I’m not usually a sci fi reader. Call me a wuss, but whenever I would try to read sci fi, I usually got too distracted by all the sciencey stuff to remain focused on the story. But I had seen Grimspace advertised on a website and the cover caught my eye. At that point my reaction was about as intellectual as “Ooo, pretty colors…” but hey, attractive covers are a plus. Then the book caught my eye again, this time in the bookstore, and lo and behold, it sounded interesting. I figured, what the heck? What I didn’t know at the time of purchase was that it’s something called “romantic” sci fi. This left me a little worried; I wanted what was promised to me on the back of the book, not a romance novel with spaceships and lightsabers.
Starting out, I really wasn’t sure what to make of it. I found Jax to be inconsistent as a character at first and hard to empathize with. There were little quirks of writing style that drove me crazy, like the incessant use of the word “frag” as a swear and Aguirre’s habit of leaving off things like proper nouns from the start of a sentence. For example, you’d get “Could have seen it” rather than “I could have seen it.” This became really fragg — er, really frustrating pretty quickly. But for all of that, I found it pretty easy to keep reading. Okay, I suffered a major WTF moment on the planet Lachion. You’ve got gobs of space open to you and you choose to colonize a planet with packs of man-eating flying dinosaurian creatures that can rip through the plate armor on vehicles and smell blood in the air from miles away? Why!? I think perhaps that taking time for a little bit more history of these sorts of places would be good, and I think Ann Aguirre could manage it fine without bogging her story down.
So about halfway through I suddenly realize that I’m rather enjoying myself. A short time later I notice that I’m really enjoying myself. The book is fun and witty, and those little quirks that were annoying me either thinned out or became less noticeable (hard to tell in the middle of reading). You learn more about Jax, which makes her character come together at last, and she’s remarkably easy to empathize with. Her thoughts are often selfish, her first instinct tends to be about what is good only for her, but I could understand where she was coming from after a while. She’s an interesting protagonist with a lot of potential, I think.
Grimspace is light on things like technobabble and scientific info dumps, which keeps it from bogging down. And the romantic element really isn’t a concern. It’s far from being the main plot focus and though it gets a little bit obnoxious towards the end, it never comes close to consuming the whole novel (I think some of this feeling has to do with the first person POV, which makes it difficult to get across the perspective of other characters). Being far from savvy when it comes to science, though, and sci fi for that matter, I wanted the opinion of someone who was — my fiance, in this case. He didn’t find the romance element to be obtrusive either and the science that was there was mostly sound (he did question what precisely these dinosaur creatures eat when human flesh is unavailable, since that wasn’t mentioned. Which I have to admit is a pretty good point). So that’s a pretty strong recommendation from someone who has a clue what they’re talking about.
I personally was a bit concerned with the end. I found it seemed a bit too pat, too perfect, and I really hope it will be addressed in Wanderlust. Even with the few misgivings I have, I’m looking forward to Wanderlust a lot. Good thing it’ll be out in August. You can see the cover above. Ooo, pretty…