Killbox Mass Market Paperback – Aug 31 2010
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About the Author
In her life, Ann Aguirre has been a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband and two adorable children who sometimes do as they are told.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Grimspace blazes through me like a star gone nova.
I'm the happiest junkie who ever burned chem because this is where I belong. Kaleidoscopic fire burns against the hull, seeming as though it should consume us, but we are the only solid thing in this realm of ghosts and echoes. Sometimes I think this place holds all the potential for everything that ever was, everything that ever shall be. It's a possibility vortex, and thus it lacks any shape of its own.
I glory in the endorphins pounding through me. Cations sparkle in my blood, marking me as unique, even among thrill-seekers. You see, my life started here.
Unfortunately, the rush is fleeting, and I need to carry us safely through. I focus on the beacons; they pulse as if in answer to my command. Here, I feel powerful, damn near invincible, however much a lie that proves to be. Jumpers almost never die old and gray.
March swells inside me, filling my head with warmth. My pilot, who is also my lover, feels natural there. Anybody else would wonder at that, but if you're a jumper, you get used to sharing mind-space. In fact, I'm lonely without him there.
He manipulates the ship so we can jump. The phase drum hums, all juiced up, and we swing out of grimspace. Homesickness floods me at once, but I battle it back. No point in dwelling on what can never bestaying in grimspace would kill me. But at least I'm jumping again. Not too long ago, I thought I'd have to choose between my addiction and my life. The decision isn't as obvious as you might think.
I unplug, still savoring the boost, and check the star charts. Oh, nice, a clean jump.
"Good work." March grins at me and steals a kiss.
I'm so happy that he wants to.
He's not as pretty as the men I've been with before. I used to have an eye for the lovely, androgynous ones, but I guess deep down, I don't mind a bit of the brute. March has strong, angular features and a nose that's obviously been broken. But his eyes, his eyes shine like sun through amber. I could spend hours looking at him.
Business before pleasure, howeverI have an important message to send. With a jaunty wave, I leave the cockpit and head for my quarters. I share the space with March. Despite cohabitation, it's still an austere environment: plain berth, terminal, lighting fortified with solar simulators to compensate for lack of nutrient D3 if you spend too much time on board.
Constance greets me, flickering into a holo projected from my terminal. She's everywhere and nowhere, blazing her way through the ship from terminal to terminal. I don't know if we'll ever convince her to come back to a physical shell now that she's tasted the power and freedom a starship can offer. She's either fused with the vessel's limited AI or overridden it. Regardless, I suspect there's something illegal in what we've done, and I couldn't care less.
"All systems indicate a smooth arrival, Sirantha Jax."
I smile. "You got that right."
Since we jumped from Ithiss-Tor to the beacon closest to New Terra, the crew could be forgiven for thinking we intend to land there. That's what our orders demand. Instead, we're heading away from the planet. We're not operating on the Conglomerate's credits, and this is a vessel out of Lachion, so I can do something I've been longing for since the minute I acceded to that rock-and-a-hard-place decision. Jaelthe merc who betrayed us all on Ithiss-Torwas right about one thing. People seem to think it's fine to force me to choices that range from bad to worse.
I add, "Activate comm. I need to bounce a message to Chancellor Tarn."
The system glimmers to life before me, and I sit down to record. This won't take long. Constance zips through the protocols, leaving the proper software in place. In the shadowy light, I can see myself in the terminal, and it's an eerie feeling, alone but not.
I could make this a lot more detailed. Instead, I go with blunt, which is my favorite style of communication. If I never have to dissemble again, that will be wonderful. My time on Ithiss-Tor damn near killed me, figuratively and literally.
I imagine Tarn playing this message and smile. Then I deliver two words: "I quit." Satisfied, I stop the program and tell Constance, "Send it right away, please."
"My pleasure, Sirantha Jax. Do you require anything else?"
"Not at the moment. Feel free to go back to exploring the ship."
Like she needs my permission. She's been blazing through the circuits since Dinaour ship's mechanic and my best friendset her free from the memory spike. Under her direction, the long-haul fuel system has increased efficiency by fourteen percent. Though I had no hope of the merchants on Ithiss-Tor doing so, Constance might even improve the phase drive from the inside out.
Standing, I consider the consequences of what I've just done.
Tarn may reply with bluster and words of obligation; he might say I have a duty during mankind's darkest hour. Maybe he'll even accuse me of turning tail when the chips are down. Once, those accusations might have even been true.
