Friday, February 22, 2008


Ann Aguirre's debut print novel, GRIMSPACE, will be released Feb/26, mass market, paper, ACE Books.

It's available for pre-order at

I won an ARC of Grimspace in one of those pull-names-like-rabbits-out-of-hats contests, because, from the review the novel promised all those things I like to see in a book.

And, oh dearie me, it does.

The SF background is sufficiently hard, the world building is sufficiently complete, the stakes are sufficiently high and story contains a romance.

All presented in precise, adroit balance.

And of course, for my taste, it's a great title.

Grimspace is not only the name of the space-time which the jumper inhabits in navigation mode between space beacons but also reflects the inner turmoil and anguished memories that the main characters must wrestle, endure and contain.

Aquirre handles the psychological reality of this headspace with effective accuracy. A vital point for me.

I am very fond of first person narrative. I am not fond of present tense. However, I was well into chapter three before I realised the story is told in present tense -- which says a lot for Aguirre's skill.

As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through space -- a talent that cuts into her life expectancy but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she 's navigating crash-lands and she's accused of killing everyone on board. It's hard for Jax to defend herself. She has no memory of the crash.

Imprisoned and subjected to ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom -- for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue frighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel -- and establish a new breed of jumper.

Jax is only good at one thing -- grimspace -- and it will eventually kill her. So she might as well have some fun in the meantime...

Furthermore, the back cover summary quoted above and the various endorsements ( Sirantha Jax doesn't just leap off the page -- she storms out...) do not mislead the reader about the book's style and content.

And I concur absolutely with another succinct endorsement, one by Linnea Sinclair, which says A tightly-written, edge-of-your-seat read with intense characterization... especially since I caught myself flipping to the end because I had to know if Jax made it -- I couldn't stand the tension.

As a writer and on reflection, I could probably pick holes here and there, but as a reader I enjoyed the novel. Thoroughly. Tremendously.

And that, I think, is the point.


Robyn said...

Thanks for the addition to my TBR pile. Great review.

Bernita said...

Hee, Robyn.
It's a good read.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds interesting. Reminds of the "Folding space" in Dune.

Bernita said...

Slight space-jump echoes of of David Drake's "Lt. Leary Commanding," too, I suppose.

Ann Aguirre said...

Thanks for this lovely review.

I'm blushing to admit I've confined my reading mostly to female SF authors. Jack McDevitt, David Brin, Walter Jon Williams, Neal Stephenson, Douglas Adams, and William Gibson are the only exceptions.

As compared to Anne McCaffrey, Sharon Shinn, Connie Willis, Ursula LeGuin, Tanith Lee, Catherine Asaro, Margaret Atwood, Kage Baker, Octavia Butler, CJ Cherryh, CS Friedman, Wen Spencer... well, the list marches much further on.

Rick said...

This one sounds worth a look!

My only - minor - grump, from your thumbnail review, is the gimmick of special psychological traits, etc., being needed for FTL navigation. (FTL = faster than light, for those of you who are not SF geeks.) I grump because it is basically an excuse for limiting The Future to 1950s vintage computer tech, and avoiding automated ships.

Having said that, this is a very well-established SF gimmick, as a couple of comments have already noted. Like magic in fantasy novels, sometimes as the reader you've just got to grin and bear it.

Bernita said...

Ann, thank you for an exciting story!

Rick, perhaps you are misled by my inadequate description.
Any similarities to Drake that I mentioned are very slight and are related more to the mental experience of Jax and other jumpers in grimspace.
I did not intend to infer that the story seemed derivative.
I saw nothing that resembled "1950 computer tech," and I shrink from a FUTURE that eliminates the human factor and human instinct in either piloting or navigation.
You may call it a "gimmick" but from my experience rare traits and talents do exist.
Just as a lame example, I have a child who is an expert shot and who can, instinctively and instaneously, calculate wind speed and arc/drop, etc - so Jax's genetic trait strikes me as entirely possible.

raine said...

That's quite a glowing review, Bernita.
Coming from you--good as gold.
I'll be picking this up.

Bernita said...

