Sirantha Jax is a soldier in the Conglomerate Forces. She has a genetic ability to take her ships into “grimspace”, the primary mode of interstellar travel. Her body is further enhanced with various high-tech implants to facilitate her skills to use against the Morgut, a race of aliens that crave human flesh. In a last ditch effort to prevent the Morgut from reaching her homeworld, Jax takes it upon herself to change the beacons that all jumpers need to navigate grimspace. It works, but it costs the lives of 600 Conglomerate soldiers. She is seen as a savior to some people but a mass-murderer to others. Sirantha is imprisoned and put on trial for dereliction of duty, murder and high-treason.
Aguirre’s writing is tight and the characters have plenty of depth. This is the fifth book in the Sirantha Jax novel series but the reader doesn’t feel lost. All pertinent plot points from the previous stories are woven into the narrative in such a way that makes this book feel like the beginning of its own story, not the continuation of a larger one.
Aftermath tackles a number of issues: How does one cope with unintentionally killing hundreds of people? Would you be able to make that decision again? Would you attempt to make things right regardless of verdict? At just over 300 pages Aguirre doesn’t have the space to give these questions the depth of debate needed but does a serviceable job nonetheless.
The settings of the alien worlds are rich and make the reader feel like they are truly on another planet and not just an earth like jungle with different-colored fauna. The same goes for the alien characters. A major problem with a number of science fiction titles is that the authors just lazily make every extraterrestrial mostly human with one or two cosmetic changes and a strange way of speaking. The Mareq that Jax runs into feel authentically alien, giving her story even more gravity. This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill military science fiction story with some obligatory romance thrown in.
Ann Aguirre is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers and ‘Aftermath’ is a big reason why. I am looking forward to readling all the books in the Sirantha Jax series.