Wanderlust

by Ann Aguirre

Cover image

Series: Sirantha Jax #2
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: September 2008
ISBN: 0-441-01627-8
Format: Mass market
Pages: 312

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Wanderlust is the second book in the Sirantha Jax series and a direct sequel to Grimspace. There's no point in reading them out of order.

The new shape of Sirantha's universe is still coming together after the climactic events of Grimspace, but they seem to involve a new job. In politics, even, but one for which she's uniquely qualified. Before she can even accept it, she finds out that multiple parties are interested in her taking this position, for widely varying reasons. But she starts her new position by taking a detour to visit some old friends (and the planet I liked least in Grimspace's settings), which turns into a war and a comprehensive distraction that lasts the rest of the book.

The biggest problem with Wanderlust (and unfortunately there are several) is that it doesn't feel like a complete book. The first few chapters set up what appears to be the next step of Sirantha's adventures, as well as establishing a new villain, and then the rest of the book is an extended detour. She does learn more about the new villain, but almost everything that's set up at the start of this book is still unresolved at the end of it. The detours are moderately entertaining and (at least after an initial decision based on unfinished business from the first book) are at least related to the plot, but this feels like the setup and middle-book distractions of a book twice as long. I came away wondering why all of that was really necessary and why I had to wait to the next book to read the actual plot.

The second problem with this book is the whining. And the angst. And the self-esteem issues. And did I mention the whining?

Okay, I get that one of the distinguishing elements of this series is that it's space opera with an urban fantasy first-person perspective, and the latter usually comes with extensive angst and insecurity about one's love life. But, really, I am not interested in Sirantha complaining about her appearance yet again, and I am particularly not interested in the obnoxiously tedious "I love you and therefore I must push you away" dance that both she and the male romance lead do through half this book, and only stop doing because they can't any more. I realize that self-destructiveness is a thing, and that people do react this way, but I don't want to read about it, and I particularly don't want to listen to the narrator whine about how hard it all is for much of the book.

Some of the appeal of Sirantha is that she's fragile, paranoid, and all sorts of messed up, but she muddles through and manages to do the right thing anyway. However, for me, the key word there is "do." When she's twitchy and angry and sarcastic and scared but doing something (which does also happen in this book), I really enjoy this series. When she's living in her own head and building elaborate plans for how she's going to destroy her life this time, it starts getting tiresome. It doesn't help that I don't see what she sees in her romantic partner (at least most of the time; he has his moments), and therefore I have even less sympathy for her grand self-sacrificing gestures.

Thankfully, there are good parts too. Aguirre introduces a few new characters, all of whom I liked. Sirantha is assembling quite the ragtag band of misfits, and they're misfits in all the right sorts of ways. They play off each other well and they're full of plot hooks. We also get an amusing twist on Sirantha's relationship with her personal assistant AI, which, while bizarrely tangential to the plot, looks like it will hold a lot of promise for the future. And I love Vel, who made the end of Grimspace and who continues to be a highlight of these books, partly because he doesn't throw emotional temper tantrums or indulge in bizarre silent treatments. I always love the quietly competent characters in stories like this.

This is not up to Grimspace, but hopefully it's an aberration. It's not bad, exactly, but it went off the rails. Thankfully, the next book promises quite a lot of Vel, which will hopefully be an improvement.

Followed by Doubleblind.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2013-11-16

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21