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Boneyards by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

And so, in this present tense, I set off to write this review. . .

Twenty five years ago
There will come a time when heroic reviewers will need a twin narrative thread so I plant this seed. . .

. . .about Boneyards by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (PYR, 2012), very much aware that were it not for plans carefully laid in the past. . .

18 March 3952 BC
The Venemous Bede looks back at one possible beginning point for all this. . .

I would not be in the position I am today. . .

Ten minutes ago
The beanstalk is now fully grown and I, Jack, can now climb up to Doubting Castle and begin my fight with Giant Despair.

. . .which is completely hacked off with the use of time in this book!

As I have commented elsewhere, I prefer books to be written in a simple linear form where we start at the beginning and arrive at the end. I am not averse to the odd flashback. I understand that, for narrative effect, an author may prefer to withhold key pieces of information and then reveal them for maximum dramatic effect. But this book does something particularly annoying. We have a real-time thread which takes Boss and her team of archaeologists and the surviving warriors on a search for the Fleet. But we also have Squishy’s Tale. This is broken into short chapters, some only three or four pages long. Chapters do not follow on from each other in time. We are backwards and forwards like yo-yos for no good narrative purpose.

Let’s start again. Captain Cooper of the Ivoire has commissioned Lost Souls to find old bases used by the Fleet. Despite the five thousand year gap, he hopes to pick up the trail and find whatever is left of the “Dignity” ships. The fact he may not find people he once knew or, indeed, fit into the current command hierarchy, is not a deterrent. He needs to occupy himself with the hope of rejoining them. Unfortunately, the bases seem to be have been destroyed. Signs that would have indicated a phased shut-down and withdrawal are missing. This is depressing and sours the relationship between Boss and Coop. Meanwhile, Squishy is on a one-woman campaign to eradicate the Enterran effort to understand and exploit “stealth technology”. She applies to the central research facility and, to her surprise, is admitted. Months later, she has a plan to destroy it without endangering lives. There’s just one problem. Quint, her ex-husband is also on the station and a senior anti-espionage agent. Fortunately, there’s one person from the old days who can carry a message from Squishy to Boss. Curiously, Turtle is even better equipped to peform the task than Squishy expected because she’s the new Julian Assange, ready to leak whenever it will do the most damage.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

When the two threads start to converge, Squishy has destroyed the space station but is on the run, while Boss and Coop are going deeper into unexplored regions of space where they find the Boneyard. This book poses far more interesting space opera questions than the previous books. When we we just diving into a single wreck or exploring a single underground facility, it was too easy to lose sight of the big picture. Although it’s not unusual for technology to fall out of favour when something new and better comes along, it’s very unusual to have an entire branch of technology disappear, namely not only the technology of the Dignity ships themselves, but also the technology of whatever ships were capable of defeating them. Under normal circumstances, the victorious ship design would then have become dominant and, in due course, have been refined into a five-thousand-year supership. Except it’s as if the human area of space went into a kind of Dark Ages where all the dominant space technology was lost. Since all this scientific achievement would have to be documented somewhere, it’s remarkable that nothing seems to have survived, even as mythology, to explain what happened.

If we apply the same scale to our human history and go back to 18 March 3952 BC (see, the date from my introduction did prove highly significant), our archaeologists could tell you almost exactly what it was like to live then or, if you prefer Bede’s calculation, you could rely on the Bible as a literal text. Either way, we can chart our development with all major events, for better or worse, still available to us. Yes, I accept this is only the history of one world and it would not be so easy across major planetary systems. Nevertheless, for the Enterran Empire to have forgotten what the stealth technology is capable of doing demonstrates a major anomaly. If it’s one thing we know most about, it’s how battles were fought and with what weapons. Militaristic states make a point of remembering how weapons work.

So the two narrative strands finally come together and we also get a major flashback to one of the earlier novels. The outcome is both sad and necessarily hard-nosed to force character development. Taking the longer view, I approve the way in which the broad narrative is developing. It’s evolving from an interesting story into high quality space opera. What it lacks is an intellectual framework. It’s event and character driven as we slowly see the present revealed through research into the past. As Boss says, she’s happiest when she’s dealing with the unknown and, in that respect, we’ve added a new unaligned dimension into the current mix. As long as the plot and its background continue to hang together, we could be seeing a major series emerging despite its slightly rocky beginnings in Diving into the Wreck and City of Ruins.

Artwork by Dave Seeley.

