Grasping for the Wind Rotating Header Image

Book Review: Anniversary Day by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Genre: Thriller, SF, Mystery
Paperback: 468 pages
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Publication Date: November 22, 2011
ISBN-10: 0615521797
ISBN-13: 978-0615521794
Author Website: Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Four years ago, an unknown and unidentified bomber attacked the Dome of Armstrong, the largest city and space crossroads of the Moon. Now, its Anniversary Day, a day of remembrance for the fallen and the heroes of the worst disaster the Moon has ever experienced. Bartholomew Nyquist, a detective in the Armstrong PD, was in a different section of the Dome when the bomb exploded, but “he only wanted to avoid Anniversary Day.” For Nyquist, the original bombing is a painful memory that he would rather leave unremembered and forgotten. The politicization of the disaster disgusts him. Then Arek Soseki, mayor of Armstrong, is attacked and killed just after giving an Anniversary Day speech. Nyquist, Retrieval Artist Miles Flint, Chief of Security for the United Domes of the Moon Noelle DeRicci, and Detective Savita Romey must discover the cause and agents of Arek’s assassination. And they have to do it before what begins with an assassination blossoms into a government-collapsing act of terrorism.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s latest Retrieval Artist novel is my first introduction to the series by a prolific and top-notch SF writer. Since I had not read this series of Rusch’s before, I went in not quite knowing what to expect. The series has been labeled as a crime noir meets science fiction blend, but I suspect that Anniversary Day is taking a slightly different direction for the series.

Anniversary Day is a merger of 24, the historical event of 9/11 and its still raw emotions, and Rusch’s own longstanding Retrieval Artist setting and characters.

In the first instance, the novel shares with that popular TV show the entire-season=one-day aspect. In this case, Anniversary Day takes place over the course of one day, with events unfolding quickly. Like the TV show, the story is written episodically, with the point-of-view chapters being quick and short. (Parenthetically, the typeface is rather large – at least in the ARC that was provided to me – so don’t be daunted by its 468 pages. A smaller, more typical typeface and less white space would have made it half that length. Though the large face does make it a much better and easier to read on an ereader, so there is a nice tradeoff.) Also like the show, the book is a thriller, with several characters racing to solve a government-ending puzzle before the unidentified villain executes his dastardly deed and everyone dies. However, unlike 24, Anniversary Day chooses not to have a clock tick down, which allows Rusch leeway in telling the story from a broader perspective as well as slowing the pacing just enough to make the story fast but not frantic.

Secondly, Anniversary Day obviously plays off of the differing reactions people have to the events of 9/11. Americans are such a divergent society and have a multitude of perspectives and ideas on that day of infamy. Rusch takes this into account. Some of her characters are tired of the constant remembrances personally. For some, their job makes them feel this way. Other individuals are emotionally scared by the day (having experienced it firsthand). Miles Flint, not having been on the moon at the time of the bombing, is rather indifferent, though he learns to respect it as the narrative moves forward. Others like Anniversary Day, but for their own self-serving (i.e. political) aims. The dominating reaction to Anniversary Day is a wish to forget the awful events of the day, yet at the same time not denigrate the sacrifice of those who died. This juxtaposition of feeling is what Rusch plays off of in each of her characters. And like 9/11, there are a host of reactions to the events that exist on a continuum from the sappy to the insane. American readers close to the events of 9/11 should be careful in reading the novel, as it may dredge up bad memories or feelings as the plot of Anniversary Day closely aligns with modern fears that 9/11 will not be a once and forever event.

Finally, Rusch’s own characters people the novel. Not having read the Retrieval Artist novels before, I find it difficult to gauge the presence of the series characters. Since the series is called the Retrieval Artists series, I would have expected Miles Flint to get more page time, but he only appears in bits and snatches. Nyquist plays a huge role in the story, though after the prolegomenon, his perspective takes a backseat till near the end of the novel, although his past plays a large part in the plotline. Noelle DeRicci perhaps is the protagonist of the story, interspersed with Romey and various one off characters. Also the focus and theme are much larger in scope than the crime noir description and CSI comparison of the series would indicate. As such, I believe that this story is out-of-type for the Retrieval Artist series, though I cannot say so for certain.

The novel is pretty good reading. Readers unfamiliar with the series can dive right in, though they may be annoyed that the story does not resolve by its end. However, the sequel is scheduled for the summer of next year so readers won’t have to wait too long to see the story move forward. I enjoyed Anniversary Day, perhaps not as much as I would have an earlier book in the series, but this one is strong, and it shows that the author wants to use her universe to explore the reactions to a horrific event and how people might react if the situation were “amped” up on a remembrance day.

Anniversary Day, unresolved as it is, is impossible to fully evaluate until the story plays out in the sequels. As a beginning, it’s a good start, if a little slow, and sometimes repetitive (How many times can DeRicci bemoan Popova’s out-of-character ineptitude?) but it’s worth a read for its fast pacing, interesting characters, and close-to-home themes. Recommended.

Comments are closed.