by Ann Aguirre Book : Fiction
Tough Girl Jump Pilot   (2008-05-27)
Aguirre, Ann ~ Grimspace ~ Ace, 2008 ~ 312 pages ~ adults."Are you afraid of falling, baby? No, I'm afraid of landing. [He's laughing, and I'm smiling.]Stupid idiot smile, don't you know what comes next?"Aguirre's first science fiction novel focuses on Sirantha Jax -- a jump pilot who has a unique ability [along with a small number of others] to guide space ships through grimspace. Normally, jump pilots burn out and lose their ability after awhile. Jax may be different. Still, that's of little consequence since her last ship crashed on landing, she is the only survivor, is blamed for the crash, and is being manipulated psychologically to confess. Jax is a tough woman, but may be on the verge of a break down which she is rescued from confinement by March.One organization, the Corp, controls jump space by controlling jump pilots. March hopes to break that monopoly. A scientist in March's small group hopes to combine human and alien genetics to overcome the relatively short life of jump pilots. The story involves the search for world's with populations that might have the gene associated with success as a jump pilot but are not tightly controlled by the Corp.The Corp wants Jax back and March already has several enemies. As the small group with March travels here and there, they encounter various adventures and new situations. Still, much of the story deals with how Jax can pull herself together after the crash and the loss of her lover and intimate colleague -- the pilot of the ship that was lost. The tension between March and Jax ebbs and flows but is the heart of the story. There are two fairly strong sexual encounters. I don't know if they are too much for the more traditional SF reader or perhaps too little for the romance reader.World building is certainly adequate, but nothing unique. New places are reasonably well described, but not especially detailed. The monopoly of the best way to travel in space is not new, but Aguirre handles the emotional/psychological aspects of grimspace well.The quest plot is straight-forward without many surprises. The conclusion was not persuasive. Surely, it would take more than an expose video to defeat the Corp and save the day. I also doubted that Velith, the bounty hunter, would adapt to this new role as Jax's advocate so quickly and effectively.Characters are reasonably developed, and March's crew contains an interesting variety of character types -- the tough lesbian, the slightly distracted scientist, the alien comm officer, and the soldier of fortune -- tough guy leader. March has such an important role that it is too bad that we could not learn more about his background and his transformation into an effective leader.There is a reasonable amount of action, but this is not an action-oriented story. It's more a study of character development and change under pressure.Recommendation:SF romance stories, especially with tough girl heroines, have become quite popular. Evidently, this cross over has growing appeal for female romance/fantasy readers. While there are some weak spots, Jax is a well developed, interesting character. As a whole, the story does not have quite the coherence and clarity of the work of Linnea Sinclair, but it is a good story, especially for those interested in the psychological aspects of love and life. Print is typical of a mass market paper edition. Cover art by Scott Fischer appeals, showing Jax sitting on a land rover. Recommended for collections where there is a growing or strong interest in SF romance stories with take-charge heroines.
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