REVIEW: Killbox

Ann Aguirre
Killbox (Sirantha Jax #4)
ACE
ISBN-10: 0441019412
ISBN-13: 978-0441019410
Science fiction
August 31, 2010

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

And her tactics are needed more than ever. Flesh-eating aliens are attacking stations on the outskirts of space, and for many people, the Conglomerate’s forces are arriving too late to serve and protect them.

Now, Jax must take matters into her own hands by recruiting a militia to defend the frontiers — out of the worst criminals, mercenaries, and raiders that ever traveled through grimspace…

I didn’t think I was going to get this one read in time, but here we are, Sirantha Jax fans, past, present and future. And my God, what a fantastic ride it’s been, including this installment. Our last Jax book took place of Vel’s home plant of Ithiss-Tor, and while I liked that book, this one showcased the Jax I’d come to love. I’ll tell you what, if in this book’s future they need to revamp the definition of noble, I’ve got a gal named Sirantha Jax they can use to illustrate it.Killbox is about sacrifice, and from the moment that Jax officially quits her job as Conglomerate ambassador, she’s forking over another helping of her life. This isn’t an uplifting book by any means, and though it’s tinged with sadness and strife – they are now officially at war, after all – for the ailing Conglomerate, I have never yet while reading this series felt this close to these characters. Aguirre pulls no stops in reaching into all of her characters and etching their pain, misery, happiness and joy onto the pages. With every page, there’s a new reason to smile, or cry. Again. I don’t know how I could possibly love Sirantha Jax’s character any more than I already do. I suspect Aguirre still has a trick or two up her authorial sleeve.

So yes, at the beginning of this one, Sirantha has surrendered her position as ambassador, only to turn right around and take on a new mission for Chancellor Tarn, who is essentially the leader of the ragtag Conglomerate, an authority without the means to back up said authority. Siantha and her lover March, plus their loyal crew, are all that’s keeping the Morgut, an insidious race of pitiless carnivores, and pirate factions from ripping what’s left of the Conglomerate apart. While thousands are dying, Sirantha and March mobilize an army, engineer new ways to manipulate grimspace (the method by which people “jump” and travel through space) and in the process have to take a long hard look at their personal relationship.

While Jax is busy letting go of those she loves, others are having to do the same thing. War is upon them, and it’s taking its tole on everyone. In order to beat out their enemies, they’ve got to learn to think like them, and Jax discovers an incredibly shocking and handy reason as to why the Morgut have been so successful at raiding, and then devouring, those on unsuspecting space stations, ships and colonies. And never has the phrase ‘know thy enemies’ been more true, and they work to build up the army from within the very masses of the pirate crews that they stop from raiding merchants and civilians.

Jax does begin to approach a kind of Mary Sue-ness in this book. She’s doing it all – helping train jumpers, organizing an army, trying to find a way to help Loras (a La’hengrin male from a planet that was given a drug to make his race docile and wholly dependent on whomever can protect them best, making them, in effect, property instead of people), while also taking time out to consider the feelings and personal relationships of all those close to her. Plus more, SO much more! Even though her job as the insurmountable Sirantha Jax doesn’t come without its hefty price tag, there does always seem to be a well enough fix around the corner, something just good enough to keep her heart, mind and body ticking. Still, Jax isn’t a pretentious character at all. I think that’s why she can get away with getting away with so much, and still come out a completely awesome character for me. She doesn’t pretty anything up, and she’s not cowering behind anything or anyone, even if she sometimes might like to. Because she is tired. She isn’t perfect, and she never, ever gives up on anyone or anything that is right.

Killbox is an installment that asks plenty of its readers. By now, if you’ve read the series, you’ve likely grown invested in these characters’ lives. I know I have. I felt every wrench in Jax’s heart, every caress March gives her, every symbolically-loaded conversation Jax has with Vel, the insectile member of their crew who once kidnapped Jax to collect a bounty on her head. Now he’s a loyal friend who’s survived just as many impossible odds with her as March. There was a scene or two, I won’t say much, but it does make me wonder about Vel! As for March, it was wonderful to see him and Jax on more even footing, despite the latter part of the book when March has to pull a little bit of rank.

