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.