The Retrieval Artist: A Short Novel (Retrieval Artist series) includes a short novel and a few short stories set in a complex future of alien legality. With the interaction of humans and aliens comes the certainty that an individual may unknowingly break a law within the alien cultural structure. Intergalactic law demands satisfaction on the aliens’ terms especially in circumstances that create destruction to an ecosystem or murder. These people who often unwittingly break the law, disappear, much like the Nazi war criminal in South America. This creates a whole series of complications, which plays out in many interesting ways. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written several novels in this future, but this is a prequel and a companion.
In this future, cultural sensitivity is raised to a new level. Yet she never creates alien characters. Aliens are the mise en scene, the landscape. She never deals with aliens as plot vehicles, thereby creating a metaphor of alien as the environment with an eye toward xenocide.
In this series, she writes in the voice of the old private eye, but with a moon base for a home, instead of the big gritty city. (Ironically, the city’s dome is slightly malfunctioning so there is literal grit.) The companion stories included in this book are told from the perspective of a anthropological psychologist. This character has a different voice, but is also fun to read. He has made mistakes in the past, and is hoping for redemption. Both characters grapple with serious demons. Her characters often have hard shell, but are cracked easily.
I enjoy how Ms. Rusch has a great knack for creating a believable future. She is also one of the few authors who have created a very hopeful future (in the current culture of apocalypse and zombies).