"A thrilling and addictive romantic SF adventure"
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. Having brought about the
collapse of her former employer, the Farwan Corporation, Jax
is between jobs. She's also broke due to premature reports
of her untimely demise. To top it off she's feeling
Grimspace is an addiction for the Jumper, but each jump
takes a physical toll. For most it affects the brain, ending
in total burnout, but in Jax's case her body is breaking
down rapidly. She needs to see the Doc, and find out what's
wrong with her, so when the Conglomerate offers her a
position as an ambassador and charges her with bringing
Ithiss-Tor, a xenophobic insectoid culture, into the fold
she cannot refuse. Her crew consists of her pilot/lover
March, the mechanic Dina, and Velith the Ithtorian bounty
hunter who had saved her life. Vel will be a valuable
cultural resource for Jax on this mission.
As always where Jax goes, complications abound. When Jax and
March "borrow" a skimmer to check on her finances it crashes
before they can return it. Sabotage is suspected. They are
rescued by a former mercenary friend of March's. Then they
are approached by Sirantha's mother, Ramona, who gives her a
sob story about her husband's suicide and their financial
ruin. She claims the Syndicate will kill her if her daughter
doesn't throw the mission. Jax of course makes no promises.
Both these events have later implications which begin with
March's merc friend begging a ride for himself, his
non-human lover, and Jael, a "superhuman" Bred in a long
since banned experiment, who appears deceptively young and
defenseless but who has the ability to survive even a
cellular disrupter. They site prejudicial policies against
non-"normals" that will soon be enforced. Jax and crew soon
realize the implications when the female goes into labor.
This prevents the crew from making further jumps as the
newborn is too young to survive grimspace. Their only
alternative is to find an emergency station to drop off the
new family. But things are bit too quiet on Emry station and
the reason is cause for alarm. With the political situation
in disarray the Morgut (arachnoid type creatures nicknamed
for having more gut than brains) have moved in, making food
of those unfortunate enough to have been stationed there.
After some extremely horrific moments when Jax has to endure
deep concerns for March while guarding Vel's back, the
station is secured and they are able to proceed to Lachion
leaving the new family behind.
The Conglomerate is unhappy with the delays and has to spin
the detours into a Goodwill tour or risk offending the
Ithtorians. Things are no better on Lachion. Doc informs Jax
that she is suffering from bone deterioration and recommends
a stop gap treatment. He can do no more at the moment since
the newly formed Gunnar-Dahlgren clan is at war with the
McCulloughs. In the battle which involves the terrible
winged Teras, Dina is horribly maimed. March grows
increasingly frustrated with Sirantha. He has experienced so
much loss and is unable to accept Jax's altruistic efforts
to spare him the pain of what she feels is her inevitable
decline. Feeling that she does not need him, he opts to stay
behind to pay back his debt to Mair, the woman who had
helped him quiet his mind when his Psi powers had emerged,
by helping her daughter Keri survive.
Although Jael continues to be her faithful bodyguard, and
Hit joins the crew as the new pilot, Jax feels lost without
March. Soon however she has other problems to contend with.
Someone definitely doesn't want her to make it to Ithiss-Tor.
I love the way Ann Aquirre puts the reader inside of each
character giving a better understanding of their motivations
and their angst. It's impossible not to care about each and
every one of them, even when their emotions are covered by
sarcasm and bravado.
Though Jax appears to be self involved at points, it is her
illness that makes her so. On all other fronts she is a
changed Jax who puts the welfare of others before her own,
and sometimes even to her own detriment. By the end of this
installment the diplomatic mission is no longer just another
payday for her but a vocation she plans to sink her teeth
into. Jumping is no longer her life. This is huge. March has
his own demons to deal with as he compartmentalizes his
humanity and his life with Jax to become the killing machine
he once was and needs to be again to pay back his debt on
Lachion. The ever tough Dina has to deal with being the
protected instead of the protector and it's quite obvious
that Jael has a few more secrets up his sleeve. I look
forward to discovering more about Hit in the next
installment. Oh did I forget to mention that Jax's PA now
has a droid body and a new name, Constance? Surprises abound
not the least of which was the ending, which is not the end
by a long shot. Look for book 3, DOUBLEBLIND in October of
2009 followed by book 4, KILLBOX.
WANDERLUST is an action packed, engrossing and addictive
science fiction thrill ride that leaves the reader on the
edge of their seat waiting for the next fix. I want a
t-shirt that says, "Jax is addicted to grimspace, I'm
addicted to Jax!"
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted September 22, 2008