Monday, June 30, 2008

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Grimspace Book CoverGrimspace, Sirantha Jax book 1 by Ann Aguirre

Read a summary and excerpt here.

Category:Peanut M&Ms - mmmm...devour... sigh... then reach for the next one. My daily dose of Insanity-B-Gone. (A-,B+,B)
Flame Height: 5.5" out of 9"

I’m not a big fan of futuristic sci-fi, but I love Ann Aguirre’s characters so I was curious about Grimspace. After a preponderance of uber-positive buzz, it was the following statement by Jane of Dear Author, a fellow Urban Fantasy fan, that finally made up my mind to add this book to my Constant Cravings list:

The writing is evocative and as someone who really isn’t a fan of a) space travel books and b) first person present tense, this book worked for me on nearly every level.
It must have been fated, because soon after that, I won a copy of Grimspace from Ann.

This book made me analyze WHY I’m not much of a fan of futuristic sci-fi in general, yet DID enjoy a few isolated stories, including Grimspace. After all, I get completely involved with endless airings of every episode of every Star Trek (except Enterprise, even though it did star the always enjoyable Scott Bakula), and I devoured Star Wars (the original three). So I started to wonder WHY I shy away from READING futuristic sci-fi.

I think, first and foremost, it’s because most FSF portrays a world that is bleak, oppressive, depressing, and hopeless. And for the most part, Grimspace is no exception. The heroine, Sirantha Jax, is a real downer, who's often not even very likeable, even to the other characters-- although I did think her toes got pretty close to the line of winning over one too many characters by the end (Velith). In fact, EVERY character is decidedly unlikeable at some point(s) in the story!

BTW, Kudos to Ann for NOT succumbing to an affectation that so many other writers seem to think is a requirement for all FSF--- the dreaded Ph’Ucked up (mis)use of Ap’Ostrophies for names! GAK! I HATE that naming practice! Thank you, Ann, for resisting it! Although, to be perfectly honest, I could have done without the preponderance of “frags” (as in “What the frag”).

I also have to mention that Ann uses the unusual First Person Present Tense POV in Grimspace, which I have to admit, took me a while to get used to. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I don’t recall ever before reading a book that employed it, and I am also VERY used to First Person Past Tense, so it took me a while before I no longer found it jarring. For example, I would normally expect “I didn’t look at him. Instead I stared out into straight space…” but Ann chose to write “I don’t look at him. Instead I stare out into straight space…” See the difference? As I said, nothing inherently wrong with it, but it’s worth noting.

So how did Grimspace end up in my Peanut M&Ms category? For the same reason I’ve enjoyed ANY futuristic sci-fi in movies, TV, or other books—the CHARACTERS! Somewhere along the way of reading this book, I realized that I was “seeing” this story and these characters in three dimensions in my head. And, for me, THAT is the secret to writing ANY type of story.

As one would expect in a story that can best be described as FUTURISTIC URBAN FANTASY, Ann crafts considerable world building. However she doesn’t let the “special effects” play a larger role than her characters. She’s painted a richly detailed backdrop, but it only serves to enhance the story the characters are living.

I know that many Grimspace reviews have focused on a detailed character analysis of Sirantha (deservedly so and, for me, leaving her companions to live as a “regular” person for the first time in her adult life is a particularly poignant part of the story), but it is the ENTIRE cast of characters and Sirantha’s interactions with them that make this story so interesting.

I mentioned above that these characters aren’t always likeable and don’t even like each other all the time. They also screw up and say and do stupid things. They don’t always choose to do what we may think of as right, and they don’t always know just the right thing to say. In fact, through much of the story Sirantha’s motivations are particularly self-serving. Ann could have written them as self-sacrificing, idealistic, swashbuckling heroes and heroines, but it is the flaws that brought them to life for me. In addition, the cover gods definitely smiled on Ann because holding that cover picture of Sirantha in my head made her all the more “real” to me.

Wanderlust Book CoverThere’s a satisfying resolution at the end of Grimspace. But I suspect that when Wanderlust releases on August 26th, we’ll learn that the happiness of that ending is short lived and Sirantha and company will discover that their new reality is far from a happily-ever-after.
Piquant Opines: DA (Jane), Keishon (AvidBookReader), DA (Guest Review, Phyl), Azteclady (Karen Scott), Shannon C, Tumperkin, DR, Kmont, Let's Gab (Anne)

Have you read this book? Feel free to review or link to a review in the comments. Even if you don't agree!


Shannon C. said...

Hmmm. Very nice review. And as a fan of futuristic sci-fi books, both romances and not, I'll have to think about the ones that weren't especially grim and see if I can make a recommendation. Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan books come to mind for me, again because LMB writes some fantastic characters. I think you might like them.

Anne said...

I totally agree.

Bev(QB) said...

Thanks Anne! I added your review to the Piquant Opines!

Shannon, do you REALLY think I need to add another entire sub-genre to my TBR list? Is this payback for The Sons of Destiny book crack?

Madame Butterfly said...

Nice review Bev- I've been attracted to this book, but haven't gotten around to it.

I'm with you on the SF. I'm very particular and much of the time it's a crap shoot. But there has been so much buzz around this book, I thought I might try it one day.

Ann Aguirre said...

I'm glad you liked it, especially since it's not really in your chosen genre. I think you'll freakin' adore Blue Diablo, which is urban fantasy all the way.

The flame height surprises me, though, considering there was only one actual sex scene. *g* I'll pat myself on the back for sexual tension.

Bev(QB) said...

LOL, yes Ann, I give flame height for sexual tension and/or frustration. In fact, no matter how many or how few actual sex scenes there are, they are always served best with a heapin' helpin' of frustration/tension appetizers.

Oh! Blue Diablo-- last time I checked, the link wasn't up on Amazon. So since you reminded me, I checked and was able to link to it finally for my Constant Cravings list.

MB, if you lke urban fantasy, then I would say you would like Grimspace. But if not, and considering that you don't like SF, then even with Ann's great characters, it might not be your flavor. But then again, you never know until you try.