Jax: Alpha-female heroine?

September 19, 2008 at 12:24 pm 16 comments

Wanderlust by Ann AguirreA couple of months ago I won a Wanderlust ARC from the Smart Bitches blog. I was thrilled, since I had just finished the first book in the Jax series, Grimspace, and loved it.

Here is Wanderlust’s back cover description:

Sirantha Jax is a “jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster-than-light ships through grimspace. Jax has worked for Farwan Corporation her entire career. But now word’s out that the Corp deliberately crashed a passenger ship, and its stranglehold on intergalactic commerce has crumbled — which meands that Jax is out of a job.

She’s also broke due to being declared dead a little prematurely. So when the government asks her to head up a vital diplomatic mission, Jax agrees to do it. Her madate: journey to the planet Ithiss-Tor and convince its inhabitants to join the Conglomerate.

But Jax’s payday is light-years away. First she’ll have to contend with Syndicate criminals, a stormy relationship with her pilot, man-eating aliens, and her own grimspace-weakened body. She’ll be luck juyst to make it to Ithiss-Tor alive…

Wow! Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre was a fast absorbing read. Wanderlust, the sequel to Grimspace, picks up in the aftermath of Grimspace’s dramatic conclusion. Sirantha Jax is still reeling physically and psychically from recent events. Her reunion with March, her grimspace pilot and lover is complicated by her pre-occupation with her physical weakness. Jax has never been afraid to jump into any fray, be it a barroom brawl or a battle in space. Now, her body is wracked with injuries that don’t seem to be healing normally. Also, for the first time in her life she is worried about having a future with March. She doesn’t want him to be hurt the way she was when she lost her lover Kai.

Grimspace by Ann AguirreShe is also caught up in political events she never had to be concerned with as jumper. She doesn’t trust the motivations of Tarn, the New Chancellor of New Terra in asking her to be ambassador to Ithiss-Tor.

Then, her mother shows up, complicating things even further.

While the events of the book are exciting, my real attraction to the book is reading about Jax’s growth as a person. She exhibits a lot of those alpha-heroine traits I love to read about in urban fantasy and speculative fiction: she’s full of bravado, and not afraid to face the big-bad with attitude, big weapons and snappy comebacks. However, what makes Jax truly compelling as a character is her growing realization that as a long-term lifestyle, she can’t keep this up. It didn’t matter so much when she assumed that the detrimental effects of jumping would eventually drive her to an early grave. Now, she no longer sees herself in a vacuum. She has been changed irrevocably by outside events, and knows her actions will impact those around her, especially March.

Jax is also increasingly aware of her strengthening ties to those around her. As she (sometimes reluctantly) steps into the role of leader, her grudging affection for her crew and sense of responsibility to them ties her to them and the world around her

As I think about Jax’s character, I am reminded of 2 other alpha-heroines I love: Kim Harrison’s Rachel from the Hollows series (Dead Witch Walking, book 1) and Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine (Working for the Devil, book 1) from the Dante Valentine series.

Like Jax, personal tragedy indelibly marks these characters. Rachel, too, grows thru the painful realization that her actions impact her loved ones. Rachel’s power comes at a very high personal price. In order for her to create a reasonably happy future for herself, she, like Jax, must adapt.

Dante, on the other hand, is a study in the walking wounded. She’s a survivor, but she pays a very high price for her survival. Often, the price Dante pays is due to her inability to change. When I read the Dante series, I often wanted to yell at her. She reminded me of that friend that comes to you for advice, but in the end makes the same mistakes over and over. However, Dante is so beautifully written, I’d end up sighing and continue reading. Her vulnerability and strength are utterly compelling.

In the end, I see Jax somewhere between Rachel and Dante. Jax is just scratching at her own surface to see what is beneath the jumper-celeb she was before the crash of the Saragasso. She is learning to navigate the seas of relationships and love. Sometimes her choices frustrated me, but I’m good with that. I love seeing the Jax’s character grow. She wouldn’t be as much fun to read about it if she didn’t have room to grow. Navgating thru grimspace is easy when compared to the complications of her life.

For those who don’t really see themselves picking up a book about spaceships and aliens, I urge you to make and exception with the Jax series. It’s not my dad’s sci-fi (my dad is a big Asimov fan.) The series emphasis on character, relationships and plot put this more closely along side books like:

Awesome quotes from  Wanderlust:

I imagine the hunger, the frenzy that drove them to this. I imagine the spilled blood as an intoxicant, reacting on their alien body chemistry.
To them, we are, quite simply, delicious.

He’s so afraid of losing me that he can’t see I’m scared out of my mind, too. I’m trying to be strong.
How can you miss someone who’s right beside you?

Well, the enforced rest has done me good…I feel like a fight. “You should run,” I tell him with a feral grin.
I’m Sirantha Jax, and I have had enough.

Here is an excerpt to Wanderlust at Ann Aguirre’s site.

Book 3 in the Sirantha Jax series, Doubleblind will be out in October 2009. You can read an excerpt here.

Entry filed under: awesome quotes, Book Reflection, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

I’m still here Don’t miss this book: Mélusine

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ann Aguirre  |  September 19, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    What a lovely review! Thank you so much. Vel fans will find much to like in Doubleblind.

  • 2. Book Review Meme « Renee’s Book Addiction  |  February 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    […] Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Overall Review Afterthought 10. Renee’s Book Addiction – WANDERLUST by Ann […]

  • 3. Flight into Fantasy » Book review meme  |  February 17, 2009 at 6:37 am

    […] FEAST by Christine Feehan, Julie Kramer, and Jayne Castle 15. Renee’s Book Addiction – WANDERLUST by Ann Aguirre 16. SciFiGuy.ca – THE BLACK SHIP by Diana Pharaoh Francis 17. Literary Escapism – FOR […]

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