Review: The Retrieval Artist, by K.K. Rusch

I follow Rusch’s blog on the business end of writing pretty religiously, so I figured I’d try her Retrieval Artist series:

This is subtitled “A Retrieval Artist Short Novel”, and it truly was short. I don’t know if it was all the way down into the novella range, but it wasn’t what I normally consider a full-length novel. On the whole, it was only so-so. I’ll grant you that the premise was kind of interesting, but it wasn’t enough.

Basically, in this universe of Earth, her colonies, and aliens of varying nastiness, some people need to disappear rather than face extradition to some alien demise. I suppose in today’s world, it would be a bit like going into hiding because your government had agreed to hand you over to Iran or Turkmenistan because you violated one of their laws.

Best to just disappear.

But sometimes you want to find those disappeared people again. Maybe it’s just to get them a message. Maybe it’s to let them know that the extradition order has been lifted. Or maybe it’s because someone wants to turn them in.

Miles Flint is a “retrieval artist”, someone who can find those who have gone into the interstellar equivalent of a private witness protection program. He tries to keep things clean and only goes after those who won’t be harmed by being found. He’s no assassin. He doesn’t hurt people. At least, that’s what he keeps telling himself. So he takes on this particular case to find a girl’s runaway mother, but as with all such cases, things aren’t exactly as they appear. Complications ensue, ethics are challenged, and justice is sought. Typical Sam Slade detective agency stuff – it just happens to be on the moon.

But in the end, for me, the main character wasn’t compelling enough, nor was the client. It was one of those stories where I realized I didn’t particularly like anyone, and in cases like that, it’s hard to give the rest of the story much credit. The structure of the case was interesting, and its resolution was nice, but I had a hard summoning up the interest when I didn’t care about the characters.

So, sorry Ms. Rusch, but this one gets at best a wavering thumb from me. She’s built an entire series around this character and the premise, but it didn’t work well enough for me to read any more of them. Your mileage may vary.