RogerBW's Blog

The Falls, Kristine Kathryn Rusch 20 April 2022

2016 science fiction, fifth of its series. In the heyday of the Fleet, one of the great Sector Bases is scheduled for closure – in thirty years, but that still affects people's lives now as they plan their futures. And outside the base odd things start happening, such as two pairs of shoes left at the top of the big local waterfall…

You could call this a series entry, but mostly it's a side story: there's a very tenuous connection forward to the "present day" of the Diving series, but not in a way that hugely affects that future. In fact, this is an SF murder mystery, a famously difficult genre to do well: as Larry Niven put it in "The Last Word About SF Detectives" in 1976, a detective story needs known rules to make a fair puzzle, while many SF stories are about not knowing what the rules might be.

In terms of the sub-divisions of murder mysteries, this fits quite clearly into the police procedural, even though it's a town where they don't really have conventional police - there's a mountain rescue team who do most of the public safety stuff, and there's a death investigator (and they both have a load of neat forensics tech), and the base has its own security staff, and since it's a fleet base the captain of the ship that's in dock also gets a say, and the FTL drives that are this series's major gimmick also get involved, along with the people who work on them; in fact, much of why things aren't solved quickly is administrative and personal friction between these multiple factions who have no particular reason to make concessions to each other, because they're each specialised in doing their particular thing as best they can.

I like competence porn, people who know their jobs doing them well; but I think it can come at the expense of character. There are at least three other people in the book who could take Tevin's part here pretty much verbatim:

"You haven't seen the next part of the path, and it's growing very dark," he said. "I want you to follow me and Ardelia. Jabari will bring up the rear because he knows the procedure down here."

"Seems like an excess of caution, Tevin," Dinithi said.

He smiled in spite of himself.

"Yep," he said. "That's why I'm team leader and you're not."

Fun, but a bit flat, and (as with many mysteries) only the primary puzzle gets resolved; all these people had tensions in their lives which haven't gone away, and I felt that their stories were cut off too abruptly.

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Previous in series: Skirmishes | Series: Diving Universe | Next in series: The Runabout

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