"A worthy beginning to a new romantic SF series"
Sirantha Jax carries the rare J-gene which allows her to be
a Jumper, able to navigate spaceships through Grimspace, a
galactic by-pass which significantly reduces travel time
between two points in space. She works for the Farwan
Corporation also known as the Corp, which currently holds a
monopoly on the Jumpers. Grimspace is like a drug, though
intoxicating it also takes its toll on the Jumper. Burnout
generally overtakes them after a decade of jumps. Those who
are lucky, retire before they hit their last jump. After
twelve years on the job Sirantha knew she was approaching
the end of her career but instead of going out in a blaze of
glory, her lastest jump had gone terribly wrong. She now finds
herself imprisoned in the Corp psych ward, after crashing
the "Sargasso" on Matins IV; killing her crew as well as the
passengers on a routine diplomatic mission, seventy five in
all. Jax is the only survivor.
Jax is devastated and confused. She had lost Kai, her pilot,
friend, and lover in the crash. Jumpers and their pilots had
a symbiotic relationship. A Jumper's pilot was her eyes
during a jump; this created a bond between them which often
enhanced by sexual energy. He was gone now. There was no one
left to help her determine what had gone wrong with the
flight, and the Corp. psychiatrists were doing their best to
convince her that she alone had been at fault for the crash.
She has no memory of what occurred following the jump, so
she cannot even defend herself and interrogations have
driven her half mad when she receives an unauthorized
visitor who promises to break her out if she will assist his
band of rebels break the Corp. monopoly on jumping. Having
no other options Jax decides to take her chances with the
man who goes by only March.
It is an awkward alliance as March had lost his half-sister
in the crash and another crew member had lost her lover, the
Jumper who had brought them here, to spring Jax. When their
pilot is killed during the escape attempt, March steps
forward to partner with Jax for the remaining jumps on their
mission, which is to discover untapped talent in worlds that
had been ignored by the Corp. and establish and independent
school for jumpers with Jax as a trainer. Unfortunately the
Corp. has too much to hide to let their scapegoat fly the
coup without taking the blame for the crash on Matins IV.
Complicating matters further is the fact that March has his
own psi abilities which no one on his crew is aware of but
become immediately apparent to Jax when they jack in for
their first jump. He is in her mind and is able to see
Grimspace through her eyes. At first she is aware when he
reads her mind by his reactions but as time goes on she
becomes attuned to his intrusions and eventually the two are
able to communicate with each other without speech, a first
for him as well. Add to that the inevitable Jumper/Pilot
bond and things heat up pretty quickly between the pair.
Making things even worse is the fact that the Corp. is only
one step behind them and the worlds they visit will soon pay the
price for harboring them, willingly or not and at some point
Jax has to decide whether participation in a cause which is
not her own is worth the cost.
All in all this was a worthy first novel for Ann Aguirre. I
found myself completely engrossed, never knowing what I
would find when I turned the next page. The
characterizations were great. The tension between Jax and
her new crew is realistic as is her love/hate relationship
with March. Each of them has something to contribute to
Jax's "education" teaching her about courage, compassion,
appreciation for self-sacrifice etc. This is a whole new
world for Jax. Although she soon sees past her Corp.
conditioning, there are many times when she feels like she
might just be better off back in the psych ward. Throughout
the novel however Jax grows as a person, learning that she
is more than just a jumper. She uses her mind, her emotions
and her considerable wits to deal with each new situation
that is thrown at her. In doing so, she wins the hearts of
her crew and especially March, who soon realizes that in
spite of everything she's put them through, life without her
is not worth living. The ending was a bit abrupt which is
tolerable because we know that the story doesn't end here,
we will see more of Sirantha Jax in the sequel WANDERLUST. I
for one can hardly wait to see what she does next.
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted July 7, 2008
**2008 PEARL NOMINEE - BEST SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY**
By all accounts, Sirantha Jax should have burned out years ago…
As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which 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.
Now imprisoned and the subject of a 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 fighters 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 may as well have some fun in the meantime…