Review: The Retrieval Artist: a Short Novel (Retrieval Artist #0.5) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: April 5 to 6, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by: list of past Hugo Award nominees
Recommended for: fans of hardboiled sci-fi

If Hammett and Chandler were to dabble in sci-fi, the result would look something like this novella.

Miles Flint is a retrieval artist and his job is to locate the Disappeared, people who have gone into hiding and whose former existence has been permanently erased from all databases. Flint tracks them down for an exorbitant fee because he’s very good at his job. But he isn’t without scruples. Sometimes certain people need to stay disappeared. There’s lots of reasons why someone would want to disappear permanently and most of those have to do with escaping assassination attempts. In those cases, Flint is fine with letting those people be. He wants nothing to do with helping assassins locate their targets.

This story is about an interesting case that Flint couldn’t turn away even though he knew he should have. A young woman from a corporate dynasty comes seeking his help to find her mother and sister. Her father is gravely ill and once he dies, the sister stands to inherit his share of the empire and she, the young woman, could not because she’s a clone. There are laws against clones inheriting the family fortune. Flint just couldn’t resist digging further into this case. What follows is an interesting look at birthrights and legitimate heirs in the new age of space exploration.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Miles Flint is a throwback to the private eyes of those early hardboiled days. Brash and candid, the character has a bluntness and directness that weed out sob stories and cut right through bullshit–so maybe more of a Hammett-type character than Chandler. Flint assesses people in a cool apathetic manner that allows him to judge their intentions and gauge whether or not they’re out to kill the Disappeared people they claim to seek. Being able to tell the difference is something he takes pride in.

Being Disappeared is a gray area. It allows actual criminals the same chance of survival as innocent people who have been similarly marked for death. I find this concept very interesting. It’s one of the few things that’s motivating me to pick up the next book because the writing, although gets the job done, is just okay. It leans more towards telling than showing, and there are quite a few long explanations nestled in between the action. But the info-dumps are necessary to introduce the setting, story, and Miles Flint’s precarious job.

All in all, a good story and solid introduction to what I hope will be an interesting series. I also hope it will be a new favorite series which I can fall back on. Rusch is currently at book #13 and she’s still writing.

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