I’ve been reading a lot more fiction since my Covid-19 lockdown began on 13th March. My interests are quite varied but I often return to my first love, science fiction – and I’m pleased to say that this 2013 tale from Kristine Kathryn Rusch did not disappoint!
I’ve had a soft spot for stories like this ever since I read a book about potholing accidents at school. Rather gruesome, I know, but what it kindled was a fascination about the exploration of confined spaces. A few years later I spent a miserable afternoon on an out-of-bounds course crawling around part of an abandoned coal mine – it was cold, wet, physically demanding and very painful… and not something I wanted to take up as a hobby!
Fast forward a couple more years and my interest in geology combined with trips to the famous limestone cave systems in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, UK. Reading about cave diving convinced me that I didn’t want to do that either (I value my life far too much), but I did enjoy reading Martyn Farr’s seminal book on the topic, ‘The Darkness Beckons’.
Like an armchair quarterback, I can’t do it myself but I feel educated enough to have an opinion. And my opinion is that with ‘Diving into the Wreck’, Rusch has created a very authentic tale about how, in the future, people might explore (or pillage) abandoned spacecraft wrecks. These wrecks are full of dangers like sharp edges that could cut into a spacesuit, or desperate survivors of deep space accidents, malfunctioning technology or marauding pirates.
Like cave divers, once inside a wreck her explorers take care to be tethered and map their routes, use caution near constricting tunnels or entrances, and pay close attention to their suit’s environmental systems, especially their oxygen supplies. The way they move around sounds a bit like swimming in the darkness of a cave, with their lights showing the way ahead while the areas behind fall into darkness.
The story comes to life in the relationships between a wreck explorer called ‘Boss’ and the team she hires to help her explore her latest find, an old ship called a Dignity Vessel. This ship could be extremely valuable. Unfortunately, it carries a piece of very dangerous technology, called a stealth field, that killed her mother and will now both tempt and scare her crew in different ways. Throw in a back-story about her father and contemporary military tech research and you have an excellent three-part book.
The only strange thing was that, despite my personal interests and Rusch having created a series of books in this setting, I don’t feel any need to read any more stories from her ‘Diving’ series. This one seemed pretty complete and the characters weren’t so compelling that I’d want to read any more about their lives. Still, a good story, well told – this one scores a solid 9/10 on the O2-tank scale.