Boneyards (Diving Universe #3)
Krisitne Kathryn Rusch
Warning! Spoilers from City of Ruins are contained in the review below! You’ve been warned!
Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s two previous novels in the Diving Universe, Diving Into the Wreck andCity of Ruins, are excellent science fiction adventure tales. City of the Ruins featured a major paradigm shift for Boss and her crew due to the major of discovery of a Dignity Vessel and its living occupants. Opening up five years after City of Ruins, Boneyards sees Boss and the crew of the Dignity Vessel searching for the remnants of the ancient Dignity fleet. Much like City of Ruins took Boss out of her natural environment, zero-g exploration of wrecks, Boneyards starts by taking away some of Boss’s control. It is interesting, and maybe a little fun, to watch Boss squirm with notion that she is not in charge when on Coop’s ship the Ivoire. IBoss and Coop’s search for the trail of the Dignity Fleet is interspersed with the narration of “stealth technology” researcher Squishy who has taken it upon herself to eradicate Stealth research from the Enterran Empire.
Right away I had a significant problem with the disconnectedness of the two narratives. The jumps between Boss/Coop’s quest and Squishy were often abrupt. Given my predilections when it comes to reading I was definitely more invested and interested in this aspect of the novel so my initial dislike of Squishy’s story has nothing to do with how well its written just that it was the story I wanted. Those shifts, made slightly more difficult by the fact that Squishy’s chapters alternate between flashbacks and present, take some getting used to but eventually draw the reader in. The flashbacks during the Squishy narrative serve as a sort of origin story for the assertive and opinionated scientist, giving readers the tale of how she and Boss first met and going even further back how she first became involved with Stealth technology. It’s really quite a tale, full of surprises even with everything we already know and you really get a handle on just how much the Enterran research into Stealth technology has effect Squishy.
While Boss maintains her typically cool distance there is some deeper exploration of her emotional core; particularly as it pertains to her relationship to Coop. It is interesting to see how she divorces her personal and professional relationships. Really, in these chapters the more interesting character is Coop. The “man out of time” trope is always a fascinating one and seeing that trope applied across a whole compliment of ship’s crew is heartbreaking. There is such a palpable, surprisingly aimless quality to Coop’s drive his need to find out what happened to the Dignity Fleet always tainted by how far across the gulf of time he and the crew of the Ivoire have come. I can’t tell of Rusch’s decision to have Squishy’s plot intersect with this part of the story right as at it was really getting interesting was brilliant move or a misstep. I’m going to vote for brilliant move particularly given how Squishy’s tale ends; things are really going get heated in the next book.
While the elements of mystery and exploration that I loved so much from Diving into the Wreck and City of Ruins are less present in Boneyards it is another excellent entry into this series. While I can heartily recommend Boneyards to individuals who have read the previous two novels it should be noted that the story in this book, as in the previous one, rely heavily on knowledge from the earlier books. As in the previous two novels Rusch’s prose is short and succinct and differs significantly from other writers I’ve read. It is a style the takes getting used and one that pushes the novels pace along at a nice clip. As a result Boneyards feels a bit on the short side. The novel’s stellar conclusion offers another major shift in the series that leave eagerly, one might say desperately, waiting the next book.