There’s an old sci-fi horror cliche that says “In space, no one can hear you scream…” This oft quoted phrase is frequently attributed to the first Alien movie, but I would bet that you can trace its roots further back into the sci-fi genre. Enter Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and out next month courtesy of Pyr books. Rusch’s works include the Escape Artist series, and she holds the distinction of being the only person to win a Hugo Award for both editing and fiction writing, a tall order, indeed!
Often, space is depicted as a happy, touchy-feely place in a shiny-white future were super technology will blissfully remove anything alarming from our path. Thus, we often forget what an austere and forbidding environment it really is. Rusch’s newest opus brings back the danger and foreboding of deep space in a fast paced, no-holds barred format. The tale is told from the point of view of Boss, a veteran deep space pilot and “wreck diver” who uncovers a startling find. A loner at heart, she must assemble a crew to dive her most bizarre salvage yet; an ancient Dignity-class Earth vessel that doesn’t have any right to be were it is, thousands of light years from Earth at a time before faster than light (which Battlestar: Galactica has brought to vogue in the term FTL) travel was supposed to exist. It also possesses a macabre and potentially devastating technology, stealth-tech. In the hands of the wrong galactic regime, this could destabilize the balance of power of a galaxy already racked by the Colonnade Wars. Rusch presents us with a convincing universe that is new and fresh, as well as a new approach to looking at deep space exploration. I especially liked the parallels drawn between deep sea diving and her deep space exploits; readers of Wilbur Smith will feel right at home in this juxtaposed universe. Still, I think its ironic that although this future society has lost stealth tech, it can still easily master such things as artificial gravity and FTL… for my money, stealth tech is probably the easiest of the three, and artificial gravity will be considered either unnecessary or an annoyance by future space travelers… but enough, I’ll get off my scientific soap box.
After vetting the derelict spacecraft, Boss losses several of her team and must withdraw. This sends her into a depressive funk and she winds up running low risk, high profit-gain tourist dives out of Longbow station. I like Boss’s brooding character; sort of a post-modernist Han Solo-type. Her interest is piqued by the “Room of Lost Souls”, a remote and ancient space station with the same bizarre technology. Danger ensues once again, and Boss comes to the realization that this ancient and dangerous technology must be destroyed for good. It’s an agonizing decision to make; Boss is a historian at heart and loves researching these old space wrecks. But resolve leads her and her newly formed team into a showdown at the wrecked Dignity vessel.
Diving into the Wreck is a rip-roaring good read. The universe it presents is original, and cries out for more adventures with Boss and her crew. For example, I’d love to see an encounter with salvage pirates mentioned, brigand crews that jump other claims, as well as see the history of the Colonnade Wars fully fleshed out. I sense a sequel turned SyFy series in the future for Boss and her crew…are you listening out there in SyFy land, producers bored with the same old fare?
…and I bet we will be reminded daily at how hostile and scary life in space really is, once we start living in it!