March 28, 2020

Review: Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Out in July!

Where would you head if you could go back in time? Does time flow in a linear fashion like a river, or are an enormous number of universes branching off from every instant?

OK, so maybe you can’t go back and become your own grandfather or grandmother… but just how much would our actions alter time? That’s just one of the questions posed in this week’s review, Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Fans of this space will be familiar with Rusch’s outstanding work in the Diving into the Wreck universe, including City of Ruins & Boneyards as well as the Retrieval Artist novel Blowback. Rusch knows how to construct a science fiction thriller that’ll keep you turning pages right up until the end.

In Snipers, we’re presented with a fast paced whodunit spanning this century and the last. Snipers traces the path of the Carnival Sniper, an original “Sniper Zero” who terrorized the city of Vienna in 1913. Investigation of the sniper’s victims haunted period detective Johann Runge; now it’s up to modern day author and historian Sofie Branstadter to piece together the puzzle. Sofie is haunted by demons of her own, being witness to a gunman’s brutality as a child. This drives her to delve deep into the mystery of the Carnival Sniper, unearthing some decidedly non-contemporary evidence.

But beyond just a good time-spanning mystery, Snipers gets at some key philosophical issues on the nature of history itself; if you remove the key players, will the timeline turn out any different? One can argue that with the surge of European nationalism and militarism, World War I was inevitable, whether the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated or not. Of course, whether Hitler’s Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia would come to pass is less clear. Was Hitler plagued by time travelers every 2nd Tuesday, as a plethora of science fiction tales suggest that he was? We’re reminded of an episode of Misfits, where a mobile phone left back in the past gives the Nazis the technology to dominate the present. Paul McAuley’s Cowboy Angels reviewed on this site is also a great example of this. Are we living in a modified timeline now? Would we even know if we were?

Snipers is an excellent amalgamation of history, thriller, mystery & science fiction. Rusch lays out the period in meticulous detail, as only she can.  She’s perhaps the only living author that could include time travelers and Hitler in a story in a new and refreshing way. Such a theme would be a non-starter to get past most editors, right up there with “pact with the devil” stories.

But Rusch delivers on a historical twist ending that you won’t see coming. It’s also interesting  that Sigmund Freud makes an appearance in Snipers… its amusing to wonder how much of 20th century psychiatry he might’ve waylaid, or at least sent down the wrong track.

Be sure to check out Snipers for a fine summer read on sale from WMG Publishing next month. What would YOUR time travelling destination be?



  1. [...] Dave Dickinson of Astroguyz calls it “a fast paced whodunit,” and says: “Snipers is an excellent amalgamation of history, thriller, mystery & science fiction.” [...]

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