Monday, July 13, 2009

Non-Laughter Twin Reviews: ANN AGUIRRE

WANDERLUST (Book 2, Sirantha Jax)
Science Fiction

BLUE DIABLO (Book 1, Corinne Solomon)
Urban Fantasy

Former space jumper takes on new role as galactic ambassador whom various factions jockey to influence for their own reasons.

'Handler' (gains impressions from touching objects) assists former love to locate his kidnapped mother.

What Works
Apprentice Writer very much enjoyed Book 1 in the Sirantha Jax series, Grimspace, and her hopes in this second installment were, happily, mostly fulfilled. There continues to be action and unusual characters aplenty, with the greatest satisfaction deriving from Velith's reappearance (an insectoid bounty hunter and easily the most intriguing character from Book 1). There is a nice twist at the end of this installment which AW did not foresee. In terms of character development, sailing is not smooth for Jax and March who finally became a pair previously; both experience inner damage that threatens their relationship in a realistic and intriguing manner: March in terms of emotion, and Jax in terms of physical health. Added great dimension to the story.

Setting and premise for 'Blue Diablo' were doubly appealing. The heroine, nursing a broken heart and body newly healed after the last professional collaboration with her former love went disastrously wrong, hides from him and vindictive criminals they brought to justice in a Mexican pawnshop. Utilizing his own gift of luck, Chance tracks her down and persuades her to join him in rescuing his mother from occult-curious kidnappers. Their seach across the border into Texas leads them to others with gifts and/or varying levels of awareness of things that go bump in the night. The depiction of how special gifts come at a personal price at the same time as they provide rewards was very well done - all talented characters suffered mentally or physically, sometimes profoundly, due to use of their abilities. The story was less about them having a gift, per se, and more about the circumstances under which each decided that application was worth the inevitable damage.

What Doesn't
When Jax is appointed to the role of ambassador early in the story, it seemed like a fantastic way to achieve character growth and avoid rehashing previously trod ground. Alas, this opportunity was not always taken. Both Jax and some secondary characters seemed sadly lacking in making the leap to that next level. WARNING: MILD 'Wanderlust' SPOILERS!

During a flight, crew error causes turbulence and Jax wonders if it is linked to a plot to captureVelith. Rather than taking the next logical step and wondering if it is a plot to capture her, the human symbol of the newly fragile political system , she puts it down to her usual paranoia. This was startlingly dim, given that it wasn't the first attempt at interference with her group. Following a discussion about possible interstellar war with billions of human casualties, Jax goes on about how much she loves hot chocolate (or 'choclaste' as the synthetic space variant is called) since it makes even such destruction better. If it hadn't been for the previous lack of role-awareness, AW might have put this down as a kind of black humor coping mechanism in the face of overwhelming responsibility. As it was, it came off as so shallow that AW began to sympathize with those who originally doubted Jax' fitness for the ambassadorship.

Later, it becomes clear that her movements are being controlled so she disguises a strategy session as party in her mechanic's room. Dina - who supposedly spent years flying with a mercenary crew doing untold amounts of shady things, and is now knowingly on a ship belonging to an even more shady crew - fails to put even the most elementary two and two together and grouses about a) being overrun and b) her spleen about Jax getting romantic with a new male character. That she couldn't put the pieces together without help, and couldn't imagine that the previously attacked ambassador rated a bodyguard (in which capacity she had misinterpreted Jax and Jael together) was not only annoying but should have been heavily unlikely given her upbringing in a royal household. When Dina fails Jax yet again, by refusing her request for help in putting together a wardrobe befitting high-level public appearances (something for which Dina would have been trained and Jax has utterly no experence) AW was more than ready for the mechanic to be 'spaced' as Jax suggests for another less than competent character.

And, on a'What the heck happened?' observational note, the way the characters cursed changed from Book 1 to 2. Whereas previously 'frack!' was the expletive of choice, here it was replaced with the conventional f-bomb. To AW personally, this seemed another sadly lost opportunity, other planets and societies being unique places to show new linguistic inventions.



Aw's biggest non-working element was a purely subjective one, which other readers could consider a plus. In a word: Zombies. AW is so not a zombie person. She would not have picked up the book had she known. But by the time they arrived, the end of the book was in reach so read on she did.

Every protagonist is a mix of strengths and weaknesses; Jax is certainly not flawless. But for this reader, her specific blend of flaws somehow felt easier to live with than Corinne's, if that makes any sense. Corinne is hypocritical about her ex; whereas she drives to another town and stays there overnight with a male character she finds attractive (partly to advance the case and partly to antagonize Chance), when he asks to meet alone with an attractive woman (in order to advance the case) she takes the car and in a jealous fit abandons him in a potentiallhy dangerous situation for the sake of retaliation. She is not the best of house-guests; letting her hosts pretty much cater to her, grousing when they don't express sufficient sympathy for her most recent hurts even though moments before, they threatened to kick out a police officer for failing to treat her with proper respect, and feeling free to invite outsiders in for meals without checking with the hosts ahead of time whether it would be acceptable.

By the time that an ever-available overseas character popped up who was mysteriously able to supply all needed information they themselves couldn't obtain in the same geographic area as the villains, AW suspected that the Corinne series is not for her. By the time a certain element is revealed at the end about the kidnapped mother, AW was certain of it.


Ms. Aguirre is a prolific author, continuing not only with these two series but branching out into paranormal as well. In what may be her most appealling attribute, she is extremely supportive of other authorsl; AW 'discovered' the peerless Meredith Duran through Ms. Aguirres one-woman promotion long before Ms. Duran's name became synonymous with 'rocketing star' in the historical romance world.

Various comments in the blogosphere hint at a possible divide between series supporters, along the lines of those who like the Jax books not necessarily enamored of Corinne and vice versa. AW found this to be true. She will stick with Jax (next up: Doubleblind), leave Corinne to another audience (next up: Hell Fire) , and look forward to taking a look at the first paranormal title once available.

Gentle Reader - What say you?
Jax or Corinne? March or Chance?

Both? Neither?

Read another review here.

Learn more about this author here.


Julia Smith said...

I've been looking forward to reading Ann Aquirre, AW - my future TBR pile is beginning to reach the heights only my laundry pile previously attained.

M. said...

Haha, Julia - pleasure and drudgery equally balanced....