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Wanderlust
Ann Aguirre
Ace, 320 pages

Wanderlust
Ann Aguirre
Ann Aguirre was born in the Midwest. She attended Ball State University, where she received a degree in English Literature. She took on a series of rent-paying jobs while continuing to write. She has been a cook, a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, an admin assistant, an office manager, and for a while, she even worked for the phone company. Now she lives in Mexico and writes full time.

Ann Aguirre Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Grimspace

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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Following a series of dramatic events which started with the destruction of a passenger ship and ended with the downfall of the corrupt Farwan Corporation, grimspace jumper Sirantha Jax is out of a job, broke, and infamous. When the interplanetary government known as the Conglomerate offers Jax the opportunity to lead a diplomatic mission to the planet Ithiss-Tor, she's smart enough to recognize it for the unrefusable request that it is. Her decision is further reinforced when she learns that her mother's fate hinges upon Jax's success, or lack thereof, in convincing Ithiss-Tor to join the Conglomerate. Luckily, Jax has enough clout to make a few requests, such as getting her own ship, and her own crew. Her natural choices for companions include the Ithtorian mercenary Vel, the feisty mechanic Dina, and Jax's pilot/lover, March. Those three are the only ones she truly trusts, though the group is soon expanded to include the roguish Surge, inhuman Koratati, and cocky Jael, none of whom Jax knows well enough to trust, yet.

Their trip to Ithiss-Tor is by no means uneventful. A well-intentioned detour to a space station as part of a mission of mercy soon turns into a horrifying encounter in deep space, that leaves the crew somewhat diminished, and definitely scarred. Another detour, to visit old friends on the planet Lachion, swiftly descends into a nightmarish period of violence and struggle as two feuding clans engage in an all-out, last-ditch war, with Jax and her friends caught in the middle. Escaping that mess will require some extreme measures, and a few unhappy sacrifices. And finally, Jax and her crew are forced to deal with the criminal Syndicate, which could spell success, or disaster for the mission as a whole. But even here, Jax finds betrayal from the unlikeliest of people, and has to make some very hard choices in the process. Throughout it all runs Jax's attempts to come to terms with the mysterious degenerative disease that's robbing her of her ability to jump through grimspace, and killing her slowly. With her relationship with March likewise disintegrating, Jax has to reach for untapped strength if she wants to survive and make it to Ithiss-Tor. For her, the journey has just begun.

I love this series so much. It's a little bit space opera, a little bit romance, a little bit horror, and a whole lot of fun. Ann Aguirre does a great job of blending the various elements as she tells a compelling science fiction adventure story that's rather reminiscent in tone and attitude of Joss Whedon's Firefly television show... with a stint in the middle that reminds me very much of the movie Aliens.

A little disconcertingly, Wanderlust has a somewhat episodic feel to it, as the characters take all sorts of detours and have all kinds of adventures on their way to Ithiss-Tor, only reaching their destination at the end of the book. Given that there's at least two more planned for the series, it's no surprise that on the one hand, this feels like a little bit of killing time, or middle book syndrome. On the other, the characters go through some vitally important experiences, essential for their growth and evolution, along the way, picking up members of their group, losing others, wrapping up some threads and starting new ones, so it's not wasted time and energy by any means.

I like Jax. She's a strong-minded, independent, hard-edged protagonist who's more than likely going to get herself killed out of sheer stubborn pride if she keeps on going the way she does. Luckily, she's got some good friends backing her up, and the more we get to see of March, Vel, and Dina, the better. They're an eclectic group of personalities, and with the newcomers of Hit (an exotic, unusual hitwoman) and Constance (an AI serving as Jax's personal assistant), they're rounded out quite nicely. I like this crew, I want to spend time with them. I especially wouldn't mind seeing some stories told from Dina's point of view, as I suspect they'd be interesting. Very interesting.

Wanderlust, like Grimspace, is a thoroughly enjoyable blend of science fiction, romance, and action, with a little something for everyone, and a great deal of fun. It's down and dirty, unafraid to show some attitude, and Aguirre wisely maintains a balance between its elements, so that the romance doesn't overpower the science fiction elements. You can bet I'll be looking forward to Sirantha Jax's adventures now that she's finally reached Ithiss-Tor. However, given that Jax was sent there in part due to her ability to wreak havoc and make a scene, it'll be interesting to see just how badly things go. But I'll be there. And I still maintain that this series is the closest you can come to Firefly/Serenity right now without actually being in that universe, in terms of attitude, atmosphere, and tone, and yes, I mean that as a good thing. For those who like the softer science fiction (as opposed to those sticklers for actual science), this is bound to appeal. Give it a shot.

Copyright © 2009 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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