For reviews of other books by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, see:
City of Ruins
A Dangerous Road (writing as Kris Nelscott)
Diving into the Wreck
Duplicate Effort
Recovering Apollo 8

City of Ruins by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

City of Ruins (PYR, 2011) is a sequel to Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and, as such, it’s continuing the development of the “Diving” universe. The first novel was a fix-up expansion of two novelettes published in Asimov’s and this continues the pattern with a goodly sized chunk of this story being published as “Becoming One With the Ghosts”, also in Asimov’s.

So we’re into a twin-strand narrative with the Boss leading a dive underground and Coop watching events unfold (pun intended) on the bridge of his Dignity Vessel. Although I think this better than Diving into the Wreck, it’s all rather ponderous and slow-moving. The last sequence where the two strands merge feels like an afterthought. It’s somewhat out of character with the rest of the book and not terribly credible as a capital city responds on a policing or military basis to a possible threat. Taking the dive first, I find it frustrating that there’s been no real attempt made to link this to the first fix-up. Although there’s a gesture to confirm a change in the nature of the diving organisation from small- to large-scale, there’s absolutely no description of any fallout from the events of the first book. The dispute over the Dignity Vessel must have produced some political and military responses on both sides. Books in a universe should not be written as if in a vacuum. There are fundamental laws of cause and effect to obey and divorcing events from their context and expecting readers to blindly accept completely independent episodes is insulting. An author should take the time to think through the implications of what has happened in the first episode and then give the readers the benefit of this creativity.

So here we are in Vaycehn on the planet Wyr chasing down speculation there may be stealth technology in operation. Hmmm. So if Ilona thinks there’s a chance of finding old technology to examine, why hasn’t the Empire shut the whole place down? The fact of the inexplicable tunnels and the death holes should be enough to alert their science teams there’s something unusual in play. Yet all this is brushed quietly under the carpet with odd comments that the local government keeps it quiet to avoid damaging their tourist trade. This just makes it worse. If tourists may hear about the weird events, why has the Empire’s sophisticated intelligence service not heard and acted?

Anyway, once Boss is in action, she’s moving with the speed of paint drying to explore inch by inch. Not for her the big picture WOW factor. It’s all meticulous work. Seen by Coop, the team is wearing space suits because of the high levels of nanotech particles in the atmosphere. Now, as one born in a coal mining community, this rings alarm bells. I grew up surrounded by men dying of emphysema because of their exposure to dust. If this vast room is visibly affected by clouds of particulates, atmosphere suits are essential to prevent lung damage. Yet there’s no comment by Boss and her team on the volume of dust piling up on the floor and the equipment. Nobody has to sweep the dust away to read signs written on the floor or to see some of the screens are still working. Or is all this technology self-cleaning given that the tunnels themselves are self-repairing? The crew of the ship take no precautions when they emerge. Apparently, their human lungs can breathe visible concentrations of dust without damage. I could go on but this issue is symptomatic of a general failure to think about the issues and deal with the consequences.

As to Coop, he seems intent on spending endless hours on the bridge without a break. Even Captain Jean-Luc Picard was seen to lie down every now and again. When there’s no obvious threat, the bridge can be slimmed down to a few key officers with instructions to wake the Captain if anything interesting happens. There’s also very little evidence the language department is even vaguely competent. I haven’t read “Becalmed” so I don’t know what Mae and her team did to upset the Quurzod, but their performance in this first-contact situation is less than stellar. It’s completely illogical to leave it to Perkins to work with Al-Nasir. A trained linguist should set out to learn the target language by systematic interrogation of a willing native speaker. Wasting two weeks on this exercise and then insisting on two hours to set up a trip to the surface compounds the illogicality of Coop’s decision-making.

None of these individual problems make this a bad novel, but the general lack of attention to detail prevents this book from being more involving. As it is, we have sexual attraction through mutual observation and probable romance at the end. To me, this is a tiresome distraction. I’m far more interested in the problem solving on both sides and, to be honest, neither side comes out of it well. Boss fails to have any empathy in her explanation of the ship’s situation and the surrounding politics. Coop seems little more than a prop placed on the bridge, left to observe and react to events around him. His passivity for the first two-thirds of the book defuses any tension. Although he does become slightly more rounded when he gets to the surface, it’s all rather artificial and he’s still very much second fiddle to Boss.

City of Ruins can be read as a stand-alone because there’s little continuity between it and Diving into the Wreck. Some of the social dynamics in both teams are reasonably well done but, though an improvement on Diving into the Wreck, the result is still less than impressive.

