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