Monday, February 01, 2010

Review: Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Diving into the Wreck (Book Depository, Powell’s, Indiebound) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch explores deep space through its wrecks with a healthy dose of government conspiracy and family troubles.

Boss dives wrecks – she doesn’t salvage, she’s not in it for profit and she makes ends meet by leading tourists through some of her favorites. She dives for the love of the mystery and unique history each presents. Diving is dangerous – the environment of deep space is hostile, wrecks present all sorts of external dangers and unknowns, but it’s perhaps the human response to these dangers that proves the most deadly of all. Boss has found the wreck of her lifetime, a wreck that will lead her to her past and dominate her future, a wreck that will kill.

These days most of the books I read are epic fantasy and most of the authors of those books are male. When I picked up Diving into the Wreck it was an intentional departure from my typical fair. It ended up being both a welcome departure and an interesting one. Diving into the Wreck is an extremely introspective book – we are firmly routed in Boss’s head as she is forced to contemplate her fears, motivations, relationships with family and friends, her past, and future. These explorations feel real – far more real than one may expect from a relatively unreal far-future space adventure. And these explorations feel like a window into Rusch herself. I’ve never met Rusch, so I have no basis other than gut-feel, but it feels very much like through Boss, she delved deep into her own fears and motivations. This sort of deep personal introspection is not often found in the books I typically read – whether this lacking is from epic fantasy or from male writers I can only speculate, but I found it a pretty stark contrast.

Beyond the introspection, Rusch tells a compelling story about adventure in deep space. I’ve been a scuba diver for over 20 years, so I can relate just a bit to what it’s like to leave your natural environment and enter one that is hostile to your life – where you are dependent on a suite that has a finite ability to sustain life. The few times that I’ve done anything approaching cave and wreck diving are among the most terrifying and thrilling experiences in my life. Obviously the recreational diving I’m familiar with is vastly different from penetrating a dark and unknown derelict space ship in an environment that is orders of magnitudes more hostile than the ocean. But the emotional response has to be similar. For me, Rusch captures this very well, though I wonder if someone who has no point of reference (such as scuba diving) would feel the same.

Diving into the Wreck is told in three parts – each a novella originally published in
Asimov’s. I have not read the original novellas so I don’t know how much editing occurred to mash them into a more coherent narrative, but the pace of the story does suffer at times – particularly between the parts one and two. The result almost gives it the feel of a mosaic novel, though I stop short of calling it such. The style and feel of the book doesn’t really change, just the timing and flow.

Ultimately the introspection dies down as the story picks up pace toward its finale. By this point Rusch had created a strong connection between reader and character and the book was near impossible to put down. The end is satisfying, if a bit too Hollywood, and leaves the field wide open for a sequel, tentatively titled City of Ruins, that has already been announced.

Diving into the Wreck was something of a departure from my usual fair and a departure that rewarded me well. The deep introspection combined with palpable tension created a near-perfect balance throughout. And Rusch does it all less than 300 pages. This one isn’t just for fans of traditional science fiction. 8/10


Unknown said...

A sequel called... City of Ruin? Where have I heard that before?

In all seriousness, this one sounds like a fine change from all the fantasy I've been filling my head with these past few months. I'll keep an eye out for it in the future.

Mike Johnstone said...

I've been intrigued by this book for a while now, especially since I recently discovered some of Rusch's short fiction in Asimov's and a few Year's Best collections. Thanks for this review. I think that I'll be picking up this book sooner rather than later. :-)

Carl V. Anderson said...

I picked up the latest issue of Asimov's because of two things, the Donato cover and an opportunity to try out Rusch's writing in a short story format. I was really impressed and immediately went out Saturday morning, after finishing the mag Friday night, to purchase Diving Into the Wreck. I look forward to diving into it, pardon me not being able to resist the bad pun, this week.

Neth said...

Carl - I think this book is right up your alley

Carl V. Anderson said...

I'm 60 pages in and am really enjoying it so far.

Carl V. Anderson said...

You were right, that was right up my alley and I enjoyed it tremendously. I echo your sentiments in that this is a book that is not just for sf fans and it will be one I recommend in future to those who say that sf isn't for them.

Neth said...

Thanks - and I enjoyed your review of it.


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