Thursday, June 30, 2011

Long Looks at Short Fiction: "Coordinated Attacks" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Analog, July-August, 2011, $5.99

I know, I know.  That's the previous issue of Analog.  The new issue came out last week.  I'm a little behind.

Anyway, you can still buy this issue in electronic format from Fictionwise by clicking on the link above.

I wanted to look at the novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch in this issue.  It's a science fiction thriller set on the Moon at least 200 years or so in the future.  (The exact date isn't given but there are references to historical events that require that sort of time frame.)  If you haven't read it, it's worth your time to do so for reasons you know I'm going to explain.

The story has two plots, with one of them taking place four years in the past.  The story in the past concerns a police detective, one Bartholomew Nyquist, who is called in to investigate a murder.  He's between partners, and the latest candidate, Ursula Palmette, is waiting for him when he arrives.  Bartholomew tends to be rather hard on partners, so he tends to go through them on a higher than average basis. 

In the present (at least as far as the story is concerned), the mayors of several of the Domes have been assassinated, almost simultaneously, and all in the same bizarre and horrifying manner.  Nyquist is involved in this case as well, although he's not in charge of it and doesn't show up in the present until the story is well-progressed.  Also involved in the investigation are Detective Savita Romey and Noelle DeRicci, Chief of Security for the United Domes of the Moon.  DeRicci and Nyquist are romantically involved, although that aspect of their relationship doesn't enter into the events.

Maybe in the sequel Rusch will explore that aspect of her characters' lives.  I'm sure there's going to be a sequel.  Rusch started both her Retrieval Artist series and her Diving into the Wreck series as novellas in magazines, the former in Analog and the latter in Asimov's.  This story has the same feel as the inaugural stories in those series. 

This is a gripping thriller.  You know the events of the case four years prior will come into play in the present and have something to do with the assassinations.  The way the two cases related was unexpected.  There's some closure, but there are plenty of questions left unanswered.  Some of these questions are major plot points, others relate to background details that could become important as the series develops.  For instance, more than one reference is made to the fact that Nyquist has recently returned to active duty after healing from injuries he suffered in a major case the previous year.  Rusch never specifies what the exact nature of either that case or his injuries are.  But since it was a case involving terrorism, and the current case involves terrorism, I suspect a connection will develop at some point.

While the scenes set in the present have multiple viewpoints, including Nyquist, all the of scenes from four years ago are told from his point of view.  He's a fascinating, complex character.  From what I picked up, he's undergone some changes in the intervening four years, some due to the case four years ago and some from the case in which he was seriously injured.  I'd like to see more of those changes, just like I'd like to see more of Nyquist.  Not to mention have the mystery resolved. 

Kris Rusch is one of the best writers working today in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and (although I haven't read any) romance.  If you haven't read her work, here's a great place to start.  If you have, then you know "Coordinated Attacks" is going to be worth your time.

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