Dave Seeley produced the jacket art.

City of Ruins won the Endeavor Award 2012.

For reviews of other books by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, see:

Boneyards
A Dangerous Road (writing as Kris Nelscott)
Diving into the Wreck
Duplicate Effort
Recovering Apollo 8

Recovering Apollo 8 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

October 30, 2010 1 comment

I have been thinking about the word, “workmanlike”. Ignoring the built-in sexism, I take it to mean functional, not flashy or showy. Whatever the work, it will be highly competent and of a standard you would expect of an artisan. In theory, this ought to be complimentary, but I have the sense it is somewhat pejorative. As if you admired the craftsmanship, but thought a real artist could do better. The complexity of the meaning is all somehow wrapped up with all those “old” class prejudices. This person is in trade and therefore no more than upper working class or lower middle class. Whereas this is a professional and so may access the highest reaches of society. It’s somehow as much a judgement of the person as of the quality of the work and, in these modern times where meritocracy is supposedly the antidote to old skool snobbery, we should ignore these outdated overtones and give skill its due.

Why, you should ask, am I rambling on about “workmanlike”? The answer lies in the writing style on display in the collection Recovering Apollo 8 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (published by Golden Gryphon). For the most part, these stories are told in a very direct and uncluttered way. The narrative is the most important feature. There’s no need for extravagant word choices or clever metaphors. The idea is to tell the story with the least affect (in the linguistic sense of the word).

I take this to be a virtue in short stories.

The lead story is one of two delving into alternate history territory. This time, we are asked to accept that Apollo 8 missed its firing point as it came around the back of the moon and took off on a long orbit into the “unknown”. I note an editorial in Asimov’s dealing with complaints about the story (see Editorial). It responds to a complaint from a reader which includes the following, “Suddenly, I must imagine a hero from my youth in a story where his major accomplishment is his untimely death. Why use such a macabre plot device. . .” This is an interestingly literal approach to the concept of fiction. It seems authors should not reimagine historical events involving real people because this may be upsetting to readers. Obviously it’s not defamatory to fictionalise someone’s “untimely death”. But should this debate stop in legalities. This particular moon shot happened in 1968 and, for the most part, people today struggle even to remember Armstrong as the first man on the moon in Apollo 11, let alone recall the crews of the other missions. Even though it was published in a magazine known for science fiction and now republished in a book of fictional stories, should there be a health warning at the beginning of this story in case the plot hook upsets people’s cherished memories? Or should there be a historical introduction reassuring young readers that the Apollo missions had a remarkable safety record given the technology of the time? Well, I think not. Would you want a warning at the beginning of a ghost story that there are no such things as ghosts? The purpose of fiction is to entertain. Whereas I recently read another alternate history story that bored me solid, this reads like an express train. We can all carp at the coincidences which subordinate reality to the need to make the story come out right at the end. But, overall, this is a good story in the older, pulpy style of SF.

“The Taste of Miracles” is a short short with a nicely turned idea, while “The Strangeness of the Day” represents a kind of fantasy romp in which Prince Charming survives into modern day in pursuit of his Sleeping Beauty. At this length, it’s hugely silly and great fun. I understand it was rewritten into a novel which, I suspect, might have been too much of a good thing. “Substitutions” is also a short journey into fantasy land with two of Death’s minions going about their daily work over Christmas. There’s something seriously wrong with the arithmetic underlying the plot. If it was necessary to have minions inducting people from our world into the afterlife, the death rate would require a small army of overworked minions running from one building to the next without time to draw breath. Nevertheless, we’re not supposed to think about practicalities and Rusch has a pleasing horror story to tell.

“G-Men” is the second alternate history story with J. Edgar Hoover dying a little earlier than history remembers. I remember reading this in one of Gardner Dozois’ Best SF anthologies and being very annoyed. I kept waiting for it to turn into SF and it never did. Back to my earlier debate: Heinlein suggested that science fiction was a form of realistic speculation, extrapolating from the present and imagining what will be. To my mind it therefore stretches the definition to have no sfnal elements at all in a story supposed one of the best SF of the year. It actually reads well as a mystery story and I have no problem with its inclusion in this collection. I still think Dozois should have had a warning notice before the story in his anthology.

