Book Review: The Disappeared (Retrieval Artist #1) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Roc
Summary:   His name: Miles Flint. His occupation: Retrieval Artist. His job: Hunt down the Disappeared--outlaws on the run, wanted for crimes against alien cultures. The catch: Flint isn't working on the side of the law.

In a universe where humans and aliens have formed a loose government called the Earth Alliance, treaties guarantee that humans are subject to alien laws when on alien soil. But alien laws often make no sense, and the punishments vary from loss of life to loss of a first-born child. Now three cases have collided: a stolen spaceyacht filled with dead bodies, two kidnapped human children, and a human woman on the run, trying to Disappear to avoid alien prosecution. Flint must enforce the law-giving the children to aliens, solving the murders, and arresting the woman for trying to save her own life. But how is a man supposed to enforce laws that are unjust? How can he sacrifice innocents to a system he's not sure he believes in? How can Miles Flint do the right thing in a universe where the right thing is very, very wrong? 




I've been on a serious science fiction binge of late because... reality, but I've been determined not to fall into a genre rut. The Disappeared is the first in The Retrieval Artist series has just made that determination waver. This story was addictive and I mean in that way that not only is it a page turner but also I felt a bit resentful when I had to put it down and do other things. I literally woke up with my tablet in my hand because my body finally got its way in the middle of the night and sleep overtook me. I want to read the entire series straight through.

This is the story of how Miles Flint, a detective, becomes a retrieval artist. In the future, humanity has colonized the Moon and Mars and has interstellar agreements with three alien species (Disty, Wignan & Rev). Flint and his partner Noellle DeRicci have cases land in their laps of humans who've run afoul of the aliens laws and are due to be handed over. The problem is that all the offenders are literally the titular Disappeared. They've paid a service to give them new identities as a way to abscond from their sentences. It's a complex legal landscape here where sentence can be levied on the child of an offender, a lawyer who defended a repeat offender is now liable criminally for his crimes & the penalty for teaching one of a particular alien race human language costs the teacher their tongue. The police on the Moon in Armstrong Dome are tasked with following the law as proscribed and handing people over and this proves to be the problem for our detectives here. Basically, the perspective of humans is primary here so all the penalties are seen as excessive & inhumane.

I was invested in the outcome of each situation and I felt the world-building was well done. I do have to say that the offender who was guilty of clearing what she thought were trees to expand her residence of an alien planet only to find that she'd wiped out several sentient beings and thousands of other beings that nested in them was fairly unsympathetic. I just didn't want her child to suffer for her deeds. The writing here just seemed like the lives lost didn't need to be paid for because she was a human being. Not a good look. Still, I liked the resolution.

I only want more of this universe even though its a bit of a grim future. Honestly, unless the aliens are trading the cure to all mankind's physical maladies and also the answer to universal peace and total prosperity, I can't believe whatever is being traded is worth the cost. I look forward to finding out more about the politics & trade situation. Definitely recommended as it was as good a police procedural as it was a science fiction story. Definitely hit a lot of my The Expanse feels.




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