Kristine Kathryn Rusch

A novella in the Diving universe sci-fi series. Set before the series started.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 2 and 21 minutes
Narrator: Flora Plumb

Tory Sabin is the captain of the anacapa space ship Geneva. She’s extremely capable and she knows the dangers of the anacapa drive personally: when she was young, her father disappeared into the fold space with his ship.

When Sabin hears the distress call from captain Jonathan “Coop” Cooper from the Ivoire, she knows that he’s in real trouble. Coop is very reluctant to ask for help. She whips the other captains into helping Coop but they arrive just in time to see strange smaller ships firing on the Ivoire which then slips into the fold space. And doesn’t return.

Sabin is a driven character. For many years, she was focused on finding her father and became a fold space specialist because of it. Now, she’s a captain and extremely good with that.

This was a great novella, set among the Fleet. We get to know more about the Fleet itself and about Coop’s background. It’s very short and focused on Sabin’s story.


The sixth book in the Diving universe sci-fi series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 4 and 57 minutes
Narrators: Jennifer Van Dyck

Boss and her crew are exploring the Boneyards, the graveyard of ships which the Fleet left behind years, maybe hundreds of years ago. Many, if not all, of the ships have the dangerous anacapa drives. She and her team are diving one of the ships when they realize that one of the drives on a nearby ships is still in operation. Anacapa drives are unpredictable and this one affects Boss herself and one of the crew very badly. Still, the crew needs to find out more.

As in the previous books focusing on Boss, this book is written in the first person and present tense, which adds to the tension and immediacy of the story. It has a lot of tensions between the crew and highly experienced people trying to anticipate problems. Both are things I really enjoy in this series.

On the other hand, if you’ve read the previous book in the series (the Falls) you already know what the runabout it, so the story has less surprises than in previous books. Still, it was great to return to Boss and her crew. It’s clear that the series will continue and I’m looking forward to their further adventures.

Boss is a very independent character: in the first book she works alone and very reluctantly hires others only when absolutely necessary. Now, she’s the leader of this team and she’s still sometimes rather uncomfortable with all that.

Other reviewers have remarked that it’s possible to start with this book, but personally I recommend starting with the first one “Diving into the Wreck”.

A new book in the Diving universe! It’s set on a different planet and with different characters though, so it works as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours and 48 minutes
Narrator: Flora Plumb

Frisket Falls in a giant waterfall near Sector Base E – 2, which is dependent on the Fleet. When the Fleet announces that they’re going to move on and close down the base, the people living there aren’t happy, even though the base will operate another 30 years. So, when Rajivk Agwu finds two pairs of shoes near the falls, he thinks that someone has killed themselves. He alerts the local search and rescue group who find clues that they could be dealing with a murder victim.

Meanwhile Bristol Iannaze is repairing an anacapa drive which is the only engine able to move people and space ships through fold space, through space and sometimes even through time. She notices a door slamming which means that someone unauthorized is in the secure laboratory with delicate equipment. And that shouldn’t be possible.

The story is told from many point-of-view characters. All of them are specialists on their own field, used to doing things their own way and with their own priorities. Now, their habits collide and they aren’t charitable towards each other. They all want results fast but the results also have to be reliable to their own exacting standards. So, most of them constantly berate each other as incompetents, but mostly in their own minds. This makes them, well, quite human. As a mystery, this structure works very well, at least for me. I’ve read her SF with multiple POV books before but for those who haven’t, the transition from the Boss stories which are written in first person could be jarring.

Unfortunately, the many POV characters also means that some information is repeated, especially at the beginning.

The city and the base are a new setting, and they have a complex relationship with each other. The Fleet takes care of the people and in return a city has sprung up around the base, with plenty of different kinds of people and professions. A very interesting setting.

I enjoyed this very much but it seems like a side story, not related to the main Boss stories.

A collection of science fiction short stories by very influential women writers. The oldest was written in 1933 and the newest 1989.

Publication year: 2016
Format: print
Page count: 267
Publisher: Baen

Lots of people are saying the women don’t write, and publish, science fiction. That’s simply not true. As Rusch shows us in her “Introduction: Invisible Women” women have been writing SF since the beginning of the genre attracting readers and winning awards. But readers and critics, both men and women, have many, many ways of marginalizing and outright forgetting women. They write in wrong subgenre, have wrong themes, the science is outdated etc. etc. ad nasaum. Well, Rusch and Baen are now bringing back some of the ignored women whom the younger generation of readers, and writers!, don’t know.

Much to my surprise this collection has only one writer I haven’t heard of before: Zenna Henderson. Actually, I’ve read only one story from these before: Bujold’s Aftermaths. So, I was delighted to read these stories and I dearly hope there will be more.