Now my skin is too thick with scars for such barbs to draw blood. I know my own mettle. I've glimpsed my breaking point. And Tarn will never, ever have my measure.
I choose not to serve the Conglomerate as an ambassador, but that doesn't mean I've given up on humanity. Surrender isn't a word in my personal lexicon; there are other ways and means. If nothing else, Ithiss-Tor taught me there's always a choice.
Now we're heading for the last place anyone would ever look for us, Emry Station. It will be a long haul in straight space, but this isn't a frequently traveled trade route, and there's nothing here to attract pirates and raiders. We should pass unnoticed.
After the Morgut attack, Surgeone of March's old merc buddiesand Kora, his Rodeisian mate, turned the place into a virtual fortress, complete with junker tech that will prevent the docking of Morgut vessels. Just thinking about them, the ravening monsters, brings to mind a memory too vivid for me to staunch.
After Vel shines the light both ways, I don't have an opinion, but I do know my skin is crawling all to hell. It feels like I'm passing through wisps of webs, not enough to entrap me, but it does stick to my face. I refuse to let myself start slapping at my skin, a complete breakdown of impulse versus intellect. I won't be the one to go nuts and flee shrieking in the dark.
The hum of machinery grows louder as we make the turn Jael suggested. Maybe we can find a terminal here, so Vel can patch in and see how many we're looking at. I'd rather know the odds, straight out. I saw the bounty hunter handle a full clutch of Morgut on board the Silverfish, so maybe our chances are good. Maybe.
I continue the silent pep talk as we continue, step by step. The coppery stink increases, the closer we come. By the time we hit maintenance, I have to cover my nose and mouth with my shirt.
I don't want to look, but it's a compulsion as Vel lifts his light. I register impressions as flashes that burn themselves into my retinas. I'll see this room again, frame by frame, in my nightmares, as if rendered on some old-fashioned film.
They've been here. Chunks of flesh litter the floor. I imagine the hunger, the frenzy that drove them to this. I imagine the spilled blood as an intoxicant, reacting on their alien body chemistry.
I fight my way out of the flashback to find March studying me. He recognizes the signs in someone else, but he doesn't say anything. We're broken in complementary ways, thus rendering our damage comprehensible to each other. Instead, he merely sets a palm on my back, centered heat to let me get my head on straight. I take a deep breath.
We had been forced to take shelter at Emry Station, when Kora gave birth on our Conglomerate ship. Grimspace damages unformed minds, so you can't jump with a child less than two turns old on board. Emry offered the only sanctuary within our hauling range, but once we docked, we found the place infested with Morgut. I'd never forget the trouble that followed. Nor would Surge and Kora, so they'd taken defensive measures. Therefore, we couldn't find a safer place if we searched the whole galaxy, but we're not going there just to hide or to see old friends, although that's part of it.
I step out into the corridor and nearly run into Vel. He goes without human skin these days, more often than not. I hope that means he feels sure of his welcome.
"I wanted to tell you that I've nearly completed the simulator you requested."
My brows arch. "Already?"
"It was not difficult," he tells me with a flex of his mandible. "All Farwan's data is now a matter of public record."
"And you can build anything I might want from a schematic." I try to restrain a smile. From anyone else, that claim would seem like bragging.
"I am unfamiliar with artificial intelligence," he says then.
Right. So he can't build an android from the plans. Good to know.
"Thanks. Will you find Argus for me? I want to talk to him."
I've got an idea. Maybe it's crazy, but then again, some of the best ideas are. Can you imagine the reaction they gave the guy who first found phase-drive technology? This is certainly less radical.
Vel inclines his head, then heads off down the hall.
Later, I'm ensconced in the starboard lounge when Argus finds me. He's young, one of Keri's distant cousins, and he has the J-gene. Doc confirmed it for me today. The kid first came to my attention when I was investigating a murder attempt back on Ithiss-Tor. Argus broke the rules and slid planetside to get a glimpse of the unknown. Too bad for him, he couldn't figure out how to leave the spaceport.
He strides up to my table and offers an awkward bow. His earnest courtesy makes me want to smile, but I don't. I know how easily these kids bruise. I want his willing cooperation, so I'll need to deal with him carefully.
There are others in the break area, mostly clansmen, and a few of them raise their brows when they see the captain's lady invite a young man to join her. Tough. Mary knows, they'd talk even more if I did this in my quarters.
