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REVIEW: Diving Into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

REVIEW SUMMARY: A sf mystery/adventure well worth reading.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A far-future wreck diver discovers an ancient spaceship that carries long-lost and dangerous technology.

MY REVIEW:

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.

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.

9 Comments on REVIEW: Diving Into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

  1. Hah.  Just read this one last night.  4 out of 5 from me. πŸ™‚

  2. So she’s Malcolm Reynolds?

  3. @Blue:Heh-heh…

    @Maria: I wouldn’t say that.  Mal was a wanted man by the Empire.  Boss operates within the law, legally registering her finds to claim them.  There’s not a post-war conflict between the Empire and any browncoats, just an area of outlying space that’s les enforced.  Boss’ crew, unlike Mal’s, also changes from job to job.

  4. Glad you liked the book John. The sequel, City of Ruins, does shed further light on how the secret was lost. Essentially, it was a technology belonging to a specific subset of humanity, not something in species-wide use, and them what controlled it disappeared… The sequel also continues the world-building and fleshes out details of the political structures of the time. It will be out in May 2011, and I’ll be able to show the new Dave Seeley-illustrated cover soon.

    Rusch has also written several short stories and novellas set in this universe. The stories so far in the Diving universe are:

    •”Diving into the Wreck,” first published in Asimov’s, December 2005. Reprinted
    in Recovering Apollo 8 And Other Stories, Golden Gryphon Press, 2010.
    •“The Room of Lost Souls,” first published in Asimov’s, April/May, 2008. 
    Electronic edition published by WMG Publishing, 2011.
    • “The Spires of Denon,” first published in Asimov’s, April/May, 2009.
    Electronic version published by WMG Publishing, 2010. Reprinted in Five Short
    Novels
    from Five Story Publishing 2010.
    • “Becoming One With The Ghosts,” first published in Asimov’s, October/November,
    2010.
    • “Becalmed,” to be published in Asimov’s, 2011.

    You can find more information on the Diving website, http://www.divingintothewreck.com.

  5. I read this awhile back. Loved it!

     

     

  6. The Dune universe is almost defined by the number of “lost technologies” not available to it.

  7. @Jeff: True – and there are plenty of other examples as well.  This isn’t first book to use that trope and it won’t be the last.  One of the mysteries of reading that I can’t explain is why such tropes work differently in different stories, like here.  It wasn’t a story killer, just something noticeably “out of place” that made me take pause.  

  8. You know you got the title wrong, right?

    πŸ™‚

    That aside, I really enjoyed “Becoming One with the Ghosts” in the recent Asimov’s, and your review makes me want more. I’ve got it on order now. A big “thanks” to Lou for listing the other stories, too.

    Mike

     

  9. @Mike: Ack!  No I didn’t.  And multiple times, too.  What a bonehead I am… Fixing now

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