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REVIEW: Boneyards by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

REVIEW SUMMARY: This is less a book about Boss than it is about Squishy and standing up for what you believe in no matter what the cost.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Boss and her wreck diving team explore the fate of the Lost Fleet while Squishy is on the run from the Empire after making a stand against research activities into long lost stealth technology.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Raises ethical and moral issues; Squishy’s well-told narrative (the driving force of the novel).
CONS: Though it may set the stage for the next adventure , the promise of the titular Boneyard is never quite realized; one really interesting plot twist is resolved too quickly.
BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable space adventure with food for thought.

I’ve been quite enjoying Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s space adventure series about Boss, a no-nonsense loner who explores derelict space vessels for their historical value. As depicted in the first two novels, Diving Into the Wreck and City of Ruins, Boss and her space diving team have discovered long-lost “stealth tech”, a technology that’s very powerful (far more advanced than the current state of affairs) and also very dangerous. This is problematic for Boss because (1) the Empire wants to get their power-hungry hands on it, and (2) Boss is not exactly on speaking terms with the Empire.

In the new novel, Boneyards, the situation becomes a bit heated because Rosealma (a.k.a. Squishy), an outspoken member of Boss’ team who will stop at nothing to prevent the Empire’s research from claiming any more lives, has conspired to take matters into her own hands. Meanwhile, Boss is busy helping Coop and his time-misplaced crew — the unfortunate victims of the very same stealth tech’s volatility — search for clues to what happened to the Lost Fleet of Dignity Vessels. The central question of the novel leads to whether or not Boss will help her friend Squishy (whose actions are questionable) at the risk of being captured by the Empire and possibly unlocking for them the deadly secrets of stealth tech.

The road to this conflict is told through two, keenly delivered narratives. (No surprise here, three novels in and Rusch’s writing style proves to be consistently lean, confidently delivered and easily consumed.) In the first story line, Boss assists Coop in his search for the Lost Fleet, a trail that ultimately leads to a vast collection of Dignity Vessels: the so-called Boneyard. This huge cache of historical treasure promises great things and exciting times for the overall story arc, but for now the promise of the Boneyard is sadly never fully realized before the end of the novel. One does hope that answers will be given in the next Boss story. (Crosses fingers.) In the meantime, Boss’ story does show Boss’ evolution as a character; here she seems even more out of her element than before, taking a back seat to Coop’s lead. She also gets some time planetside in a reconnaissance mission to a seedy bar that was well done. Furthermore, Boss’ back story is reignited a bit with a nice, though too-quickly resolved, plot twist near book’s end.

The second narrative, which doesn’t intersect with the first throughout the large majority of the novel, details Squishy’s life-changing stand against the Empire’s quest for stealth technology and all the lives claimed by their misguided research. I suppose that in some way Squishy feels guilty for their lack of results since, as one of the leading experts on it, she has withheld information. But I’m left wondering if her subsequent actions — conspiring to destroy an Imperial space station and succeeding, the escape from which begins her story — are ultimately forgivable. Is there too high a price to pay for standing up for what you believe in? Kudos to the author for an issue (albeit a disturbing one) that had this reader thinking about ethics and morals. Science fiction doesn’t do that enough. The only meta-consequence of Squishy’s actions is that she seems less sympathetic. Were her actions any less disastrous (even if unintentionally) than the Empire’s stealth research? Again, the story makes the reader think…

At any rate, Squishy’s story is the real narrative force of Boneyards, partly because of the seriousness of her actions and partly because of how her story is told. Rusch alternates between her present day predicament (her escape from the Empire and, in particular, an ex-lover named Quint) and flashbacks to her past (how she became involved with stealth tech and her relationship with Quint). Every switch between past and present was another piece of a puzzle that added to the overall picture and kept me turning the pages, and ultimately leaving me wanting to know what happens next.


About John DeNardo (13014 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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