BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A far-future wreck diver discovers an ancient spaceship that carries long-lost and dangerous technology.
PROS: Addictive blend of mystery and sf adventure; complex protagonist; raises thought-provoking issues; Rusch’s writing style makes for easy consumption; never a dull scene.
CONS: Relies on the hard-to-swallow idea of forgotten technology.
BOTTOM LINE: I’m looking forward to reading more about this character.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving Into the Wreck originated as a pair of novellas published in Asimov’s Science Fiction. The novel contains these two Asimov’s Reader’s poll-winning stories (in modified form) and an even-longer third act. Considering that publication history, Diving Into the Wreck feels remarkably contiguous and holds together quite well, rounding out the story of Boss, a wreck diver in the far future.
Wreck diving consists of salvaging derelict space vessels, usually for financial gain, but Boss is mostly motivated by the historical value of the ships she finds. Here, Boss discovers an ancient, pre-FTL ship that cannot possibly exist given its distance from Earth. So she puts together a dive team to explore the wreck and discovers a long-lost technology that threatens the uneasy relationship between the Empire and the less-lawful outer planets.
The exploration of abandoned ships for the purposes of retaining historical value helps make Diving Into the Wreck a consistently palatable blend of mystery and space adventure, one that’s filled with sense of wonder. What secrets do the ships contain? What dangers do they hold? Rusch’s prose, infused with top-notch world building, makes it a pleasure to find out, with a clear and straightforward writing style that’s easily absorbed. The characters are well drawn, too, each one exhibiting traits that make them unique. But it’s Boss who is the most complex. Her choice of profession, unlike pirating and scavenging, is noble one but it’s just as dangerous. What also helps make her an interesting character you want to know more about is that she’s a loner who, for reasons we eventually learn, chooses the emptiness of space over socializing with others. As if to announce her choice of solitude to the universe, she even names her ship Nobody’s Business. (And to drive the point home to readers, we don’t even know her real name. “Boss” is just what people call her.) But Boss ultimately has to face her troubled past with the discovery of the long-forgotten technology.
And here is where I had some minor hiccups enjoying the story – a story with a plot that hinges on forgotten technology. It’s hard to imagine, in this Information Age, how such technology could ever be lost. Once the genie is out of the bottle it stays out, doesn’t it? To be sure, that trope has been used before in sf this and this story does take place several millennia in our future, so after a brief battle with wavering disbelief, I was ultimately willing to accept that we could lose that particular set of car keys. It helps that the nature of the technology itself provides for some thought-provoking moments regarding the ethics of its use, a meaty addition that far outweighs any reservations about it’s disappearance from known knowledge. The ethical dilemma, though resolved in a way that partly negates their cost, neatly sets the stage for further adventures. In fact, the author already has a sequel on the way. Considering how eager I became to consume this one, I can’t wait.
See also: JP’s review.