Book Review

Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre - A Guest Review

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Title: Wanderlust
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publication Info: Ace August 2008
ISBN: 0441016278
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Gillian won a copy of Wanderlust on this here site, and since she doesn’t have a blog of her own, she sent her review to me. Enjoy!

Book CoverNote:  I play far too many videogames.  Whenever Jax’s PDA speaks, I hear it in GlaDOS’ voice.  Just…throwing that out there.

Onward!

Wanderlust is the sequel to Grimspace, which detailed the trials and tribulations of one Ms. Sirantha Jax, whose job used to be navigating spaceships through the grimspace of the title for the Farwan Corporation.  Then there was some unpleasantness with a crash and a cover-up, and a psychic mercenary and a symbiotic baby, and a bounty hunter who was really a giant insect, and so Farwan Corp ceased to be.

Thus, Jax needs a new job, as ambassador for a newly empowered government.  Her mission is to persuade a whole planet of giant bugs to join the Conglomerate.  She is not a qualified ambassador, nor is she particularly diplomatic, but she’s the only person the giant insects will accept, and so she is hired on principle.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy Wanderlust as much as Grimspace.  It was entertaining, but it didn’t keep me gripped the way the first book did.  I read a lot of it whilst waiting for my merry band of idiots to regain their health points in Mass Effect (Oh Garrus!  Dead again, are we?).  It lent itself quite well to keeping me entertained for short bursts of time when I had nothing to do, but it was pretty near the end before I hit a point where I didn’t want to put it down.

This is partly due to the lack of urgency (Jax isn’t on the run any more), and maybe partly because, due to a biologically improbable mechanism of salvaging her brain from the ravages of grimspace navigation, Jax isn’t feeling too hot.  It makes a lot of sense for her to run and hide every time there’s a fire fight, but it doesn’t necessarily make for very exciting reading.  Especially not when she fills up the time with introspective thoughts on her likely death, and her relationship with surly telepathic pilot March. 

I’m not a big fan of the angsty relationship, but if you are, you will find much to love here.  Jax and March hooked up in Grimspace, but the course of true love, she is not running smooth.  Jax has Issues.  She’s clearly not over Kai (her lover who died just before Grimspace began), but she’s getting there.  She’s ill.  She’s skinny and weak and crippled, and she’s railing against that.  March is a psychic pilot who used to kill people with his brain.  He has issues too.  He can’t cope with the fact that Jax was practically raised to have a death wish (grimspace navigators die young), his abandonment issues are pretty huge.  He really wants Jax to need him.  Neither of them come off particularly well.  They clearly love each other, (both go nuts if they think the other is hurt or dead – this happens more often than you might expect) but neither of them seems to be in a place where a day to day relationship can really work. 

While all this makes Jax seem like a rounded, flawed, and realistic person, and I felt for her doomed love, I was rather wishing there was less of it; that things had moved a little quicker, that maybe they could get to the fireworks factory plot points already. 

There are good things to be had in this book; the Morgut are as delightfully creepy-awful as they were in Grimspace, as are the critters who live on Lachion (and you can really feel why Jax is afraid of the dark down in those tunnels).  The last fifth or so is fantastic.  New characters Jael and Hit are both welcome additions to Jax’s crew, even if they do cement its position in the Dysfunction Junction hall of fame.  Dina has always been a little one-note, and while that doesn’t change here (her job is to sass Jax), she is a nice counterpoint to our heroine, because she remains sassy in the face of anything at all.  Dina does not know how to spell the word ‘mope’.  Dina has forcibly removed it from all dictionaries in her vicinity.  And Vel is still here.  There are hints that back in the motherland, he’s as messed up as everyone else, but he does a good job rising above it, and he’s always fun to read.  Jax is usually surprised when Vel offers some deadpan commentary on the situation.  I take this as a hint she’s not as perceptive as she wishes she was, because Vel does this all the time, and I love him for it. 

I liked Wanderlust.  I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to; it kept me reading, but not up until three am.  I’m still on board for book three, the end of this one left me wanting more.   

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Popin says:

    Because you mentioned GlaDOS in the beginning of the review, I heard it’s voice while reading it. It was awesome!

    Good review!

  2. 2
    bettie says:

    The cake is a lie.

    I heard GlaDOS, too.

  3. 3
    Anya says:

    I saw Ann (with Catherine Asaro and Robin D. Owens) during a talk at the RWA conference and thought she was very funny.  It also helped me discover her books since I love futuristics but sometimes finding where they get hidden in the bookstore is quite an adventure (that and I don’t get to the bookstore nearly as often as I want (hanging head in sorrow)).  Thanks for the great review, Gillian; I definitely need to pick up Grimspace and Wanderlust.

  4. 4
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Woot! Thanks for the review.

    Anya, I was so tickled that everyone laughed when I meant them to during that panel (instead of the point-and variety). Let me know how you like the series if you check it out.

  5. 5
    Heather says:

    Cool review! I for one look forward to another adventure with Jax.

  6. 6
    azteclady says:

    In a recent discussion about another book it was mentioned that it often seems like people reading the same book in theory are actually reading different books, because their interpretation of what’s written depend on their personal experiences.

    So… it’s funny that for me Wanderlust was not only better than Grimspace, but it was more intense and the action felt even more urgent.

  7. 7
    Gillian says:

    @azteclady –  Seriously, I don’t even think you need to have seperate people.  If I’d read this book on a different day my opinion might have been different, maybe better or maybe worse!  Everyone brings their own baggage to any reading, so things are going to resonate differently.  It’s part of the reason I dropped English Lit at sixteen and ran into the comforting arms of science, where there is at least the vague possibility of a proper answer!

    I read Grimspace on my lunch breaks at work, and I have vivid memories of really, really not wanting to go back to the lab because just…one…more…page…

  8. 8
    Cindy says:

    I love this series.  I just finished Wanderlust.  The introduction of new characters kept the story fresh and I love Jax’s take no prisoners take on life.  She’s madly in love with March and she doesn’t know how to handle it because its almost like a betrayal of her dead lover.  Can’t wait until the next one!

  9. 9
    HilciaJ says:

    I couldn’t put either one of these books down… I gobbled up Grimspace and Wanderlust.  I thought Jax’ character continued to develop, although she had me banging my head against the wall a couple of times; and we got to know more about March.  Totally agree that Hit and Jael as new crew members are a “hit” and I want to know more about Jael. Love Val’s character—and I’ll definitely be reading the next book about Jax and her dysfunctional crew.

  10. 10
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Good news for Vel lovers… there’s a lot more Vel in Doubleblind. You get his complete backstory, in fact.

    And I think everyone will be very pleased with the direction of March and Jax’s relationship. That’s all I’m saying. *g*

  11. 11
    Fairings says:

    I totally agree! Grimspace was a tough book to follow.

  12. 12
    harmoniad says:

    I may give Wanderlust a try.  I enjoyed the first half of Grimspace, but had a helluva time trying to follow the science and logic of the second half.  If this book irons that out, then color me happy, ‘cause I love me some space romances.

    Also – Garrus is kind of a babe, for a reptilian/insectoid thing.

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