"Have a seat," I invite.
Argus takes me at my word and drops down into the chair opposite me. Wariness wars with excitement in his young face. I think he knows already that I have a reason for summoning him. This isn't a social visit.
"Good to see you again…;" He trails off, unsure what rank to use for me and unwilling to presume the intimacy of my name.
"Jax is fine. I have this idea," I continue. "Maybe jumpers can be trained outside an academy. If a starship were outfitted with a simulator, a lead jumper could take on an apprentice and spend the downtime in straight space teaching him the ropes. It might also be possible to tweak the nav computer so that both jumpers could jack in at once."
His excitement spikes to painful levels; his smile becomes blinding. "Do I think it's possible, or do I want to sign on?"
"Let's start with the first question."
Argus nods. "I think it could work. We teach kids to drive in vehicles like that dirtside. Why not up here?"
I go on, "I think you're right. It wouldn't take too much to tweak this ship into a training vessel. That way, the lead jumper is there to make sure things go smoothly. Like any apprenticeship, it would have a training period and a commencement."
"I want in," Argus says. "I'll do it."
"It may be a while before I have all the technology in place," I warn. "We have good people on board, but I won't risk a jump unless the gear has been perfected, and I'm sure you're ready."
"Whatever you think best," he answers.
Well, that's a good start.
"The good news is, I have a simulator standing by. It'll give you a feel for grimspace and replicate the pulse of the beacons. At the Academy, we trained on those for years before ever touching a ship."
He grimaces a little. "Well, I hope it doesn't take years, but I know a jumper has to be well trained. I would never put the ship at risk."
There's good steel in this one. We talk a little longer, but he's eager to be off to tell his friends that he's been accepted as an apprentice jumper, the first in this new program. Whether he knows it or not, Argus Dahlgren will make history; he'll be the first of his kinda jumper trained outside of Farwan's academies. It'll be up to me to make sure he does the role proud.
"So you did it," March says from behind me. "You think he'll be ready in time?"
We've talked about this at length. It's his idea, his dream, and I'm going to make it happen. Not the way they originally intended, but sometimes paradigms must be adapted and improved.
"I hope so," I say quietly. "We need this if we have any hope of winning the war against the Morgut."
His big hands on my shoulders feel hard and warm. I lean back against him, resigned to a long haul. But at least I can use the time working with Argus.
Mostly, I'm tired of taking orders. It's time for me to decide my own destiny. And that's just what I'm going to do.
Top Customer Reviews
Space is beautiful!!! Well.. Only if there are no Moguls and an imminent threat of annihilation from their increasing attacks to Conglomerate posts... So yeah, the universe is at the brink of war and Jax is trying to make the best out of it. Training and learning new war tactics and facing the challenges imposed in her new role as the Lieutenant Captain of the newly established Armada - which holds March as its Commander. This books delivers as much adventure, explosions, fights and intrigue as its previous. Battles occur and new losses hit close to home for our lovely Sirantha Jax.
I grinned with the cliffhanger at the end *rubs sweaty palms* and thought: way to go Jax!!!
I Love this series! I can't say this enough. Ann Aguirre has made my interest in sci-fi and adventure take a whole new level. I love the world she created and I find myself intrigued in how slowly but steadily the author delivers such smart and heartbreaking plots. These characters are alive in my imagination and I am grateful to have found them.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
War is coming. The Morguts, flesh eating monsters, that have a 97% kill rate against - everyone - are decimating the universe. Chancellor Tarn, the head of the Conglomerate has asked March, Jax's lover and pilot extraordinaire to become a commander. To build an Armada to fight off the Morgut. Both Jax and March are tired, and beaten but they have that adventurous spirit and the need and the want to help out those in need. Along with their crew, they make a call for anyone and everyone to join up for training, preparation and eventual battle. The odds are against them, and many know this will be their last mission, but camaraderie and perseverance holds strong.
Killbox is a heavy book. There is no light at the tunnel. The world is a dark, bleak place and despair hangs heavy on everyone. Yet, Ann Aguirre writes with such rich emotion that pulls you into these characters and gives you such a strong connection to them. Her characters are so real. Although written in Jax's point of view, I feel like I know them each so intimately. They aren't pretty, they are exhausted, injured, and they look like Hell. They get cranky, and scared. And they are some of my favorite characters to read.
