Published by Penguin Doubleblind on September 29th 2009
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Action & Adventure
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.
In this third instalment in the Grimspace series, Doubleblind marks a departure from the previous two books, which were frenetic in high octane action and scope. Sirantha Jax is asked by the Conglomerate to become a goodwill ambassador, to try and forge an alliance with the elusive and secretive bug-like Ithtorians. However, there are factions who would like to jeopardize this alliance. There is the insidious threat from a progressively more powerful Syndicate (a mafia like organization), headed by Jax’s own mother that would love to take over where the Farwan Corporation has left off, and has become a threat to the Conglomerate’s authority in the Galaxy. It is essential for Jax to try and cement an alliance with the Ithtorian because failure would leave the Galaxy under threat from the Morguts – a vicious alien race who have increasingly attacked outposts, stations and threatening the survival of the Conglomerate Alliance
In addition to these outside pressures, Jax also has to deal with healing March’s fractured mind after the events in Wanderlust, which have left him emotionless and dangerous to the people around him. Did I mention earlier that Jax doesn’t do diplomatic and sensitive well? Especially when she has to deal with an alien race that do not view humans in a favourable light due to a testy past.
Doubleblind is quieter in tone and pace compared to Grimspace and Wanderlust. It is more character driven as it focuses more about Jax’s developing relationship with March and Vel; ( If I wasn’t in love with Vel in the last book – I so am now!) the Ithtorian bounty hunter, who has cemented himself as a firm ally and friend to Jax despite his ties to Ithiss-Tor. Jax has grown up and matured a lot over the past two books. This becomes evident to the reader during the many diplomatic incidents in Doubleblind where the old Jax would have jeopardised the mission and abandoned March.
I really love the course of their romance across the three books, (Grimspace, Wanderlust and Doubleblind). Ann Aguirre gives the reader a sense of symmetry with March’s and Jax’s relationship. From the beginning, March was the sensitive and patient lover while Jax was the opposite. Now, Jax has learned and grown from past mistakes, to realize how important March really is. This shows how much she has changed from her previous irresponsible and cocky persona in Grimspace, and is evident in her determination to try to heal March from his emotionless disconnect.
There were times when I feared that March wouldn’t be able to reconnect due to the coldness and menace of his emotional disconnect – which was pretty scary at times. Despite this, I think readers will definitely enjoy how this subplot develops, because like the previous books where March helps Jax to overcome her own grief and emotional baggage, Jax does the same for March. And for me, this book strengthens their love, I think the quieter tone and pace of the book were needed to show and emphasize that.
Another relationship that was further developed was that between Jax and Vel; who I think – in my eyes – he is definitely become one of my all time favourite characters. Just like Jax’s relationship with March, the events in Doubleblind brings Vel and Jax closer – especially as there are outside and inside forces that threaten their mission, and even their lives.
One of the best elements in the book involved the world building about Ithtorian culture and their political intrigue. Vel helps and guides Jax, who learns there is more to the Ithtorian than she realised. This helps her to understand Vel and bond with him more.
One of my favourite passages in the book, which highlights this is:
‘As he straightens, his mandible moves in some subtle meaning. “Your manners have become … exquisite, Sirantha. The shading you gave that wa… it was poetic.”
Surprise washes over me as I register the compliment. “Really? What did I say?”
“In the time after the broken sunrise, brown bird looks to white wave. The Sky does not touch, all songs have ceased. It is far and lorn.”
Ann Aguirre does not keep the readers trapped on Ithiss-Tor. In between chapters, there are breaks with interviews and satellite forum conversations which convey what the galaxy is going through after the downfall of the Farwan Corporation, and the takeover bids of the Syndicate. This gives an insight that things are coming to a head later, and adds to the tension about the success of Jax’s mission.
There are also a few developments with Constance (Jax’s personal computer aide) and Jael. I hope we get to see more about them in the next book, although I was slightly disappointed that Dina, Doc and Hit were featured lightly in this book. I can understand why, though, as they would have detracted attention from the plot.
Doubleblind has enriched and further developed the characters and the world building of this series. It’s a pivotal book as it sets out and expands on future things to come for Jax and Co., and I am sorry to say it does end in a cliffhanger.
The Grimspace series is multi-layered with memorable characters and heart wrenching romance with dashes of high octane action and wit. And although this installment has a different change of pace and tone, it is a rich and satisfying chapter in this series.
Book four, Killbox, will be out late Sep/early Oct and I cannot WAIT!