Buried Deep: A Retrieval Artist Novel
By Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WGM Publishing, 384 pp., $18.99
“International bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch has won or been nominated for every major award in the science fiction field” and then the author’s page goes on to explain she also writes in almost every other genre and uses multiple pen names, with which she’s written (or co-written) over 80+ fiction books, not including novellas, short stories, anthologies and articles. Publishing and editing since the 1980’s, Ms. Rusch knows storytelling. In fact, she writes non-fiction too, focusing on the business of freelancing and writing. Buried Deep, the 4th in the Retrieval Artist Novel series, caught me in its snare and showcases Ms. Rusch’s manifold skills.
This science fiction detective novel follows Miles Flint, a Retrieval Artist, as he works a case. The novel begins on the planet Mars, where a human skeleton is found underneath an alien section of a Human/Alien city. These particular aliens, the Disty, don’t like death. They believe it contaminates not just the location, but also all who come in contact with the death. A special segment of the population, the Death Squad, handles all deaths: natural, unexpected, and those executed by them for justice, in the form of vengeance killings. They also aid with death rituals that cleanse from contamination. The complex and varied rituals often result in death, especially for humans. The Disty’s cultural approach to death is forced upon the humans for the Disty rule Mars. Humans, approved inhabitants, posses little political power.
The unidentified skeleton was buried 30 years ago. A forensic anthropologist, Aisha Costard, is brought in from Earth to identify the body and circumstances surrounding the death, in order to find the killer before the humans are blamed and subjected to death rituals. Approved to go offsite and seek help, she finds Miles Flint on the Moon, who reluctantly works the case. At the same time, back on Mars, the situation further deteriorates into chaos resulting in an interplanetary crisis. Solving this “cold case” is the only way to cleanse the effected cities and inhabitants before implementing dire measures.
Ms. Rusch weaves an impressive tale. It’s complex and detailed, yet at no time did I feel lost in a mid-series book. The characters, the settings, the various alien races, and the necessary backstory descriptions made the book a fantastic stand-alone novel. The addictive, clever plot kept me reading. The well-paced action story also involved other interesting topics. The role of the media, privacy encroached by technology, political/government appointments, and how-to-get-along-with-your-neighbor are just a few of the topics skillfully engaged in the midst of the ascending excitement.
Buried Deep is a fun, interesting read. With Ms. Rusch’s skill and creativity, it’s no surprise that the world created in the Retrieval Artist Novel series has already yielded 15 novels.