Grimspace is the first in the science fiction series called after its main character: Sirantha Jax. It can be read as a stand-alone. I’ve read so many good reviews about this book that I was interested to read it. Also, it has a fully clothed woman on the cover.

“The world opens up to me, an orchid unfurling at accelerated speed. I think of it as the primeval soup from whence all life originally came, a maelstrom of chaos and energy, sights the human mind isn’t supposed to be able to parse, let alone convert into coherent images that can be used to navigate.

Because of the J-gene I can sense the beacons, feel them pulsing like sentient life, and perhaps they are, for all I know. Perhaps if we could find their frequency, we could converse with them, and discover we’ve long been diving down the gullets of cosmic dragons and shooting out their cloacae to somewhere else, and guess what, they aren’t exactly happy about it. On second thought, some mysteries simply shouldn’t be delved.”

Sirantha Jax is a jumper; she has the J-gene which allows her and her ship to jump into a kind of hyper space which makes space travel easier. Apparently, she can’t jump on her own. Jumpers are rare and they tend to burn out quickly. Jax is therefore even more rare than usual: she’s over thirty and has survived many more jumps than any other jumper before her. Yet, something has gone catastrophically wrong.

The book starts with Jax in custody and waiting further psychological questioning and conditioning by the Farwan Corporation which employs all of the legal jumpers. She was the navigator on a ship which crashed and killed everyone else on board, including Jax’s pilot and long-time lover Kai. Everyone blames Jax for the crash. So, she’s rather surprised when a strange man comes to her locked cabin to rescue her. After a brief hesitation, she leaves with him to the rescue ship. Unfortunately, their jumper died during the voyage and their pilot died when the Corps start shooting at the ship. So, Jax and the mystery man called March have to step in. The pilot and the navigator are mind-linked during the grimspace jump and Jax is not ready to open her mind to anyone else let alone March who seems to loath her. But they have no choice.

During the jump, Jax finds out some things about March but that doesn’t really stop their mutual dislike. However, March and some other people have a proposition to Jax which might change not just her life but maybe the face of the galaxy as well. Or at least the face of the interstellar trade and voyages.

Grimspace is a fast-paced space adventure written in quite a humorous way. It has short chapters and there’s rarely time for the characters, or the reader, to take a breather. It’s written in first person and present tense which makes the action even more immediate.

Jax is a complex and flawed character; she has the habit of shutting off any emotional pain and just continuing like nothing happened. Even so, she mourns for Kai and blames herself for the crash. She’s afraid of the day when she can’t jump anymore and at the same time she can’t imagine herself staying in one place. She’s also a survivor who can and does put her own needs above the needs of others. This quirk makes her almost unique among the heroes and heroines I’ve read about because Jax isn’t an antihero or a coward.

There is a small cast of other characters who make an interesting and entertaining mix: March is the leader of the group. He’s very secretive and reserved but at the same time tender towards the people he can let himself care about. He argues constantly with Jax. Dina is the engineer of the ship. She mourns for her partner who was the ship’s jumper and blames Jax because the jumper died so that the small group could come and rescue Jax. Dina is very emotionally tough and also argues a lot with both Jax and March. She’s also a lesbian. The doctor of the ship is the gentlest one of the crew. There’s also one alien aboard: Loras. He looks like a human but has somewhat different way of thinking.

The plot turns rather sharply near the end and the book has a rather surprising ending in some ways. There’s also a romance but it doesn’t take over the story. I didn’t much care for the pairing but it wasn’t such a big deal that it would have ruined the book for me.

Overall: It’s a good, light-hearted read and I’m likely to get the next one in the series, too.

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