I first encountered Kristine Kathryn Rusch as part of the writing team (with Dean Wesley Smith) that wrote so many Star Trek novels when I was younger. Later she wrote a gripping, if somewhat forgettable Star Wars novel that made me curious about her work.
Years later I got a subscription to Asimov’s magazine for a birthday gift. In one of those pulpy, paperback sized publications was a story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch about a team of divers that salvage wrecks in space. The story was fascinating and terrifying and full of great tension and wonderful mystery.
Then I stumbled upon this book. Diving into the Wreck is that short story that I read and two others that are sequels to it. This is the story of Boss, an experienced wreck diver who has built a career around finding abandoned wrecks in space and diving them for tidbits of long lost technology or other valuable goods. She discovers a wreck from a long lost empire that was apparently using some kind of secret stealth tech. She puts together a team to dive it.
That’s when things go horribly wrong. Because there’s a reason that stealth tech is secret and no longer around. There’s a reason the ship wasn’t found for so long. The secrets are terrifying and almost painful to read.
Boss is an amazingly personal character, especially for one who does not have a name. The three stories in this book explore the history of that lost empire and the technology that apparently drove it, and possibly ruined it.
My memory of this book is one of non-stop action and edge-of-the-seat suspense. However, it pulls off an interesting compromise. The action does not devolve into fight scenes, and in fact, many times happens in slow motion, as is necessary in a low gravity environment. Most of the suspense is personal peril. Boss is careful, she doesn’t like to take risks but there always comes a point in any dive where risks have to be taken. Where people take the risks in order to make a discovery, or when foolish actions have to be corrected.
What Rusch had done beautifully is show me characters that I learn to care about on the same level as the empathic Boss. These are people and when they are diving an abandoned wreck in space and suddenly the comm goes dead I feel just as frantic and helpless as Boss while she waits for a response as she calls them over and over.
I understand that Rusch based some of the techniques of the space wreck divers on actual wreck divers here on earth and the parallels are pretty similar. If you puncture a suit or snag an oxygen line on a sharp piece of metal or get trapped behind a shifting bulkhead you will die just as quickly at the bottom of the ocean as you will in space. The details added enough to the story that it felt real.
It also felt like there was a great history behind it and I found that to be fascinating. One of the things that I have always loved about Tolkien is the vast feeling of history that his stoies evoke with the hidden and abandoned cities and the old watchtowers. This book gives me that same sense of wonder with ancient derelicts that suddenly appear in space, abandoned and thousands of years old bearing forgotten, rumored technology. The history is alive and it feels so much deeper for it.