The stories are in a variety of styles and sub genres from horror to pulp fiction to time travel. I liked the introductions, too, because Rusch tells us the awards and honors these writers have won and the way they’ve influenced each other and the whole genre.

“The Indelible Kind” by Zenna Henderson (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 1968): Miss Murcher is a teacher in a small school and Vincent comes to her school. Vincent is eight but he can’t read much. Otherwise, he’s very bright boy and perhaps something more.
This is one of the quieter stories, with the Other as its theme.

“The Smallest Dragonboy” by Anne McCaffrey (Science Fiction Tales, 1973): Keevan is barely twelve and the smallest of the boys who want to be dragonriders. But the more he’s bullied and teased by the oldest boy, the more he’s determined to impress a dragon hatchling.
It’s been decades since I read Pern books but this story brought the setting right back and made me want to read some of the Pern books I haven’t read.

“Out of All Them Bright Stars” by Nancy Kress (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March, 1985): Sally works in a diner. The US government has contact with aliens but Sally and her friends have only seen them on TV. Until one walks into the diner.

“Angel” by Pat Cadigan (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, June 1987): Angel is the main character’s (MC) friend. He communicates with the MC without words and do all sorts of little tricks. Then Angel sees a strange woman he clearly fears.

“Cassandra” by C.J. Cherryh (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1978): One of my favorite authors but I don’t think I’ve read her short fiction before.
The people call her Crazy Alis because to her only she is a solid person. Other people are grey ghosts walking around in a town which is in flames and crumbling down. Medicines take away her nightmares and allow her to sleep, but they don’t take away the things she sees when she’s awake.

“Shambleau” by C.L. Moore (Weird Tales, November, 1933): The oldest story in the collection mixes pulp fiction and horror.
Northwest Smith is an intergalactic smuggler and not the most gallant of men. But when he sees a girl running from a murderous crowd, he rescues her and even gives her a place to sleep. However, the girl isn’t human and then his real troubles begin.

“The Last Days of Shandakor” by Leigh Brackett (Startling Stories, April 1952): Another pulp story but this time with the subject of lost city. Set in Mars in Brackett’s Eric John Stark universe where Mars, Venus, and some of the other planets are habitable and have their own humanlike people.
John Ross in a man from Earth but he lives on Mars. He studies the local peoples and places. Then he sees a man who doesn’t look like anyone else John has ever seen. He calls himself Corin and at first he refuses to take John to his city, which is apparently dying. But reluctantly he agrees and the two set into a desert on the road to Shandakor.

“All Cats Are Gray” by Andre Norton (Fantastic Universe, August/September 1953): Cliff Moran is a down-of-his-luck captain. Steena of the Spaceways, and her gray cat Bat, are a legend among the spacefarers. When she says that the legendary haunted luxury liner Empress of Mars is drifting close by, Cliff believes her and they head out to capture it.

“Aftermaths” by Lois McMaster Bujold (Far Frontiers: The Paperback Magazine of Science Fiction and Speculative Fact, Volume V, Spring 1986): Bujold is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read this little gem several times.

Falco Ferrell is a pilot and new to the Personnel Retrieval and Identification branch of the Escobaran space military. He and his new partner, MedTech Tersa Boni, have been assigned the rubble of space battle. Their task is to retrieve the bodies, identify them, and send them home. But soon, Falco starts to suspect that Tersa has been in the service for too long.

“The Last Flight of Doctor Ain” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Galaxy, March 1969): Doctor Ain travels around the world and everywhere he goes, people fall sick.

“Sur” by Ursula K. Le Guin (The New Yorker, February 1, 1982): This story is alternate history without any SF elements.
Since she was a little girl, the main character has been fascinated by the reports and books by men who have gone to the South Pole. But the dream of going there herself has seen unattainable, until she gathers a group of determined women who share her dream.

“Fire Watch” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, February 15, 1982): A story about the time traveling historians! I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this one.

Time traveling to the past is hard. But it’s even harder when you’ve been preparing to walk with Saint Paul himself – and are sent instead to St. Paul’s in the middle of air raids. The main character tries to prepare as well as possible, but it might not be enough.

Not all of these stories worked for me but most of them are strong and some of them are real gems.

Rusch has a related website:

By the way, some of Leigh Brackett’s work is available on if you like audio books.

The sixth book in the historical mystery Smokey Dalton series set in Chicago 1969.

