Diving Into the Wreck
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
I won’t lie, this is precisely the kind of book for me. I love derelict spaceships. It also so happens I love science fiction that incorporates both historical and mysterious elements. The discovery of ancient alien civilizations, the uncovering of here-to-fore unknown knowledge, and the recovery of lost technological wonders are all elements of story that I get consistently excited about. In a sense Diving Into the Wreck manages to cover all those bases (well, the “alien” bit requires a bit of sideways thinking) with a certain deft aplomb and brevity that is at once immanently readable and, unfortunately, occasionally disappointing.
The first thing I noticed is the almost anti-Faulknerian sentence and paragraph structure. Told in the first person perspective paragraphs rarely hit anything more then five sentences and more frequently are only one are two sentences in length. This gives the narrator, to my recollection given no other name but Boss, something of an odd voice. Though given her self-possessed predilection towards solitude the conversational tone and clipped narrative makes sense. It is really only distracting for the first couple of chapters after which I managed to adjust quite nicely.
The fast paced narrative structure segues into a fast-paced plot that pays only bare attention to Rusch’s world in favor of telling a fast action-packed tale instead. As a result Diving Into the Wreck doesn’t delve too deeply into the scientific aspects of Rusch’s world instead spending more time focusing on history and particularly history as pertains to both science and government. W hat we do learn of the of the universe that Rusch’s characters inhabit is almost exclusively limited to that which is necessary to advance the plot. We get glimpses of a recent planet spanning conflict that split the galaxy and are shown an uneasy peace that now exists between the two aggressors but it is only enough information to underscore how the conflict and underlying tensions affect Boss and her decisions. Inevitably more time is spent on the titular wreck and its own history but even the revelations of its own origin deal explicitly with their implications to the plot on hand.
The novel is divided into three, mostly complete, interlocked stories that together form a cohesive narrative that examines the dangers of shining light into the darker aspects of history and asks whether or not some knowledge should remain buried under the detritus of the past. At the same time I occasionally found that the end of one of these sections occurred right after something really exciting happened and I found the change of narrative direction pulled me out of the story. Was never disoriented for long but the sudden changes felt a little rough. As with many first person narratives you never form any kind of tie with characters outside the narrator and Boss, not necessarily a social butterfly herself, means that other character’s motivations remain opaque throughout the whole of the story. Even Boss herself remains at an emotional arms length always her narration taking on at least some of the same businesslike tone and facade she presents to the other characters in the story.
The plot is thoroughly engrossing. Even before the connections between the first two sections of the novel become obvious you can’t but help being drawn in by the mysteries that show up and the enthusiasm Boss shows for uncovering the history behind them. Diving Into the Wreck shifts into high gear in its final third; the triumphs and tragedies from earlier in the novel converging into a satisfying, though somewhat bittersweet, ending. The ending of course is also a beginning and while all the loose ends are more or less tied up, we are left with the possibility of more in the future. While the distinct narrative voice of Diving Into the Wreck might not be right for some readers I found it a wonderfully engaging read that had me longing to be exploring the silent, frozen hallways of long abandoned spaceships right alongside Boss and her crew. I’ll be keeping an eye for for future work by Rusch that will hopefully further explore the universe glimpsed in Diving Into the Wreck. This is space adventure done right and I can’t wait for more.