Jax so selfless, and although knows she is a top class jumper among many talents, she has this humble vibe to her - much in part to her lover March. March has taught her love, devotion, and loyalty - or at least has reawakened these attributes in her. They share such private moments in this book, such quiet, hushed, longing embraces, that make the emotion swell out of you. Also, because March can hear Jax's thoughts, we get the intimate not-spoken moments. This book is filled with Morgut slime and guts, spaceship fighting, and gore. But Ann Aguirre somehow weaves in these amazing relationships with prose that takes my breath away.
March is not the only one who gets attention. Vel, Jax's best friend has wonderful page time in this book. He is her rock, who may understand her even more than March. He is such a gentlemen, and is one of the best supporting characters out there. Rounding out the crew are Dina and Hit, who add just a touch of sarcastic humor to the book.
But like I said, this book is gloomy - it's amazing, but war sucks, and Ann Aguirre holds nothing back in showing the face of battle. I don't read a lot of sci-fi but the world, and all the odd phrases and words read very easy and I am able to keep track of everything without difficulty. This series must be read in order. So much has happened in the previous three books to bring us to where we stand with Killbox. And with two books left in the series, I am nervous and excited to reach the end of this journey.
One of the reasons that I prefer Urban Fantasy, and now Science Fiction Romance, series to stand-alone novels is because if they are done correctly, you get to experience and enjoy the growth of the heroine throughout the duration of the novels. The Sirantha Jax series is a spectacular example of this! It has become one of my most favorite series to look forward to.
Killbox is the fourth book in the "Jax" series and boy, did this book deliver. We find our heroine Sirantha "Jax" through with her gig as an ambassador for the Conglomerate Ithiss Torr, and she's ready to get back to her roots: jumping in grimspace and overall kicking ass. But along with her new position of power, March has been made a new commander of the Conglomerate Armada. He and Jax must now recruit pirate ships and whomever else they can get to fight on the side of the Conglomerate against the horrifying flesh-eating Morgut. The war has begun between the two forces, and the Conglomerate are desperately outnumbered.
I have to say that while I love Jax and March together as the heroine/hero, my favorite character in the series is actually a secondary character, Vel. What I found most compelling in the last book, and even more so in Killbox, is the connection that Jax and Vel have. He is so heroic and loyal and noble... he and Jax have such an intense relationship that you wonder if Vel is not giving March a run for his money in the romantic relationship area. What is crazy for my sick little mind to wrap around, and I know I'm not alone in this, is that Vel is a Bug. Yes, he is a Bug who wears a human facade to make others more comfortable. Ms. Aguirre drops several hints that even Jax herself is confused by their deep connection; it is undeniable. This is science fiction romance at its best, people!
In this fourth book we see a much more mature and selfless Jax. The first three books in the series have focused more on her point of vies, but with this book even though it is still from her POV she really gets a good grasp on her place in the future of the Conglomerate. To have started out as such a frustratingly selfish character in the first book, Grimspace, she has become a truly selfless character. She places herself right smack in front of danger to save those she has become loyal to and doesn't ever second guess her actions. As with the previous books, this story is dark. War is going on, and the outlook through the book is grim. I sat on the edge of my seat biting my nails through the entire book, no exaggeration. Death and emotional loss are very real components of this war for the universe.
I will warn readers ahead of time that this book ends in a major cliffhanger. One that will make you crazy. It is no surprise, then, that I am chomping at the bit for fifth installment, Aftermath, not out until September, 2011. A year from now! I'm dying! If you have not started this series, get on it. This series cannot be read out of order, so be sure to start with Grimspace (previously reviewed in September).
Aftermath - 9.2011
Endgame - 9.2012
This book starts where we left in Doubleblind. After leaving Ithiss-Tor Jax contacts Chancellor Tarn and resigns at her post as ambassador. After all the events in Ithiss-Tor they are in need of some time off and decided to head to Emry Station where they are reunited with Surge and Kora. While in Emry Station Chancellor Tarn contacts them again, but this time he is asking for March help. He wants him to be the Commander and organizer of the new Conglomerate's Armada. This Armada would have as a focus to fight the pirates, slavers and the biggest threat of all, the human-eating Morgut. With the lack of available ships March reach to smugglers, pirates and similar and offers them amnesty in exchange for their services. Many accept the dead and beging their training in the new facilities at Emry Station. March thinks he shouldn't be involve with Jax while he is the Commander of the Armada because it won't look good to others and temporally ends the relationship with Jax until after the war is over.
