Looking at the cover, I expected Diving into the Wreck to be a rollicking space opera novel by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Instead, the novel (actually a collection of three blended novellas) is a solid science fiction read that examines the consequences of dangerous technology as well as the very real danger of diving wrecks in space.
Once I dialed back my expectations regarding the book’s adventure quotient versus thinking plotting, I enjoyed the atmosphere Rusch brings to the story. I imagined the scenes of getting into and out of the wrecks with ease, and where space opera would have been a run-and-gun scenario, Rusch leavens the action with all the nervous tension of diving underwater. Space and the bottom of the sea are both void of air, both just as alien for humans, and Rusch never lets her readers forget that.
I also enjoyed the quirky cast of characters she’s assembled on the pages. Just like ancient mariners, her crew each has their own lucky charm for diving, and their own preparations for venturing into unknown spaceships that might be filled with traps or just dangers created from becoming obsolete. Since the story consists of three interwoven novellas, the characters can go away and come back, and do, which makes for a more real feeling about the book.
Rusch’s prose makes reading incredibly easy, and the philosophical questions she brings up – as well as the world she exposes for us – draws the reader in. Although the danger isn’t exactly in-your-face, it never truly leaves the page either. When two people die while on a dive inside a Dignity Vessel everyone knew they weren’t supposed to dive, I knew that not everyone was going to walk away safely from this one. There were going to be repercussions for me as a reader.
I do wish I’d gotten to know more about the stealth tech, though. The science part of the story, as well as the world of antiquity it hails from, is hinted at in rather broad strokes. As I read, I kept hoping I’d know and understand more, but in reality if something is that far beyond a person’s knowledge, you just wouldn’t know those things.
The gravity of “Boss” — that’s all she’s ever called in the novel — and her decisions are heavy throughout, so she felt real to me. Her pain and her confusion over her mother’s death and her father’s betrayals are realistic.
Diving into the Wreck isn’t a light read because there’s a lot to think about regarding science and what we should do about it if we ever run up against something far advanced from what we can understand. But mostly I’m going to remember the claustrophobic feeling the author paints on the pages while her characters are inside derelicts mired in outer space.