Extremes, book two of the Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch furthers the adventures of Miles Flint, and his former partner, Armstrong Police Detective Noelle DeRicci. In Extremes, DeRicci is sent to investigate a death on the course of the Moon Marathon. At first, it appears to be a simple case, but DeRicci quickly realizes that this death is anything but simple. Meanwhile, Miles Flint is settling into his life as a Retrieval Artist, and learning what cases he should–and shouldn’t–take. The former partners paths cross in the most unlikely of ways, but not before all of Armstrong is threatened with survival. Does Extremes live up to the promise laid out in The Disappeared, or does it fall tremendously flat?
The characters introduced by Rusch in The Disappeared make their glorious return, and Flint is very much new to the role of Retrieval Artist in this novel. Rusch spends an extraneous amount of time (perhaps too much) detailing Flint’s new life, and his struggles with making himself comfortable. When a client approaches him, he plays very-hard-to-get, keeping readers in the dark about the proposed job until more than halfway through the novel. Alternatively, DeRicci’s investigation into the death of a Marathon runner very quickly turns into a murder investigation with far-reaching implications. The mystery surrounding the death is well handled, though the ultimate reveal leaves a bit to be desired. The characters in Extremes are decidedly excellent, and continue a narrative that will obviously use the entire series to explore. The Retrieval Artist novels are very much individual chapters in a larger story.
Once again, Rusch avoids the temptation of dwelling on exposition to fill in the past. The scenes where history is revealed is necessary, and brief. A few more species are alluded to, though very little detail about them is revealed. In fact, Extremes is very much a singularly human story–there is virtually no alien influence at all in the novel, which is a good thing, as it avoid detracting from the central mystery. The technology revealed isn’t particularly futuristic, though sets it apart from current levels of technology. The Retrieval Artist novels provide a timelessness that is difficult to match in current science fiction. So many of today’s stories are set so far into the future that technology has seemingly leaped into the realm of magic, or they are set in essentially the modern day, or very-near future so that some scientific breakthrough is about to change modern society in ways we can only imagine. It’s refreshing to see a story that’s still accessible and familiar, yet beyond our current reach; it gives us something to strive for.
Unfortunately, Extremes doesn’t quite live up to the excellence set forth in the previous installment of the series. The mystery is a good one, though the clues come together a bit too quickly, and readers will likely put the pieces together faster than the book does–primarily due to several characters each holding a piece of the solution. The plot moves rather slowly–even more so than in the first book. Still, this is nitpicking, finding faults that are minor. Overall, the book is a solid mystery, and a worthy read–if not quite as good as The Disappeared. It still furthers the Retrieval Artist story, and will continue to draw readers into the continuing saga being weaved by Rusch, one long chapter at a time.
– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown