City of Ruins
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
So, as you may or may be aware I was rather a large fan of Diving Into the Wreck. I have a bit of a thing for derelict space ships so it is no small surprise that a sci-fi tale about a character whose job is diving abandoned ships would appeal to me. As it turns out, generally speaking any story that in some way involves Exploration of the Unknown is one that will have my rapt attention. This is a good thing when it comes to City of Ruinswhich, as you might have guessed by the title, trades in the abandoned space ships for something a bit more sedentary.
Like Diving Into the Wreck, City of Ruins is spends much of its time on mystery and exploration. After the events of Diving Into the Wreck the focused and dedicated Boss has started up her own company in order to counter the Empire’s research into dangerous stealth technology. Boss and her employees look for stealth technology, found in the wrecks of the legendary Dignity Fleet, and carefully disseminate their findings to third parties. City of Ruins picks up with Boss reluctantly agreeing to explore the system of caves beneath an ancient city on the strong but incongruous notion that it might be home to a cache of stealth technology. Given the underground nature of the exploration there is a nice fish out of water element as Boss struggles in dealing with the particular intricacies and difficulties of gravity.
However, and perhaps most interesting, is that the novel opens in the past with a desperate crew fleeing an aggressive alien species after “communications failure.” This crew is part of the Dignity Fleet and this is the first living glimpse readers get of the legendary fleet which, as the novel later reveals, was an altruistic group of vessels who would help the just and the downtrodden before continuing on their mission. The prologue closes as the ship activates its mysterious drive and disappears from view. Needless, to say this isn’t the last we see of this enigmatic vessel as the vessel suddenly reappears amidst the ruins being explored by Boss and her team.
What was a novel of exploration quickly becomes a novel about First Contact. Sure both sides are human but they are human long separated by time and technology. The novel drags a bit during this section if only because of the waiting game played by bother parties. However the real interest comes in the ways that Boss and the Captain of the Dignity Vessel interact without interact. The Captain’s observations of Boss and the way she lovingly examines the ship and Boss’s own musings of wonder and barely restrained excitement add an interesting development to the novel. Maybe I’m reading a bit into things, there is a certain hint of romance in the air as the relationship between the enigmatic Boss the time-displaced Captain is further examined.
What I love most of City of Ruins is how carefully and stingily that Rusch deals out answers. That might sound a little strange but Rusch manages to tantalize with some answers that somehow manage to both clarify and deepen the mystery of stealth technology at the same time. It is a strange bit of narrative magic but absolutely makes City of Ruins shine. Boss’s brusk, take charge no-nonsense attitude makes her one of the more interesting female leads in science fiction today (of which there are far too few). Rusch even manages to work in a amusingly dry comedy bit regarding her name. Boss is a driven woman whose dedication to her work sets up this sort of emotional wall around her, that she chooses to call herself by her title rather than a name is a strong indication of just how much she is defined by her work. I’m hoping that we start to see characters introduced in City of Ruins begin to chip away at that stoic facade.
Rusch does her best to make City of Ruins readable for those haven’t yet read Diving in the Wreck and manages to do a passable job at that. However, I think City of Ruins does best having read Diving into the Wreck first as that background knowledge regarding Boss’s previous encounters with stealth technology gives readers a stronger connection to her as a character and a deeper understanding of those emotional walls. City of Ruins is once again some fine adventure science fiction that starts off with a similar tone to Diving into the Wreck but with a clever twist looks to take Rusch’s Diving universe in a new direction. This is another top-notch read from amazingly accomplished and woefully overlooked author. Jump on this series now folks, you won’t regret it.
Lastly: Pyr where are my nook editions!