Book Review: Grounded! by Chris Claremont

Man, it’s been awhile since I read something with a spaceship on the cover. So, I went rummaging around in my to-read pile, and found a good ol’ dollar-bin paperback. One by famed X-men writer Chris Claremont, no less!

grounded

This cover lies.

Grounded! is actually a sequel to Claremont’s previous novel, First Flight. I’ve got vague memories of seeing ads for the books in random issues of X-men, back in the day. And I even read First Flight a good while before I started this blog (but I still got it out of the dollar bin, even then).

The books center on Lt. Nicole Shea, a space-pilot astronaut. In the first book, she fights some space pirates and makes first contact with a race of alien catpeople. And now, in the second, she has to deal with the fallout, as she’s been taken off of space-duty, and shipped out to Edwards Air Force Base, where she’s to act as a cultural liaison between the alien catpeople and the US Military as they try to merge alien and human technology.

Something I realized reading Grounded! that I didn’t in First Flight was Nicole’s character origins. She’s essentially Carol Danvers, just without the Captain Marvel powers. Which isn’t surprising, considering a depowered Carol Danvers was a supporting character in X-men during Claremont’s run. Likewise, there’s a precociously brilliant teen computer prodigy who reads more or less like a non-mutant Kitty Pryde. There’s a bit of other Claremont-ism in the book, notably in the dude’s obvious enthusiasm for aviation. Thankfully, that’s about as far as that goes– there’s no corsets or mind control kink to worry about. The book passes the Bedchel test– though at the same time the descriptions of women in the book get a little … drool-y. Though that’s honestly not anything specific to Claremont.

first flight

This cover also lies.

With a cover like that, you’d think Grounded! would be a mil-SF adventure, or at least Top Gun in Space(tm), right? And what we get is … not that. On the one hand, I’ll at least give Claremont credit for making Grounded! more of a character study, even though it’s a lot slower paced than a book with an exclamation point in its title should be. So Nicole gets fleshed out, with her various self doubts and a little bit of PTSD from her time getting chased around by space pirates in the previous book.

The problem is, Grounded! is pretty scattershot beyond that. Which, well, may be a bit Claremont-y in and of itself, as he did have a tendency to just kind of introduce plot threads and leave them dangling. Which you can get away with in a monthly comic book, but it’s a lot more glaring in a written novel. Grounded! would be a lot more interesting if it focused on one thing– but as it is, the book is a jumble of ideas about first contact with aliens (who you’d really think would play a bigger part in the book than they do), virtual reality, performance enhancing drugs, and a bunch of other stuff. It’s all something of a jumbled mess, to be honest.

Worse yet, when Claremont finally does introduce what I assume is the main plot, I was able to guess the twist, like, immediately. Which had me skip the last third of the novel or so to see if I was right– and I was. Go figure. I mean, at least it’s something of a novel twist, but it was still predictable. Not to mention the fact that I couldn’t be arsed to push through another 100 pages or so to find out the twist ‘legitimately’ doesn’t do much to recommend the book.

So yeah. For a dollar, Grounded! was an interesting little curiosity– though honestly not much beyond that. I’d only recommend it for the die-hardest of Claremont fans, to be honest. But even then you’d be better off picking up some old X-men issues instead. Still, apparently he wrote a third book in the series, called Sundowner. So, y’know, that’s something else to keep an eye out for next time I dig around in the good ol’ dollar bin.

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