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Doubleblind
      Killbox
Ann Aguirre
      Ann Aguirre
Ace, 310 pages
      Ace, 354 pages

Doubleblind
Killbox
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: Wanderlust
SF Site Review: Grimspace

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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What happens when the rebels win and become part of the system? That's one of the many themes explored in the third and fourth books of Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series, starring the titular hot-tempered grimspace jumper and her motley assortment of allies and friends. After bringing down the corrupt Farwan Corporation and battling the deadly alien Morgut, Jax has reluctantly traveled to Ithiss-Tor as an ambassador for New Terra's ruling Conglomerate. Her job: to play nice with the reclusive race of alien insectoids, and get them to commit to an alliance. The good: one of her best friends is Vel, an Ithtorian bounty hunter who can teach her everything she needs to know. The bad: Jax is about as diplomatic as a brick wrapped around another brick. Think human politics are hard? Try alien rituals and customs when they're already predisposed towards hating you. Then toss in murder, sabotage, betrayal, and conspiracy.

In Killbox, Jax has had enough of playing ambassador. After all, her stint on Ithiss-Tor nearly killed her, almost destroyed her relationship with her lover, March, and cost her at least one friend. She's out of the diplomacy game... just in time for the Conglomerate to hire her and the rest of her crew to save the day out on the edge of civilization. With Farwan out of the picture, pockets of humanity are under constant threat from pirates, slavers, raiders, and the Morgut. Jax and March have to put together a militia capable of restoring order, enforcing peace, and fighting back the darkness. They're given carte blanche to kick ass, take names, recruit anyone they can get their hands on, and otherwise get creative. Old friends and enemies will come out of the woodwork, with surprising results. Unfortunately, even as the Armada is taking shape, a terrifying new secret regarding the Morgut emerges, one which puts the flesh-eating spiders and their purpose in a different light. As our heroes race towards a desperate, all-out war against an unstoppable foe, Jax will have to push herself to the breaking point once more. But this time, she stands to lose everything she loves.

Both installments of this fast-paced space opera are equally exciting. As always, the underlying emotional current is both strong and raw, filtered through Jax's battle-scarred experiences. We see her ability to build and maintain friendships and relationships tested time and again, both by outside factors and her own failings. This is a series where the action and adventure and flesh-eating aliens and marauding pirates and so forth are all just wrapping paper for one woman's slow, steady, personal journey. Ann Aguirre is superb at making it all about Jax without, well, making it all about Jax. Even the supporting characters are worth cheering for, from duty-minded Doc, to the complexly fascinating Vel, to exiled princess-turned-mechanic Dina and her girlfriend, bounty-hunter-turned-pilot Hit.

Each book has something a little different. In Doubleblind, we see Jax and the crew as they navigate the complicated society of the Ithtorians, a political thriller that features plots within plots, games within games. Killbox is a look at when happens when you give a group already on the fringe the mandate to do what's right, and the freedom to use any means necessary. All along, the core unit of Jax, March, Dina, Doc, Vel and so on has felt very much like the late, lamented Firefly; now we see a scenario where the outcasts work within the system. It's good stuff.

This series is consistently enjoyable, and I can't wait to see what happens to Jax next, since these two books put her in a pretty awkward place at the end. However, I've spent this long rooting for her to find happiness and inner peace, so hopefully it's not out of the question yet. If you want science fiction with healthy doses of adrenaline-fueled ass-kicking and space battles, tempered with character growth and a sly romantic streak, Aguirre has you covered. I certainly have no complaints.

Copyright © 2011 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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