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City of Ruins
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Pyr, 300 pages

City of Ruins
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Kristine Kathryn Rusch was born in 1960. She is married to author Dean Wesley Smith and they live in Oregon. Her books include Star Wars: The New Rebellion, The White Mists of Power (1991), Traitors (1994), Sins of the Blood (1995), Rings of Tautee (with Dean Wesley Smith), The Devil's Churn (1996), Alien Influences (1997) and the Fey Series (The Sacrifice (1996), The Changling (1996), The Rival (1997), The Resistance (1998) and Victory (1998)).

Kristine Kathryn Rusch Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Extremes
SF Site Review: The Disappeared
SF Site Review: The Disappeared
SF Site Review: Stories for an Enchanted Afternoon
SF Site Review: Alien Influences

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Stephen M. Davis

As Boss, leader of a high-tech scavenging group, sits across from the captain of the ship Ivoire, the reader of City of Ruins might well consider that both characters are, in a sense, in times and places that they shouldn't be in. Boss is on a ship that by all rights should be a decaying metal carcass, filled with degraded, black nanobits. And the captain is in this time and place because the anacapa drive on the ship has malfunctioned and has found the one clean way out of fold-space available to it -- a derelict repair station that has a malfunctioning anacapa-based system of its own.

Boss has arrived at the planet Wyr, in the city of Vaycehn, against her better judgement. Her job is to find and recover stealth technology -- technology that was once used by those who built the Dignity Vessels, but technology of which human beings are no longer master, and that is now just part of a mythical age. And this technology has, until now, only been found on derelict ships, not deep underground on a planet that is known more for having the oldest known city in the sector, as well as a tendency to open large "death holes" beneath sections of the city, forcing large areas to be abandoned, while occasionally opening up entrances to long-abandoned underground structures, with their possibility of forgotten, intact stealth technology.

Early on, Boss's crew ventures into a tunnel which has taken the lives of a number of previous explorers, finding a door that leads to a long-forgotten service bay for the ships Boss and her fellow explorers refer to as Dignity Vessels -- vessels which were once part of a fleet whose purpose seems to have been providing help to human planetary colonies that needed it, and occasionally enforcing order when no other option was available.

Boss's crew does not find a Dignity Vessel at first, but they do put in motion events that will bring a Dignity Vessel to them, a mile or more underground, with tragic results for the inhabitants of Vaycehn, but also with some promise that the ship's appearance will be serendipitous for both the ship's crew and for Boss's.

I found City of Ruins to be thoroughly readable and well-paced. The prose is bare-boned and the plot linear. It is hard to fault a work for being what it is and not what it was never intended to be, but character development is minimal enough here to where it was rather difficult to feel any particular empathy or concern for characters in the story. The novel itself is clearly intended to be a page-turning action piece, and it succeeds in being that.

I don't think readers will find anything that happens in the novel to be particularly surprising, though there are occasional nice touches, including scenes in which linguists separated by 5,000 years of language evolution struggle to communicate with one another, and to do so in a way that doesn't lead to serious misunderstanding.

This was certainly an interesting enough novel to have me now reading its predecessor, Diving Into the Wreck, featuring the same protagonist in an earlier adventure.

Copyright © 2011 Stephen M. Davis

Steve Davis is a Visiting Professor of English with Devry University's online program.

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