Publication year: 2006
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 20 minutes
Narrator: Mirron Willis

It’s autumn in Chicago in 1969 and Smokey is investigating houses which are owned by his girlfriend Laura Hathaway. One of the houses became empty recently because the manager died inside the building and Smokey is investigating the house’s condition. He’s somewhat prepared for the smell of death which seems to be everyone in the house but then he finds a secret door in the basement and behind it skeletons. Human skeletons. He talks is over with Laura and they decide to keep quiet about them because the building previous owner was Laura’s father so the discovery could be used against her. As a woman who leads a large company, her position is precarious.

So, they decide to document everything in case they can bring the matter to police. Smokey interviews and chooses to men to help him: a nationally known forensics specialist and a local mortician. However, they don’t know Smokey or his fugitive past, so he must be careful around. Also, they must be care while working in the building so that the neighbors don’t suspect anything.

Meanwhile, the trial of so-called Chicago 8 (later 7) has started. They’ve been charged with conspiracy and starting a riot. Seven of them are white men and one black. Racial tensions are heating up, again. There are more police and FBI agents in the city and Smokey must be more careful than ever.

Smokey and his team find more bodies so he has to investigate the past and finds a horrifying history of police brutality against black people.

The story tries to handle both 1969 and 1916. For me, both histories were fascinating, if horrifying at the same time because much of it is true. 1916 was at the beginning of prohibition and the various crimes surrounding it. However, they don’t have much relevance to Smokey’s case so some people might dislike that portion of the story.

The book has several grisly scenes and the tone is very grim. Smokey’s adopted son Jimmy feels almost like a distraction from his work and relationship with Laura. We don’t have much time to revisit other old friends.

Personally, I liked the book a lot but it’s not the best of the series.

An urban fantasy novella in Uncollected Anthology called Portals & Passageways.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Page count: 47
Publisher: WMG Publishing

I’ve previously encountered these three witches, who are sisters, in a novella in Fiction River: Hex in the City. I was very happy to read about them again.

Portia is a magical dramaturge in Yale. She’s also a witch and that’s mostly a secret. However, some people know and some can guess. An acquaintance from High School contacts Portia for help be-cause nobody else can help her. Genevieve Hill runs a non-profit theater group for disadvantaged kids in Chicago. It turns out that 50 youngsters have disappeared in the middle of a rehearsal of a play and left behind a lot of damages to Chicago’s best hall where they were going to perform. The police blame the kids for the damages and won’t even look for them. Gen needs help.

Portia and her sisters Viola and Rosalind are descended from the three witches in Hamlet. They work best together but they don’t even live in the same city but when Portia calls, they come quick-ly.

In this world, theatres are literally magic. Some plays and songs have portions of spells in them and the spells can affect the actors. Most theatres also have magical energy in them. Also, writing can be magical, too.

This was a fun story and pretty intense even though it’s short. Portia is pretty privileged and her eyes are somewhat opened for how the poorer people live. The sisters don’t always get along, they bicker but they’re all professionals and focused on the job; getting rid of evil magic and protecting people. In this world, technology and magic don’t mix well and only one of the sisters is able to carry a cell phone without breaking it quickly. This sets some interesting limits in a modern world.

The second book in the historical mystery series. This is set in Chicago in 1968.
Publication year: 2002
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours and 38 minutes, including an excerpt of the next book
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Miron Willis

Billy “Smokey” Dalton is a black unlicensed private detective in US in the 1960s. After the events in the previous book (“A Dangerous Road”) he and 10-year-old Jimmy had to flee their home in Memphis and they’re trying to make a new life in Chicago. However, the upcoming Democratic National Convention is inciting violence in addition to political unrest. The police and the FBI are keeping an eye out for anyone who could be trouble, especially black men. Smokey is afraid that they will notice him and Jimmy, especially after his neighbor tells him that she had noticed someone watching him. Then Smokey finds out that someone is murdering 10-year-old black boys and the police aren’t interested in investigating, except for one black detective. Of course, Smokey has to investigate.

Jimmy isn’t Smokey’s son but Jimmy doesn’t really have a family and when he saw who killed Martin Luther King Jr. and people started to hunt him, Smokey took him under his wing. But they’re telling others that they’re father and son to avoid scrutiny.

Smokey has a job as a security guard but has to live together with a friend, Franklin Grimshaw, and his family. Both Smokey and Jimmy are loners but now they have to live in very cramped quarters, which makes them irritable. Smokey’s also keenly aware that he doesn’t know Chicago which makes his life difficult. He realizes that tension is rising between blacks and whites because of the political situation but he has no other place to go. Another complication is Laura, a rich white woman whom Smokey loves, but they both know that they can’t be together.

To me this was an excellent portrayal of the time period and the people living in it and a great follow up to the previous book.

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