Aftermath by Ann Aguirre
Aftermath (A Sirantha Jax Novel)
I may not read as much science fiction as fantasy, but a good character-driven story will always draw me in, regardless of genre. I’ve been hooked on Ann Aguirre’s SiranthaJax series from its first book, and the newest one is just as good as that original story. Aftermath ranges across the galaxy as Jax deals with the fallout from her desperate bid to save humanity from alien enslavement.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“During the war against murderous, flesh-eating aliens, grimspace “jumper” SiranthaJax decided to go it alone. The cost of her actions: the destruction of modern interstellar travel-and the lives of six hundred Conglomerate soldiers. Now she’s on trial for dereliction of duty, desertion, mass murder, high treason…and her life.”
Admittedly, this book wasn’t what I’d expected when I picked it up. The synopsis makes it sound like the majority of the book concerns Jax’s trial, but that event takes up relatively little space in the pages. It’s still interesting to watch someone who should be lauded as a hero, and see what happens when they’re vilified as a traitor. Jax is caught in a strange dichotomy, knowing that she did the right thing, but grieving for those who had to be sacrificed to save the many.
The rest of the novel broadens readers’ understanding of the universe in which Jax lives. A trip to a planet ends up plunging Jax and Vel into an adventure that will change everybody’s view of what the ancients left behind for their use. Jax once again has the opportunity to be a hero and bring back knowledge that will benefit everyone.
My favorite thing about this novel—and indeed, about the whole series—is the friendship between Jax and Vel, the Ithtorian ambassador. As with the novel that took readers to Ithiss-Tor, this story touches on parts of Vel’s past that have not yet been revealed. In the process, it expands his humanity, just as it deepens Jax’s understanding of what the two of them share. The pair does not have a “relationship” in the romantic sense, but their relationship is one of the most realistic and touching that I’ve ever read. Yes, a human and an alien demonstrate love, in its best sense, far better than almost any human pairing that I’ve read.
And that’s what I read this series for. The action is great, and the plot is satisfyingly beefy, but the characters are so real and so simultaneously strong and fragile that I can’t help but identify with them. I think that everyone should have a friend as steadfast as Vel.
Simply put, Ann Aguirre has been writing one of the most fascinating and engaging science fiction adventures that I’ve ever read. Her balance between characters, plot and action is superb, and I can’t think of a better story that I’ve read in recent years. The next book will be the final one, and I will be sad to say goodbye to Jax, Vel and the rest of the cast. Now is a good time to pick up this series and treat yourself to some quality science fiction.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 11, 2012.