Saturday, April 30, 2011

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I grabbed this book because it has a female protagonist, and it looked like it might be a break from the usual, male-dominated hard-SF offerings. Sirantha Jax, our heroine, is a pretty tough cookie, for sure. She's got a special gene that allows her to pilot in "grimspace" - aka hyperspace. This makes her valuable to "the Corp", which is a pan-Galactic corporation that pretty much runs things and is benevolent, as long as you don't cross them. But when we first see Jax, she is in a mental ward, following an unexplained crash, which killed everyone on board (including Jax's lover/pilot). The Corp psychs are clearly trying to tell her she caused the crash, but she doesn't remember. She is rescued by a dark, mysterious man, and becomes a renegade and gets involved in some dicey anti-Corp action, is nearly killed several times, and, naturally, falls in love.

It is this last bit that grated on my nerves. Why does any novel with a "hard-nosed" female lead always go down the same path: she meets a dark mysterious man, they hate each other on sight, but they are also drawn to each other. Each one has 'deep dark secrets' and is wounded somehow. They fight cute, and discover an almost supernatural connection with each other. The admit their feelings and have racy sex. She gets separated from him. He goes crazy with grief/rage. The reunite. The vow to never leave each other again. They have sex. End of story.

At times, this almost read like a Stephanie Plum novel ("One for the Money", etc), without Stephanie's klutziness. I just wish we could have a female character who is just "one of the guys". Maybe she falls in love, but it's not some magical "woo-woo" romance from a storybook. Because, romance aside, this was a good book. I really enjoyed the worlds and the cultures, and it all seemed very believable (though the ending was a bit too quickly and cleanly wrapped up to be real). I want a female lead like Ripley in Alien/Aliens! She kicks butt and does not need to be swept off her feet by Prince Charming!

That being said, I will probably read at least one more in the series, because, as I said, romance aside, it's pretty good stuff. So I'm willing to give it another shot.

Star Surgeon by Alan E. Nourse

Star Surgeon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I grabbed this e-book in desperation one evening, when I had some time to kill after work & before bible study, and I had forgotten to being the book I was currently reading. So - iPhone to the rescue! This was a free book, in the Gutenberg Project, and it was Sci-Fi, and I'd read other books by this author when I was a kid, so I grabbed it. I knew it would be a bit out-dated, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared - a few too many references to EarthMEN, and no female characters, but overall, it was a pretty decent read.

The story is about Dal, the first non-human to train on Earth as a doctor. (At this point in Earth's future, we are known as "Hospital Earth" and known as the galaxies best doctors.) Dal faces prejudice and fear as he graduates, and it is clear that there is one senior doctor who is definitely out to "get" Dal and prevent him from becoming a full "star surgeon". Nevertheless, cooler heads prevail and Dal is put on a probation ship, with two other doctors-to-be.

The three young men travel around the galaxy, answering pleas for help, and we see further prejudice by one of the other crew. They encounter various medical trials, and finally learn to respect one another when faced with a planet-wide plague that they can't figure out how to stop. Dal manages to figure out what the problem is, and the 3 think they will be awarded their "stars" (as full-fledged doctors), but Dal's nemesis shows up and it's clear he's going to twist circumstances to get Dal kicked out. But then he has a massive coronary, and only Dal can save him. He does, the doctor relents and Dal gets his star!

I found the characters pretty one-dimensional (though Dal's relationship to his symbiont, 'Fuzzy', was original, and the intelligent virus was good), and as soon as the mean doctor showed up at the end, clearly ailing from a bad hear, I knew how Dal would win him over. It was all just a little too pat. I find this kind of plot and writing to be very common-place from novels of this era (1950's), so I wasn't surprised. I still managed to enjoy it, and thankfully it was pretty short.

If you are interested in "intergalactic medicine" then there is a far better, and more recent series, I HIGHLY recommend James White's "Sector General" series (the first is "Hospital Station").