City of Ruins
by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Cover Artist: Dave Seeley
Review by Cathy Green
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616143695
Date: 24 May 2011 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
City Of Ruins picks up some time after the end of Diving into the Wreck with Boss and her friends and colleagues having relocated to the Nine Planet Alliance outside the Enterran Empire to search for Dignity Vessels and stealth tech with a goal of making sure the Empire isn't the only power exploiting the technology. Boss is now in charge of a sizeable corporate empire that has grown rich off of technology developed from the stealth tech acquired and unlocked by Boss and her crew.
Unlike Boss's adventures in Diving Into The Wreck, in City Of Ruins, Boss and her crew of divers and archaeologists are planet bound on Wyr just outside the city of Vaycehn. She's not happy to be in Vaycehn, disliking the non-recycled air and the gravity and the fact that she's not working with a crew of only her hand-picked divers, but is instead relying on archaeologist who have no concept of the dangers of diving/exploring in space and why Boss insists on the sort of absolute control over her team that she does. Boss's crew has come to Vaycehn because one of her team, Ilona, one of Boss's researchers, thinks that the sort of ground collapses, called death holes by the locals, that Vaycehn periodically experiences indicate that there is a significant amount of stealth tech underground. Boss doesn't think stealth tech can exist on land, but Ilona is convinced it can, since it must have originated on Earth.
Rather than searching a vessel in space, an experience somewhat similar to scuba diving a shipwreck, Boss and her crew are carefully search underground in tunnels, and thus are spelunking instead of scuba diving. Boss insists on the same level of caution as always, and progress is slow. They start from a site where other archaeologists had died, on the assumption that it might have been an encounter with stealth tech that killed them, since most people do not have the genetic markers that let them encounter a stealth tech field without dying. They find a control room full of writing in Old Earth Standard and what appears to be stealth tech. Boss's crew is convinced that they have found a facility for building Dignity Vessels. As they explore their discovery, they unwittingly activate a homing beacon that attracts an actual functioning Dignity Vessel.
This is, of course, the most important, biggest discovery of Boss's life and the two big questions are how to get inside the Vessel and safely explore it, and how to take advantage of their discovery and its tech without the Empire finding out and swooping in and taking it and killing everyone. Given the larger number of characters in the book, there's a great deal more interpersonal interaction than in Diving Into The Wreck, but Rusch keeps Boss's private, prickly personality intact.
Also, unlike in Diving Into The Wreck, where the story was told strictly from Boss's point of view, the introduction of the functioning Dignity Vessel in City Of Ruins means the introduction of the crew of the Dignity Vessel, and quite a few of the chapters are from the viewpoint of the Vessel's Captain. This makes for an interesting first contact story, and a study in the contrasting leadership styles of Coop and Boss. The crew of the Dignity Vessel give City Of Ruins a great deal of its emotional heft, as the crew is separated from the Fleet, trying to find a way home and finds out that they're a great deal further away from the Fleet than should even be possible.
Rusch continues to develop the universe she first created with the novella version of Diving Into The Wreck in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and as with that first novel in the series, part of City Of Ruins also started life as a story in Asimov's.
Once again Rusch has done an excellent job expanding a shorter piece of fiction to novel length, in the case of City Of Ruins, in contrast with Diving Into The Wreck, only one piece of short fiction is incorporated into the novel, so it would be more accurate to say she has done an excellent job incorporating the story into the novel, as opposed to adapting a series of novellas into a novel.
City Of Ruins comes to a dramatic and emotionally satisfying conclusion that massively expands the possibilities for the next installment of Boss's adventures.