Raine, tastes vary, but I enjoyed the story very much.

Rick said...

Bernita - no, I didn't think it was derivative, except in the sense that every well established SF trope derived from somewhere. This one goes back to at least Dune, probably farther. I grump, but as a gimmick it is as legitimate as having FTL at all. (Don't leave the Solar System without it!)

I shrink from a FUTURE that eliminates the human factor and human instinct in either piloting or navigation. I don't blame you. This is a real challenge in hard SF, much discussed at SFConsim-l, and something I should blog more about myself - it is a big reason I invented the term "rocketpunk" to begin with.

Everyone but the hardest of hard core hard SF geeks can safely ignore it!

JLB said...

Thanks for the recommendation Bernita! I've been interested in finding narratives written in the present, so this is very timely.

Enjoy your weekend,

Gabriele C. said...

Hm present tense? I wish I could read a chapter or so to find out if I like it (I usually don't like novels in present tense), but that's the one disadvantage of having to buy English books at Amazon.

Bernita said...

Thank goodness for that, Rick.

Lovely, JLB.
It's snowing.

Gabriele, there's an excerpt from the first chapter on her blog.

Ann Aguirre said...

I'd never want anyone to buy without a taste, so that's why I offer the whole full chapter on my site.

Chapter One is here

I wouldn't call this hard SF by any means. I've always been fascinated by the idea of interstellar travel, but I'm more interested in the pioneer souls who would go out to meet the great unknown, rather than the science of how they do that.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ann, and well put.
I think Gabriele would enjoy Jax's character very much.

Billy said...

Thanks for the tip. Cool title, and a character with a hell of a name.

Gabriele C. said...

Thank you, Ann. I'll have a look. :)

Ello said...

You flipped to the end of the story!!!! I'm so glad you said that! I have been blasted so many times for doing that. But I only do it when I just can't bear the suspense. So glad you do this too! The book sounds great! I'll have to add it to my huge list!

Steve Malley said...


I'm a hopeless romantic where SciFi's concerned: despite being burnt so many, *many* times, I keep hoping to get one more good one.

Grimspace sound like just what I look for...

Bernita said...

'Tis indeed, Billy!

pssst! Ello.
I read the final page(s) in the book store always, before I buy a book from an author I don't know.
And I frequently skip ahead when the tension's tight.

~beams at Steve~

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Love the cover, title and strong heroines but not so into SF. Don't know why. I guess I enjoy the here and now too much.
I do like light paranormal though as long as it's set in today's world.

SzélsőFa said...

I'm one of those who do not flip to the end, but hell yes, I do read a lot into books in stores before buying them.

I kind of dislike SF, but this is something different. I've read the first chapter, had some minor problems with understanding a few words here and there, but that is completely my part.

I'd definitely love to read further on.
What else needs to be said?

Sam said...

I love books like this (thinking about Shade's Children for one)
So thank you for letting us know about this one!!!

Bernita said...

Suzanne, if the characters and conflicts ring true, I can dismiss the setting as so much background noise.

The practice of offering excerpts seems designed for people like you and I, Szelsofa!

There's a very nice interview with Ann at Writer Unboxed: ,Sam!

BernardL said...

I really like the cover, and will sample the offered chapter. Thanks for the review. :)

Rick said...

My actual reading tastes aren't all necessarily that hard SF. Elizabeth Moon feels satisfactorily hard, even though she actually isn't, because of convincing shipboard and military stuff.

Sam said...

Read the interview - very interesting. We write in a similar fashion - sparce and add during edits - but I tend to outline, even if it's just a rough outline.
Anyhow - Thanks!!

Bernita said...

Enjoy, Bernard!

Elizabeth Moon is about my level of density, Rick, so my use of the term is rather porous.

Glad you found it interesting, Sam.
That's the same way this WIP is progressing.

vanessa jaye said...

I've been checking in my local Chapters/Coles stores for the past week on the off chance that it showed up on the shelves early.

Fantastic reveiw, btw.

Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks for the review. :)

Bernita said...

Vanessa, thank you.

My pleasure, Lana.

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