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Ann Aguirre
Ace, 308 pages

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: Doubleblind and Killbox
SF Site Review: Wanderlust
SF Site Review: Grimspace

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

Sirintha Jax saved the human race from the horrifying menace of the flesh-eating Morgut, but only by crippling interstellar travel for everyone. Worse, she may have stopped most of the Morgut, but a few ships still slip through, enough to devastate the planet of New Venice and kill several of her friends, a cost for which she'll never forgive herself. In the wake of her actions, it's time to pay the piper, and so Jax embarks upon a new phase of her life: war criminal and traitor.

Even once the trial is over, and her fate decided, Jax has unfinished business. She's bound and determined to see old debts cleared, her conscience soothed, her life put into order. She'll sacrifice the fortune her mother left her, her relationship with the pilot March, even her own life if necessary to balance the scales. In the process, she discovers the truth behind one of the galaxy's greatest mysteries, and strengthens her bond with the alien bounty hunter, Vel. As Jax passes through the crucible, she reinvents herself, but will this new Jax be stronger and happier than the old one?

The fifth in the series, Aftermath is aptly named. Ann Aguirre picks up on a number of outstanding plot lines and dangling threads, and addresses each of them in turn, in the form of Jax's attempts to find inner peace or atonement, and her desire to rid herself of these last ties to the past. First and foremost, there's the trial to account for her most recent actions, but that's not the least of the tasks she's set for herself. Between the items on Jax's agenda, and the time that passes throughout the course of the story, there's an almost leisurely, episodic feel to the overall book, even if certain portions are packed full of danger and adventure. It's an interesting approach; Aguirre spent four books building things to this point, making this one about four parts conclusion and one part plot continuation. With one more book planned in the series, it's anyone's guess as to where Jax and her friends will end up. (I wasn't so sure this wasn't supposed to be the end, until I double checked the author's website.)

Even though this wraps up a lot of unfinished business, and is primarily accessible only if you've read at least some of the preceding volumes, Aftermath is still highly satisfying. Aguirre really gets into the heads of her characters and brings them to life. Jax herself is a complex, flawed, fascinating narrator, and her relations with the other characters are fascinating. In particular, I love the relationship she has with Vel. It's not often you see such a powerful, complicated, rich understanding exist between someone so human and someone so alien. Romantic? Platonic? Emotional? I'm not sure how you'd qualify it, and that's probably for the best. Aguirre never lets us forget that they're fundamentally incompatible on one level, and wholly compatible where the psyche is concerned.

That's not to leave out any of the other characters or relationships present. I've always been extremely fond of the pairing of Dina (ship's mechanic) and Hit (ship's pilot/warrior woman). I've been demanding a spin-off featuring these two for ages, and though they don't get a lot of screen time here, it's still nice to have these two woman portrayed as a loving, stable, happy couple, no matter what happens around them. On a more subtle level, we even get progression with the secondary characters of Councellor Tarn and the enigmatic Edun Leviter. While we only see them in limited roles, it's hard to ignore the feeling of romance in the air for these two men.

Aguirre experiments with style a little, as well. While most of the story is from Jax's own viewpoint, other plotlines are progressed through letters or other communication. Characters such as March and Vel spin out their backgrounds in their own words, giving that story-in-a-story feeling. More clearing of the air before Jax's last adventure, I suppose.

In the end, Aftermath is a thoroughly enjoyable installment in the series. Readers who've stuck with Jax this long will undoubtedly be glad to see lingering issues cleared up. Of course, they may also be distressed at the way in which certain characters are either dispatched or written out; I know I was surprised at the sudden deaths occurring early on. I think Aguirre actually took a chance in pacing the story as she did, and spinning out certain developments in this fashion. But it works. Aftermath has all of the heart, soul, adventure and sense of wonder that you could ask for in a character-driven series like this; as much as I'm anticipating the last book, I'll miss Jax and friends when it's all over.

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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