Aguirre, with this series, pens some of the most exquisitely beautiful prose. While at times some of Jax’s mannerisms tended to get a little old, I couldn’t mind them because of the way Aguirre continues to show us this story and series. No matter what’s happening, there is a decided, palatable thickness to the atmosphere of each scene. They are rife with huge, tender emotions, rough anguish that makes me cry, and moments, snatches of joy that make all of that anguish worthwhile. This is the kind of story that makes the emotional roller coaster of reading so appealing. For character development, Aguirre is just off the charts. And I feel this is across the board, despite Jax being a first person narrator. You will know, unequivocally, how each character feels.

The only area that ran a little gray for me is when things get technical. And not because Aguirre can’t explain her brand of tech well. She can, very much so. It’s just that Jax undergoes a lot of….changes this time, and it got a little dizzying trying to keep up with what was happening and how exactly it was happening to her. I don’t really feel that it took away from the book, though, and I have to give credit to my short memory span for making it all seem a little more difficult than it probably was. Given the circumstances of war, it did make sense that Jax goes through what she does. When Jax sacrifices, there is always a purpose to it.

DO read this series in order. While the past books usually do a good job of recapping things for readers, I felt a little more left on my own to catch up this time, but soon I was as involved in this book’s story as any of the others. Still, reading the series in order just makes sense, as it involves a series arc, and not just a separate story within each book.

The ending left me feeling a little desperate, but there is always hope since this isn’t the last book in the series. There are two more: Aftermath (September 2011) and Endgame (September 2012). I have a feeling that, even though I’m glad the author is good enough to give us a solid ending, I will likely bawl and mourn it when it passes. But at least we’ll always have Jax, in these books. I’ve had so much fun with them and this book has been the pinnacle of them all up to this point.

Rating: Five Scoops

Visit the author’s site for more info.

Series order:

  • Grimspace
  • Wanderlust
  • Doubleblind
  • Killbox
  • Aftermath (September 2011)
  • Endgame (September 2012)
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17 comments

  1. Amazing review! I admit to only reading the first book, but now I want to gobble up the other ones just to get to this one. Ann is a seriously talented writer who stays true to the story, no matter how much it hurts, yet she never does it for gratuitous reasons, but that’s what makes it so compelling. I say we all need to run out & buy this book!

    • Stacy, there’s been so much happening in this series. So much great character development. I’m betting you WILL gobble up the others! :D

    • Thanks! Couldn’t agree more! She’s one of the best heroines out there right now, period.

    • He is so…soothing. Such a beautifully drawn character. I loved that his short story that Ann wrote prior to this book was alluded to in Killbox!

  2. Kmont, I’m sooooooooooooooooo happy you’ve read it already–isn’t it an awesome, awesome book? And I completely and absolutely agree with you about the characterization. It amazes me, with every book, how well Jax’s voice portrays all the characters’ feelings, not just her reactions to the events around her.

    Great, truly great writing, isn’t it?

    (And I keep my fingers crossed that we will get a Vel series!)

    • Azteclady, it is my favorite of the series to date! I felt SO much while reading it, but probably the most profound was, well, humbled. Because of how moving the story is. I don’t know if I can really explain it. Know what I mean? LOL.

      A Vel series would be awesome! I want to talk about a couple of moments he had in Killbox so bad! :D

  3. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I feel it’s the best so far (but I haven’t finished with Aftermath yet). I can say definitively I will not be writing a series about Vel. Everything will wrap up satisfactorily by the end of book six, and yes, I will most likely cry as I am tying up all the loose ends.

    • Aw man! :(

      But it’s understandable. Isn’t it funny how we (well, some of us) DO want a definite end to a series, but we just don’t want to get to that end? And then we savor that end too. Ah, the anguish lol! I’d say you’ve majorly accomplished something in that case. ;)

  4. I think my favourite scenes was the ones where she shared with Vel and March – very bittersweet and I agree about the characterisation – was so rich and well developed and so much did happen in this book that I think I am going to reread it again.
    I will be very sad to see the end of this series. I will be savouring Aftermath and Endgame and will definitely reread the previous books!

    • Yes, a reread! Actually can’t wait to be rereading the entire, finished series one day! :D

  5. I can’t wait to get to the fourth book! I’m only on book two. This is an awesome series!

  6. Ahhh, ok, *gnaws through restraints*. That’s it, my book buying restrictions are going down. I can’t take it anymore. I must have this book.

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