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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, #1) - Ann Aguirre 2.5 stars.

Sirantha is "kick-ass?" Really? I have bunny slippers that are more fearsome.

Ahem, the review...

Sirantha Jax is a navigator, a human with a particular genome that gives her the ability to navigate the space in-between-space known as grimspace. Typically, the lifespan of navigators is short, since all that time in the nether reaches of space turns a person's mind to moosh. But Sirantha, now in her thirties, is a veritable ancient in her profession.

The novel begins with Sirantha in a holding cell following the fatal crash of the spaceship that she and her partner/lover Kai were piloting. She can't remember anything about the crash except that everyone else, including Kai, is now dead. Her employers, the Farwan Corporation, have been providing her counseling, which bears the suspicious taint of interrogation with intent to pin responsibility for the crash on her. Oh, and drive her bonkers. (Though, it seems it will be a short drive.)

Then out of the blue, a stranger arrives in her cell. Enter the hero, March, a pilot and a player in a kind of rebellion against the evil Farwan Corporation. Farwan controls grimspace by being the sole purveyor of navigators like Sirantha. March and his cohorts plan to change that, but first they need a navigator, and soon-to-be disgraced Sirantha Jax fits the bill.

March helps Sirantha escape custody and space hijinks ensue.

Some reviews draw a comparison, for better or worse, to Firefly/Serenity.

This Browncoat says, "No." March is no Captain Mal, and Sirantha isn't any of the plucky and wonderful ladies of Firefly. (Hell, I like Mal's crazy, not-wife, Saffron, a damn side more than Sirantha.)

As I read the positive reviews of Grimspace, I came to a conclusion. The brains of both the author and fans of this book work in ways that are alien to mine. I don't mean that as a put-down. But rather, I felt like the story was talking at me, rather than to me.

Por ejemplo...There's a bit of inner dialogue, in the first or second chapter, where Sirantha looks at March and thinks that she "can't remember a time when she didn't hate him."

And I'm like, "Whuh-huh? Lady, you've only known him, what? Twenty-four hours? A bit premature for such a big, melodramatic statement."

Then there's the way the March's crew treats Sirantha. Keep in mind that while they "rescued" her from the Corp's custody, it wasn't out of altruism, but because they need her for their big plan to free up grimspace. The instant Sirantha sets foot on the ship, nearly everyone is nasty to her. No one, with the possible exception of March (we learn his reason later, although it feels like an afterthought), has any reason to be such a shithead.

On their first stop, a frontier town, everyone there is also nasty to her. Even though, wait for it...they need her. As they travel across the landscape to some outpost, everyone is clearly afraid of something, but no one will take the ten seconds required to explain to Sirantha that the planet is infested with the ravenous flying things from the movie Pitch Black. So when a tussle between rival frontier gangs breaks out, Sirantha defends herself and wounds her attacker, which summons the hungry, flying raptor things. And everyone is mad at Sirantha, blaming her for the attack.

Even though NO ONE FUCKING TOLD HER THAT THERE WERE BLOOD-SEEKING MONSTERS ON THE PLANET! I don't know about you, folks, but when someone gets up in my face, there's a chance blood will exit new holes in my attacker's body. So unless told otherwise, if my life's in danger, extreme violence will happen.

Okay, so it gets worse. Rather than telling everyone to go fuck themselves with something rusty and sharp, Sirantha agrees, because, yes, Everything Is Her Fault. Everything. For the next couple hundred pages. If there were bugs in grimspace, she'd have blamed herself for their demise on the spaceship's windshield. "If only I hadn't put us in grimspace, the cute little space bees would still be alive."

*Head desk.* It's Martyr In Space!

The love story is equally disappointing. First because March is taken straight from the pages of paranormal romance. He's big, strong, and emotionally stunted. And an asshole. But not in a witty, heart-of-gold way like Captain Malcolm Reynolds. No, he's just a big blob of mind-reading angry.

Did I mention he can read Sirantha's thoughts? Yeah, that's so not sexy. I've been married long enough to know that while honesty is essential in a relationship, there are things that are best left unsaid in each partner's mind. My husband is my hero, but I don't want in his mind and I definitely don't want him in mine.

Sirantha and March's love is essentially "fated" (a trope that rarely works), because the bond forged between navigators and pilots in grimspace is so tight that it almost always leads to sexing.

So fated love plus boring, unsexy hero and martyred heroine.

The plot? Maybe my eyesight is getting crappy with age, but I couldn't find it. Sirantha and company set off to find recruits for their navigator school (technically abduct entire communities, which seems just as bad as what the Corps does, but who needs internal logic?). They stop at the frontier town so Sirantha can be bullied and get her ass kicked by a younger woman. Next they go to a planet where they accidentally hatch a cute lizard alien baby. Spoilers ahead...
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...cute alien baby who meets a sad end, but no one really cares, including Sirantha. There's some sexy times in a pirate's hideout, then Sirantha jumps ship and works in child care (seriously) on another planet, before being guilt-tripped into returning to the crew. Then she's kidnapped by a tall, skinny, insectoid bounty hunter, who decides she's innocent of her crimes and helps her expose the evils of the Farwan Corporation. Tah-dah, the end.

Grimspace, for all its faults, is an easy read, so three stars rather than two (kind of like a pity fuck, I guess).