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    Review of THE DISAPPEARED by Kristine Kathryn Rusch


    Roc, July 2002

    Review by Jennifer Vilches (see her Blog)

    Humans have expanded into space, but dealing with their alien neighbors has taken a lot of negotiation. Alien justice is harsh, but humans agree to abide by their laws and punishments for the sake of trade. The Rev have brutal work camps, the Wygnin take children to pay for the crimes of their parents, and the Ditsy have gruesome vengeance killings. Humans who willingly or unknowingly break an alien law must submit to the sentence or disappear.

    Miles Flint and his partner Noelle DeRicci are detectives on the Moon; within a few short days, they are drawn into three cases of alien justice - an unusually high percentage. One involves a woman, Ekaterina, who is trying to disappear to avoid the Rev; the two others involve people who have been hiding for years. As DeRicci tries to track down Ekaterina, Flint tries to figure out how to avoid turning a baby over to the Wygnin while working to solve the connection between the three cases.

    The Disappeared functions fairly well as a detective partner story with DeRicci as the embittered veteran and Flint as the newly promoted rookie. Plenty of tension is provided through checkered pasts, irritable aliens, uncaring bureaucracy, and the occasionally convenient loss of communications. Rusch deals well with the emotional turmoil involved in having to support alien laws that seem immoral and are quite accurately described as inhumane, especially as the detectives get more involved in the cases. The characters are fairly well drawn - they are all basically decent, real people facing difficult situations and haunted by their pasts. I'd like to know more about the aliens - we're really just introduced to them in this book. I have to wonder if there are any aliens in Rusch's universe that are even-tempered and reasonable by our terms.

    This is the first novel in the Retrieval Artist series, and sets up the background and main characters. One of my minor quibbles with The Disappeared is that sometimes it feels like the set-up is more important than the story being told. Also, I found Flint's amazing ability to get secure information out of any computer system he touches to be unrealistic. The Disappeared does succeed in making you think about justice and culture clash - I'll be interested to see where Rusch goes next with these concepts.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 10/08/04

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