

    I re-read a couple of chapters and think the choppiness comes from the chapter length and the way she ends the chapters, not necessarily the present tense used.

    Thea – I re-read your review – see, where I think we differ is that we’re coming to this book from completely different perspectives.

    For instance, I’m not a big SF movie/TV fan and had no idea the word “frag” was used in another TV show – so it didn’t bug me at all. The hard science bit? Well, I love Catherine Asaro and she puts in “proper” science – but tbh, I think I’d like her books even if it wasn’t there. I’ll classify this book as romance, but within the SF subgenre – I don’t think I would rec this one to a non-romance fan.

    Oooh, and StarDoc? I liked the first book, but then they all became a bit too depressing for me, esp the romance subplot! Different strokes…

  11. I love Stardoc, but totally know what you mean. I mean, poor Cherijo! They definitely get trying as the series goes on (I had to take an extended break after Endurance :( )…

    I agree that Grimspace definitely felt more ‘romance’ than ‘scifi’ for me, and I think I was heading into it with the reverse expectation.

    re: the choppiness–I agree with you on the chapters as the culprit. I really wish she would have had less of them, as it felt a bit uneven with so many short chapters, all ending resolutely with a quick one liner. It felt kind of…workshop-y, if you know what I mean? But then again, it’s all a matter of different styles and tastes, right :)

    Great review! I love getting a handle on these different perspectives :)

  12. Thea – Yes, I actually noticed the chapter breaks while reading this book, which isn’t something I’d normally do. I’ve never read any of her books before (believe she also writes romances as Annie Dean) so am not sure if that is just the way she generally writes!

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