“The End of the World” has us in the land well-mined by Zenna Henderson in The People stories and mirrored in the genetic manipulation/super race books where unaltered humans’ prejudice leads to unfortunate confrontation. This version of the old idea is as good as it gets, leaving an interesting plot point hanging which might justify expanding it into a novel. “June Sixteenth at Anna’s” is a sensitive story about loss and whether being able to peer back into the past actually helps deal with the present. “Craters” sits nicely on the border between SF and horror with terrorists able to convert children into bombs. The way the story is told gives us the chance to understand how we deal with the more unpleasant aspects of life around us. In a way, we have to ignore the worst of it to avoid becoming overly depressed — we have to care less. “Diving Into the Wreck” is the original basis of the novel of the same name (see a review here).

Overall, this is one of the better collections of the year so far. There’s a good variety of material and all are highly readable. Definitely worth picking up if you like efficient short story telling.

For reviews of other books by Ms Rusch, see:
Boneyards
City of Ruins
A Dangerous Road (writing as Kris Nelscott)
Diving into the Wreck
Duplicate Effort
Recovering Apollo 8

Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Habits are those curious routines through which we live our lives. Some have become so ingrained we are hardly aware of them. Others have been highlighted as undesirable traits (wives and children most often speak the truth here) and so we struggle to break from the past. Having learned the art of reading, I then read everything from the dense text on the breakfast cereal box to the latest comics. Now into my second childhood, I still pick up any reading material to hand. Having been in publishing, I also read every printed word in and on a book from the blurbs to the acknowledgements. So I want to start off this review by quoting the author’s bio on the end papers.

“Her novels have made the bestseller lists — even in London — and have been published in fourteen countries and thirteen different languages.”

Well, would you believe it. I had no idea the folk who live in London could read, let alone organise something as demanding as a bestseller list. The arithmetic is also a bit screwy. Fourteen countries and thirteen languages. This suggests only one overlap of a language like English. That would mean Australia and Canada and. . . Wait, I get it. London is not a country so it does not count. Then to sell to twelve countries each with their own language. That’s going some. There was no overlap of French or Spanish or Portuguese? All those translation fees for individual countries. That’s inefficient, really cutting into the publisher’s bottom line.

Anyway, the rest of the book, Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, manages to avoid such petty-minded controversies. This is a slight change of style for the author. Not only is it a fix-up of two previously published works, but it also avoids long paragraphs wherever possible. I was reading a piece of educational research charting the decline in reading skills in the developed world. Not only is vocabulary shrinking, but a significant number of adults find it too challenging to read “long” sentences like this one. Yes, even a simple two clause format defeats many modern readers. Shucks. (One word sentences being the best to convey meaning where an emoticon cannot be displayed). It’s actually quite fascinating to see so many one and two sentence paragraphs collected together to make a novel, and certainly makes for faster reading. None of this following from one line to the next. Everything is broken down into simple word bites.

So let’s get down to it. As a story, it’s actually quite pleasing. The central character in this first-person narrative is a woman, haunted by the memories of watching her mother die. This traumatic experience caused her alienation from the rest of the family and her adoption of a career where, for the most part, she can avoid dependence on others. Somewhat ironically, she is a wreck diver where she often assumes responsibility for the safety of others. Although more active in her exploration of history, she is cast in the same mould as Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict, finding and exploring lost ships. This also places her in the salvage and adventure tourism business. It’s an interesting notion that, as and when space ships become as routine as cars, the thrill seekers will want to free dive in wrecked ships. It beats bungy jumping in a vacuum, I suppose.

Anyway, when she finds this centuries-old warship, she puts a team together to explore it. Almost immediately, we are into McGuffin territory. By a magical coincidence, one of her team happens to know that this ship probably contains lost “stealth technology” and she argues passionately in favour of destroying the ship before governments get their hands on it. Knowledge that has been lost should not be recreated through this archaeological discovery. The stalemate balance of power could be upset. Thus, we are off and running with danger in the dives and the subsequent investigation of the damaged wreck.

I suspect that if the author had started with a blank screen to write a novel, it would have bridged rather more smoothly between the major plot elements. As it is, one ends and, with a few words explaining the passage of time, we jolt into the next episode. I would have been interested in an exploration of the fall-out from the first sequence. There would be formal inquiries into the deaths, possible prosecution for failing to report the wreck as being of historical or military value, discussion of whether it was possible to lock them up as traitors to prevent the fact of the discovery from being publicised, and so on. As it is, the implication seems to be that the wreck’s discovery has been publicised. So why has the wreck not been moved to a different location? It cannot be so inherently unsafe that a tug could not tow it to a place where it could be kept secure from journalists, spies from the opposing governments, and the generally curious. More to the point, I seriously doubt whether the boredom of the actual guards would lead to the ship being left completely unguarded. This is a major plank in one faction’s military renaissance. It would be guarded at all times.

