RogerBW's Blog

Skirmishes, Kristine Kathryn Rusch 21 January 2022

2013 science fiction, fourth of its series. The Empire is attacking: "Boss" goes to a cluster of abandoned ancient ships to try to get some of them back into service, while Captain Cooper tries to hold off the initial wave with the ships they have.

At last, at last, we're back to Boss going into derelict spaceships and trying not to die! Planetary bases are all very well but the wreck diving is what this series is about and it's great to see it back.

There are still multiple viewpoints, and flashbacks, but not too wildly out of order and most of the story is happening "now" rather than "back then". It's not particularly clear what the capabilities of the ancient technology are, even to people who are supposed to understand it, and sometimes it feels like waxing and waning magic in a fantasy book. (If you can instantly travel from A to B, why does it matter if the enemy has decoyed you out of position? Even if you are trying to keep the instant-travel a secret.)

There's a conclusion of sorts, but I don't think the setup would make much sense without having read the earlier volumes; this isn't really a book to be read in isolation. We also get the view from the Empire's side of things, and the threat they think they're facing. And, all right, this particular passage made up for an awful lot:

This future that the Ivoire found itself in had a generations-long conflict between a large rapacious government and a group of rebels. But to be honest, almost every new situation the Fleet found itself in—and that was a lot of situations over the years of Coop's life—involved a large rapacious government and a group of rebels.

Once he had tried to tell Boss how common this was, but she wouldn't hear it. She claimed the Empire she battled was "evil" and the rebels "good."

She usually saw shades of gray when it came to the personal level, but on that universal scale, she was purely black and white. No empire could be as bad as the Enterran Empire (even though he had seen many that were far worse) and no rebels had tougher odds against them (even though he knew of many rebel movements that didn't make it through a year, let alone generations).

These rebels, whom she had more or less allied herself with, had joined forces into something they called the Nine Planets Alliance, which, Coop could have told Boss if she had been willing to listen, would someday be someone else's evil government, needing rebellion against.

I don't love this series, but I do like it.

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Previous in series: Boneyards | Series: Diving Universe | Next in series: The Application of Hope

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