Review: “The Application of Hope,” Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Pros: Characterization, plotting, ability to stand alone
Cons: Check your expectations; still-unidentified bad guys
Rating: 4 out of 5

The Application of Hope is a part of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving Universe. I’ve only read one other book set in that series, which was also something of a standalone, so I loved the fact that this novella stood alone. I’ve seen two major complaints regarding this book. One is that it’s too short, and it is a novella, so be sure whatever price you’re paying is what you think that’s worth. The other is that the book doesn’t contribute to the ongoing storyline of the series. Which, seeing as it stands so well alone, might be true. But I understand this story provides some background on other character(s), and as a reader I often appreciate that. So go into it with the right expectations and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Captain Tory Sabin has her off-hours interrupted by a call for help from another ship of the Fleet. It’s from Coop, her lover and friend, and she realizes that despite his apparent calm, he’s definitely worried. He was supposed to be on a diplomatic mission, so what went wrong? As her ship, the Geneva, makes its way toward him, she watches a bunch of unidentified little ships firing on Coop’s vessel, the Ivoire. Then he goes into foldspace to buy himself some time, and he doesn’t return. Sabin already lost her father to foldspace, and she certainly doesn’t want to lose her friend to it as well. She sets out with a bunch of other front-line Fleet ships to find the missing ship.

The characterizations are well-drawn. Coop has been questioning the mission of the Fleet, wondering if they’re really doing good by interfering with all of the civilizations they come across. Sabin has always been too focused on her career and her missing father to think about things like that. Sabin’s history–her missing father, her exploration into both engineering and command–make for a compelling backstory. Even General Zeller, who is something of a bad guy, displays a more complex side to his personality.

Both of the stories I’ve read by Rusch have featured the odd anacapa drive and the fact that no one fully understands how it works. All of Sabin’s life has been about finding her father in foldspace, and now she gets to put that experience to use finding Coop. I find the situation fascinating and well worth the read.

I think the only real problem I had with the story is that the thread of identifying the bad guys gets dropped like a hot potato. As soon as they fly away they vanish from the story, and that left the tale with an unfinished feeling.

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