Although some of the plotting has some vaguely Machiavellian qualities to it, I find the whole somewhat superficial and unsatisfying. This is not in the same league as the Retrieval Artist novels.

For my reviews of other titles, see:
Boneyards
City of Ruins
A Dangerous Road (writing as Kris Nelscott)
Diving into the Wreck
Duplicate Effort
Recovering Apollo 8

A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott

The theme of today’s review is authenticity. Many authors write what they know. This is their comfort zone and it enables them to include levels of insight normally impossible to an outsider. Others are more daring and adopt a point of view as an outsider. In the first, you get an essential truthfulness about the mise-en-scène and credibility in the belief systems driving the choices characters make on what to do or not to do. In the latter, you see the scenes and the characters’ motivations through a more objective eye. In some cases, this may offer a form of commentary on the culture being described. The leaves the question whether authenticity matters.

On some things, I am a genuine expert. So, being born a Geordie, I am able to comment with authority on the portrayal of my homeland in films like Get Carter and, more recently, The One and Only. We shall pass rapidly over the general failure of filmmakers to reproduce the accent. Their standard justification is that meaning would be denied to even to English, let alone foreign, audiences without the use of subtitles. In reality, the problem is that the “stars” imported to sell the films are incapable of adopting a credible accent and their efforts would probably add an unintended comic element to the whole — something not necessarily desirable in Get Carter, Purely Belter, et al. Does it matter that films do not accurately portray local accents or, indeed, the real local culture? In some senses, the answer is always “no”.

Art always strives to achieve some level of universality and, if you root your work too strongly in one culture, it may deny others the chance to empathise. Thus, when you go to see Shakespeare, you do not hear the Elizabethan English of his time, but modern accents and, often, find the action in contemporary settings. Indeed, where would we be with Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and the many other film and stage versions of Shakespeare that have transplanted the spirit of his work into forms more immediately accessible to modern audiences.

All of which brings me to A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott. This is a not-quite private-eye story in the tradition of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels. That means an African-American hero with a military background who makes his living by doing odd jobs, usually investigation based. Unlike Easy, Smokey Dalton is well-educated, but they both have a knack for solving mysteries. Unlike Easy, Smokey Dalton is demotivated and alienated but, as the pressure mounts, they both get things done. When it comes to the politics of race, Mosley captures the social anger of the times and the self-control necessary to survive the inevitable interaction with local law-enforcement officers in particular and white folk in general. I take his voice to be authentic. Nelscott is a pseudonym (as most people interested in mystery novels will know). I read this book because I had enjoyed her science fiction and was interested to explore her other writing. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has no direct experience as a man of colour living through times of racial tension in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet this is the substance of the first of what has proved a successful series of Smokey Dalton novels.

Let us start with the quality of the mystery to be solved. The core of the problem is obvious from the initial pages, but the detail of the resolution only becomes possible towards the end of the book when Smokey makes a road trip. I confess I did not predict the correct solution. I was in the mood to read it through to the end in one sitting and did not stop to give it thought. As a “twist”, it fits into the context, but it’s a bit “ordinary” when measured against comparable novels. The intended focus of interest lies in the novelisation of the final days leading up to the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Since we all know he was assassinated, the only tension in this narrative lies in mapping out the territory often occupied by conspiracy theorists intent upon involving the FBI and the local police in the shooting. Sadly, I was mildly underwhelmed by this. There is also a subplot involving an interracial relationship between Smokey and his client, Laura Hathaway. In the heat of the moment and given all Smokey’s emotional baggage, I found this element to be the most credible. It’s an emotional tragedy for both characters, but probably what would have happened. I take this element to be authentic.

Put all this together and you have quite an interesting read. It has Rusch’s trademark prose — refreshingly simple and involving. If it had been put in support of a narrative more intrinsically exciting to a Geordie, I would have been really impressed. Perhaps, to Americans interested in their own history, such novels are inherently exciting. I am therefore uncertain whether to continue acquiring and reading the other Smokey Dalton novels. In contrast, I am a Walter Mosley completist, having read all his novels including the science fiction (one of which is dire). His voice does speak to me as a Geordie who lived through the immediate post-war period in a Northern, bomb-devastated British city.