The situation in the universe is worst than expected, Morgut's attacks are increasing and they start to have a pattern. Also Jax realizes Morgut's attacks are almost impossible to anticipate because they do not need to use the beacons to flight through grimspace.
In these dire circumstances extreme measures need to be taken and sacrifices need to be done, without knowing if it will ever be enough.
In this book we see all the characters we love and others we thought lost are brought back to enrich its pages.
The Jax of this book is not the same from book one (Grimspace); she has come a long way and grown immensely. She is more mature and more conscious. Now she is thinking of the consequences before acting, and when she acts is always thinking in others first. Jax has become a selfless woman willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good, without playing the victim role.
Jax is also having a difficult time, the end of her relationship with March is been very hard on her, also her closest friend Vel is sent back to Ithiss-Tor to help the new ambassador. Vel's departure is even tougher on her than March situation. In the course of the events there are more loses for her, making her feel more lonely and isolated.
March is still March. I like him sometimes, I don't like him others. I know Jax is a new and better person in part to him, but still some of his actions don't let me accept him completely. March is in many pages in this book, but I didn't feel his presence as a strong as in previous books. Also I didn't understand his need to end things with Jax, I think he could have handled things better, they were a stable and a known couple. What would have happened if they had been married?
One of the characters I love the most is Vel. He is the noblest being ever. The relationship between him and Jax confuse me. I wish Jax was with him and not with March. I know he is a different kind and nothing less than a bug, but he is the best. I don't even know how to explain it but he complements Jax so perfectly, he is her support and anchor and had always been there for her. Their scenes together were so emotional that they had me in tears. I really hope for something else for them.
In this book Dina let us see her without her hard façade and what she show us made her more real and approachable. Dina and Hit's is relationship is tested as was many others. But even though hearts were hardened or broken, the friendships intensified and bloomed.
Killbox is written from Jax's point of view, but Mrs. Aguirre narrative is so rich and detailed that you know what the other characters are feeling and thinking, almost as much as with Jax.
The world building is superb and innovative. And it's done with such elaboration that sometimes I was wishing I could experience for real what they were experiencing. For example the description of grimspace and the passion Jax feels for it makes me wish I could experience grimspace for myself. That's how talented Mrs. Aguirre is.
Killbox is a roller coaster of emotions that will take you from the highest point to the lowest in a turn of a page. It will have you smiling, crying and wishing for more pages. I take my hat off to Mrs. Aguirre.
I cannot recommend enough this book and this series. Sirantha Jax series must be read in order, and let me tell you the other books are as good as this one. So when you get them prepare yourself for a "Jax marathon" because you won't be able to put them down.
The war has begun and both Jax and March are right in the middle of it. March has become the focus of the war, so Jax loses some of the limelight which she is happy to give up, but her and March must also give up their relationship to focus on the battle. I understood March's decision, but it was frustrating -- and Jax's insecurity as to the why of it was silly, I thought. I missed not having Vel in much of this book, he was around so much in book #3. Is it just me or is Aguirre setting up a love triangle? Anyone else get that from this book? I have to admit that I find that idea somewhat intriguing if I am not misreading it.
I understood what Jax was doing in the end, but I really thought she should have talked about this with March. I was surprised Hit would run off as carelessly as she did with Jax. I think March would have seen it as a good plan but that he would understand that Jax needs him as her pilot to accomplish it. Instead, Jax and March keeping forcing themselves apart to get things done when they should be working together. I also keep wanting to see Jael again, I do not like what happened to him in Doublind and would really like the crew to go rescue him. Anyway, I can't wait until September 2011.........
While the story evolves more, a common enemy is brought more to the foreground, which is wonderful. I am getting horribly horribly tired of the on and off relationship between Jax and March. Can't we please have an ENTIRE book where they are TOGETHER!? Without SOMETHING happening!? Oh look it's a war we can't be together, oh look the war I was just in broke my brain, we can't be together like we were. Oh look you fixed me and now we're together but because I'm now you're CO we can't be.
It's just getting frustrating I suppose. I'd like there to be one book where at least their relationship is steadfast in ALL ways. But I suppose you could argue it'd be boring then. I don't know.
A side from my Jax/March relationship qualms I loved the book. Still very well written and very interesting. I love that there are some unpredictable things and that you are given the opportunity to try and figure out the puzzle on your own. And of COURSE I'll read the next one seeing as I won that contest where I have a character named after me. ;D I'm just hoping for a little more lloovvvvveeeeee!