Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My favorite tiny moment from reading Doubleblind that I CAN'T TALK ABOUT

I feel so special that I am one of the first handful of people on the planet to read Ann Aguirre's new book, Doubleblind (I have an advance copy!) but with that comes great responsibility.

Like not totally spoiling it for everybody else!

So I will talk only generally about this favorite moment of mine. Let me just say that I love when a writer brings something back from earlier in a story, and uses it in a new way or builds on it. It sort of reminds me when I'm with a friend and a past shared experience gets invoked and we enjoy it together in a new context. It's one of those things that make life rich, and it makes reading rich, too.

Favorite moment I can't talk about
So, my favorite tiny moment is like that--it's right at the end of the book, this super tension scene, and there it is suddenly, this coy callback.

Only it's not from earlier in the book, it's from a favorite scene of mine of book #1, Grimspace! *lipszipped* Don't worry, you don't lose anything if you didn't read Grimspace, but it's just quite rich if you did, and such a great moment to have a callback on.

However, There are other great moments to talk about. Wait, let's get a synopsis in here. The official one:

It’s not easy to tread lightly wearing steel-toed boots.
Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.
And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.
But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope. Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…

Things I CAN talk about: Bug People!
So the planet Ithiss-Tor is populated by Ithtorians, these large, super-smart, super-strong bug people. When I started reading about these guys, I was like, please let us stay on this planet, because these bugalong Cassidies are great!

Aguirre invents all these weird little details that make them super realistic, like their rank markings, they way the operate their claws in different moods, and their insanely elaborate system of body language. I sort of imagined them as a cross between the Prawns in District 9, but with giant grasshopper heads, though that's not exactly true to the text. Other excellent worldbuilding features: crazy florascape built environment and convincingly convoluted political scenarios.

Unusual tension: the March/Jax relationship
Janicu posted on this book recently, and I don't feel I can improve on how she described the relationship status:
...Aguirre did something that was the equivalent of pressing the "reset" button, and it is delicious. Neither March or Jax are the same people they were at the start of this series.
In part, Janicu's talking about the "kill mode" March is stuck in. There's this effect of it, like, you know how weird it feels when you break up with somebody, and you go from being able to always touch them, and suddenly they're officially off limits when you see them? March has this kind of space age shell shock that causes him to removed and a bit dangerous. Of course, Jax strives to reconnect with him, but March sort of has a monster inside him that can't be inflamed. This all creates serious tension.
The tension of the mission
And of course, March's state is not ideal for being on a diplomatic mission, especially one as important as this. Jax isn't exactly fit for the role either. Sure, she's grown from what she used to be, but her duties on this planet stretch her new found maturity to the limit. They would stretch anybody's maturity, actually. It was fun being on this diplomatic mission, and even though this was an alien situation, I felt like I learned things about how ambassadors function.

The fierce friendship of Vel and Jax
The Vel/Jax friendship really blossoms in this book, and it's so well drawn, especially when you consider that Vel, who commonly takes on other appearances, i.e. human, is in his bug mode through the whole book, so he's super alien. It's not just that Vel and Jax pal around together, but they sort of affect each other and help each other grow. For example, there is this absolutely wonderful moment where Vel is upset he can't fix this technology and Jax wants to comfort him:

Hesitantly, I slip from my seat and kneel beside him. I think this is the first time I’ve tried to reciprocate the quiet support he’s given me.
And later
...I go the human route and cover his claw with my hand. “I don’t think it’s your fault. There has to be something else going on, some factor we can’t plan for because we don’t know about it.
Vel tilts his head, gazing down at the contrast between his green scale and my tan skin. I’m surprised when he curls our hands together briefly before letting go. Such gestures don’t come easy for him, so my heart gives a little tug.
“You can be very kind, Sirantha."
So much science fiction satisfaction! Relationship arcs, rocking story, and the usual raw and expressive Jax narrative style. More proper reviews: Genrereviews, Janicu, Moira Rogers,

Read, win:
Doubleblind comes out on September 29th, but it seems to be appearing early places. You can read the first chapter here. And Ann is having an extravaganza at her blog where you can win cover art fine prints, and The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, and maybe more.


Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

me want. me no haz :(

I have a feeling when I read Doubleblind, I will have my mouth falling open in shock.

Loves me some Vel and March. :D

Patti said...

I don't really have a grasp of what this series is about, except that it's futuristic, so I can't decide if I want to check it out. I'm not sure why, but I imagine it's like Tank Girl?

Hilcia said...

Darn I WANT this book! LOLOL! I didn't even want to read your post because I don't want spoilers or anything *sigh*...

I want some Jax & March & Val... now!

Did I say I want this book? :)

Mandi said...

Oh - do I love Jax and March (and Ann Aguirre -she rocks my world!!) I can't wait to see where March is headed in this one. And Vel - oh I love him.

Can't wait to discover what moment from Grimspace you are talking about!!!

Carolyn Crane said...

KB: Wow! For once I have one and you don't.

Patti: Oh, funny, Tank Girl! Well, there's a bit of that here, though I'd say it's more Star Trek blends with a romance novel. You are missing out on a whole great subgenre! Ann Aguirre and Linnea Sinclair are my faves for space travel tales.

Hilcia: LOL. Soon you can have it! I think you'll really love this one.

Mandi: Vel is the greatest in this one!!! Can't wait to see what you say.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

rub it in. *sob*

orannia said...

*hands KB a tissue*

See, I really need to read Grimspace. I 'suggested' it to my library and then it got caught in the black hole part of my TBR list (I feel a post acomin') where it has languished every since :(

And I love these posts CJ! They make me feel like I am reading the book without, even though I'm not :)

Blodeuedd said...

Really bug people...I do hate bugs but if you say they are nice I will take your word for it :)

Yay March and Jax, must read book 2

Christine said...

I. Am. So. Jealous. And. You. Are. So. Mean.

Ann Aguirre said...

Wow, what a great review! Thank you so much.

I was a little worried about this book because it's not as action-heavy as the first two. But the very nature of it means it simply cannot be full of people shooting and things blowing up. A diplomacy book that includes those things is by definition an failed mission. And this was too important for Jax not to give it her best.

Ann Aguirre said...

Oh, and the District 9 prawns? They're pretty close to the Ithtorians, only with praying mantis head, not grasshopper.

Janicu said...

The March/Jax relationship: RIGHT?? SO tasty! I'm wondering if your favorite scene is one of my favorite scenes. Feel free to DM me on twitter.

Carolyn Crane said...

KB: sniffle.

Orn: Brave the black hole!!

BLDD: Well, you can enjoy this as a standalone, but book 2 would enrich things.

Chirstine: LOL

AA: I loved the psychological nature of this. I mean, I get my thrills off character journies more than firefights.

Janicu: OOh, I will. I just did that with Moirarogersbree, too! LOL.

Janicu said...

:D Where would we be without twitter?! I love it.

Shaymless Aymless said...

me want me no haz either

I heart Vel.

only five more days

Orannia: yup you do. I finished Moon Called. *g*

Rosie said...

This is a great review to whet the appetite. Fortunately I was able to pick this up over the weekend and I'll be reading it next!

Tumperkin said...

You are very naughty.

Oh, there's this moment and it's so great but I CAN'T tell you about it.