G33z3r's Reviews > City of Ruins

City of Ruins by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
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's review
Feb 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, space-opera
Read from February 11 to 13, 2012

I enjoyed Rusch's sequel to "Diving into the Wreck", but not quite as much as the predecessor.

The character known only as "Boss" returns, this time exploring a possible site of stealth technology buried beneath the surface of a planet. She continues to be cautious, deliberate, and methodical in her procedures, which may make the beginning seem a little slow. This is space exploration like NASA, not Buck Rogers. Boss has an expanded team of a few old colleagues and many new specialists to manage as well. Few get any real character development is a rather short (300 page) novel with a large cast. While Boss has a slightly xenophobic and publicity-shy planetary bureaucracy to cope with, this story is without any actual villains.

"Diving into the Wreck" had a sense of spooky, almost supernatural mystery to the investigations. "City of Ruins" still has plenty of mysteries, but everything now seems firmly grounded in some unknown, advanced technology (which, as Clarke said, can be indistinguishable from magic.) It's just a matter for Boss to collect enough information to figure it out.

This novel introduces a second point of view right from the prologue, giving us the new character of Captain Coop and his crew. Most of the early story belongs to Boss, but in the second half the author switches back and forth between the characters. (It is somewhat disconcerting that Boss's chapters are written in the first-person present tense, as was the first book, but the second character's story is narrated in third person past tense. Maybe that's because part of the book uses a previously published story.) Since Coop's story gets fewer pages, his character and those of his supporting cast are a bit underdeveloped.

The two stories proceed on parallel tracks, enticing us with the almost certain knowledge that they will eventually converge. A delicious anticipation drove me to keep reading.

But, I thought the ending was rushed. After a long story with both point-of-view characters behaving prudently and deliberately, suddenly Coop becomes uncharacteristically rash and hasty. Precipitous actions lead to a cascade of events and the only real action in the story as everything seems to tumble frantically to a climax. I felt a little disappointed after such a tense, careful buildup. (And if the last chapter was meant to introduce some sort of possible future romance in Boss's future, it seemed entirely out of the blue and without much motivation. But perhaps I'm reading too much into it.)

Rusch finally addresses the question of whether "Boss" is the character's name or title. Apparently, Boss refuses to give her real name, even when it would make things simpler. Hard to understand her reason, but maybe that's a story for another time.

At any rate, I found "City of Ruins" an engaging read. Rusch creates a nice sense of verisimilitude by focusing on details and procedures as much his actions. And, she generates a real sense of suspense over how the two parallel storylines will merge (though that, too, may be a story for the next book.)

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