For my other reviews of books by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, see:
Boneyards
City of Ruins
A Dangerous Road (writing as Kris Nelscott)
Diving into the Wreck
Duplicate Effort
Recovering Apollo 8

Duplicate Effort by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Sometimes you encounter an author who inspires the worst of human emotions: envy. Here is someone who can throw words on to paper and produce something so compulsively readable that you just have to read it through to the end to see how it comes out. Why are some authors just so good? I suppose it’s a mixture of an instinctive ability for storytelling and the craft of being able to tell the story in words so well chosen that the reader is immediately seduced. As an aside, I’m reminded of a famous English radio and television personality called Johnny Morris. He had the verbal magic of accent and cadence. You only had to hear a few words. He was instantly recognisable. Someone once said of him that he could read the telephone directory and make it sound interesting. So it is with some writers. They can take the most pedestrian of ideas yet transform them into immediately likeable text. It’s a rare talent and Kristine Kathryn Rusch has it. More importantly, she also has a great command of narrative development. Combine plot with simple and elegant writing, and you have a winner.

Duplicate Effort is the seventh in the Retrieval Artist series. There comes a point for some authors when they begin to find the development of a series a challenge. They have set up the basic cast of characters and, in the tradition of television soap operas, they have all loved and hated each other. Then, for the average author, this basic formula just runs out of creative steam and, no matter how interesting the plotting idea for the latest instalment, the characters feel tired. Yet, I am pleased to report, all the characters in this series continue to grow and develop. Miles Flint, the eponymous retrieval artist, now has a daughter to worry about. In the previous volumes, he was never vulnerable to intimidation or blackmail because there was no-one close to him. Now he must think defensively for two. Talia, his daughter (although, in some respects, her legal status as a clone may be somewhat blurry) is struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother and the sudden appearance of a father whom she had thought long dead. Naturally, as a precocious teenager, she has an independent streak that makes her a challenge for a man coming late to the role of “father”. Noelle DeRicci has risen from the position of “mere” detective to Chief of Security. Bartholomew Nyquist, a senior detective, is out of rehabilitation following the murderous attack on him in the last volume and now picks up a new case that is bigger than he first realises. Maxine Van Alen, a lawyer who always seemed in control of her fear of physical retaliation for her excellent legal skills suddenly finds new vulnerability as danger comes knocking on her door. And then there is Justinian Wagner who, as the Éminence Grise of Wagner, Stuart & Xendor, controls the operations of the most powerful firm of lawyers in this novel’s universe.

The most pleasing aspect of this series is that everything is woven together as an emerging tapestry. All that has gone before is remembered and resonates for the characters who must struggle and come to terms with the consequences of their past actions. Unlike the so-called “butterfly effect”, the series of events unfolding in this series is rather more an African buffalo tramples. The characters seem to have been set on a path designed to subject them to extremes of fear and danger but, in all honesty, that is the stuff of a mystery story set in an science fictional universe. You would expect there to be dangerous aliens lurking and even more dangerous humans in plain sight (some of them on the “right” side of the law). In this latest episode, Miles Flint suddenly becomes aware that Ki Bowles, the ambitious investigative reporter from previous volumes, has been murdered along with one of her security detail and the owner of the security firm. It looks a distinct possibility that Miles and, possibly, Maxine may be next on the hit list. So it becomes a race to identify the source of the threat and to deal with it before anyone else dies. In this, there are three completely separate lines of enquiry to represent the “duplicated effort” of the title (although, since Talia is a clone, the duplication process may be more personal). Miles and Talia work on their own ideas while Nyquist and his new partner follow the clues from the murders. Sitting in her high tower, Noelle DeRicci also has a problem to solve.

Although everything hangs together perfectly as a metanarrative, the ending has a slightly unfinished feel about it. I suppose the intention is to leave the consequences for the next instalment, but a few more pages would have left Nyquist, in particular, in a less ambiguous position. Overall, this is another tremendous contribution to the continuing saga. As with other series, this book should be read in context. If you have not read the earlier volumes, you should start at the beginning with The Disappeared. If, like me, you have been steadily consuming each instalment, this will not disappoint.

For my reviews of other titles by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, see:
Boneyards
City of Ruins
A Dangerous Road (writing as Kris Nelscott)
Diving into the Wreck
Duplicate Effort
Recovering Apollo 8

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