Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Joyride, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

★★★★★ Moving story in a fascinating setting with lots of action

(Space Opera; Diving Universe) A Fleet training ship passes close to a “scrapheap” of abandoned ships, and Teenage Nadim, leads a group of his friends to “borrow” a scout ship and check it out. (18,409 words; Time: 1h:01m)

Recommended By: 👍RSR+2 👍STomaino+1 (Q&A)

Although this is set in the author’s “Diving Universe,” it shares no characters with the other stories, so you can enjoy this story without having read the rest of it, and you can read this one first without spoiling the rest of the series.

"Joyride," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 11-12|18, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2018.578 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Although the basic plot is about Nadim pulling off the visit to the scrapheap and coping with the aftermath, at a deeper level, this is his coming-of-age story. He thought himself very grown up at the start. At the end, he no longer thinks so, but, ironically, he’s taken a big step towards being a man.

Nadim has complex motivations. First, he’s got a strong need to prove himself, probably as a result of his abusive parents. Second, he’s infatuated with Tessa, and he wants to show off to her. Third, he cares about his “crew” and wants to do right by them too, as we see at the end when he tells them to admit nothing and blame it all on him.

The author does a great job of introducing background on the Fleet without resorting to infodumps. I’ve read all the other stories, and yet the information was introduced so naturally that it never bothered me that I was reading things I already knew.

Throughout, dialogue and narration are flawless. In particular, they do an excellent job of making Nadim seem like a real teenager, together with all the second-guessing and worrying over little things that's typical at that age. After they docked back at the ship, I expected Nadim to report to the captain to let her know exactly what had happened, but, of course, Nadim wanted to know if Tessa had survived. Him sitting in the Third Level Mess mourning her was less noble, but much more realistic, and awfully sad.

I particularly liked the repeated reminders of how protective he felt of the “little-littles.” That goes a long way toward making him a sympathetic character.

The conclusion is very satisfying. Nadim pays a heavy price, but not as heavy as he’d feared. And although he’s responsible for a lot of death and destruction, he’s also responsible for saving a lot of lives.

I suspect this isn’t the last we’ll see of Nadim. I look forward to seeing what he’s like as a man.

Con: The story takes too long to get going. The kids take forever to get from the Third Level Mess Hall to the bridge on their little ship. There’s some danger of getting caught, but, we pick up Nadim’s attitude that risk amounts just to nothing more than a slap on the wrist, so there’s no real tension until Tessa uses her Anacapa drive to win the competition. That doesn’t happen until after the 50% mark.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 11-12|18)
Kristine Kathryn Rusch Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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