Review: The Retrieval Artist


Author: Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I discovered The Retrieval Artist series books a couple years ago, and found them so engrossing that I basically binge-read them over a period of several months and then had to wait (with my tongue hanging out like a dog) for the author to publish the last few in the Anniversary Saga sub-series. The series is well-written, convincing space opera. If you like that sort of thing, you should definitely give The Retrieval Artist a try.

There are fifteen books in the series. All of them are available in various ebook formats. I got them from Amazon for the Kindle. I also found most of them available at my local library.

The Author

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a prolific and award-winning writer across several genres, including science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, mainstream, “goofy” (her word) romances, and nonfiction. I count at least seventy-five novels, some of which she has written with other authors, especially Dean Wesley Smith, her husband. She has also written a number of novellas and short stories. As soon as you start reading, you will recognize that you are in good hands.

The Series

Here are the books in optimal reading order. Any of the first eight can be read as stand-alones, because Rusch is good at providing background information with a minimum of fuss. But I recommend reading them in order. Especially the Anniversary Day Saga, which is really one long story broken up into eight books, and will definitely suffer if you read it out of order.

  • Book 1: The Disappeared, 2002
  • Book 2: Extremes, 2003
  • Book 3: Consequences, 2004
  • Book 4: Buried Deep, 2005
  • Book 5: Paloma, 2006
  • Book 6: Recovery Man, 2007
  • Book 7: Duplicate Effort, 2009
  • Book 8: Anniversary Day: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 1, 2011
  • Book 9: Blowback: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 2, 2012
  • Book 10: A Murder of Clones: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 3, 2015
  • Book 11: Search & Recovery: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 4, 2015
  • Book 12: The Peyti Crisis: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 5, 2015
  • Book 13: Vigilantes: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 6 , 2015
  • Book 14: Starbase Human: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 7, 2015
  • Book 15: Masterminds: Anniversary Day Saga, Book 8, 2015

The Retrieval Artist Universe

The series is set in a future universe in which the human race is part of an alliance of space-faring races that live uneasily together. Faster-than-light travel is assumed. Domed cities figure prominently. Clearly we are in the realm of space opera.

A recurring theme throughout the series is the difficulty humans have understanding and working with aliens who have very different cultures and values. Several plots revolve around problems that arise from these differences. There is plenty of political intrigue, interpersonal conflict, bureaucratic stupidity and hidden agendas.

The Cast

For the most part, the stories revolve around Miles Flint, a retrieval artist living in Armstrong, the largest city on the Moon. He locates people who have chosen to disappear because they ran afoul of alien laws that carry severe penalties for seemingly trivial offenses, and who need to know that their situation back home has changed. This sounds easy, but turns out to be anything but. In the Anniversary Day sequence, Flint finds himself entangled in a race-spanning conspiracy that involves blowing up domed cities, including Armstrong.     

There is a large cast of supporting characters who show up at various places throughout the series. Some of these are recurring characters, appearing in most of the books; others are occasional. Some are Flint’s allies; some are not. One of the books, Starbase Human, does not involve Flint at all.

My Assessment

The Retrieval Artist series presents an essentially optimistic future for the human race; an antidote for so much dark and dystopian SF I see these days. These stories are first and foremost just plain fun; Rusch intends them to be entertaining. There are no multiple layers of meaning to excavate. If there is a subtext, it is two-fold: (1) the human spirit will take us to the stars; (2) when we get there, we will still be human, with all that that entails, both the good and the bad.

Anything written by Rusch is going to be a good read, and you will know right away that you are in the hands of a writer who has mastered her craft. Some of the books in the series are better written than others. You will notice that books 10-15 were all published in 2015. Rusch binge-wrote them, and it shows. The only other complaint I have about the series is that the conclusion of The Anniversary Saga was unsatisfying, which I suspect Rusch felt as well. She is a pantser, not a plotter, so it is all too easy for her to paint herself into a corner. I,too, am a pantser, so I’m more than willing to cut her some slack. Despite these criticisms, every one of the books in this series is a good read and is likely to keep you turning pages way past your bedtime

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