The Renegat (2019) is a long, slow-moving, complicated novel in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s DIVING series. As usual, the story jumps around in time, following multiple plots and perspectives. The characters are new to us, so readers who are unfamiliar with the DIVING universe could start here if they want to, though it’d probably be best to read the series in either publication order, or the order we’ve presented on our author page.
The Renegat starts by giving us some history of the Boneyards (or Scrapheaps, as the Fleet calls them) those mysterious places in space where the fleet, for thousands of years, has stored their unused spaceships. Are these abandoned ships too old? Derelict? Unsafe? Or are they protecting something important inside the Boneyards?
The opening scenes of The Renegat introduce us to some kids at a boarding school 130 years ago who decide to sneak off their space station and go for a joyride into a Boneyard. One of the instigators of the stunt is a promising boy named Crowe. When the joyride turns tragic, Crowe’s career is tanked.
Decades later, after the fleet had left the Boneyards far behind, we meet a group of fleet officers who’ve just received data indicating a breach in a Boneyard. (Those who’ve read the previous books will know what this breach signifies, but it’s not necessary to recognize this.) They want to send a team to investigate but, because this backward travel will be so dangerous, they decide to send a bunch of fleet trouble-makers, misfits, and people who won’t be missed, including Crowe. There’s a lot of politics involved in this decision, and not all the officers agree. Some have good reasons to want to destroy the Boneyards altogether. Some, because of their own political agendas, are actually hoping for failure.
The chosen crew for the mission is assigned a ship called The Renegat. As anticipated by their superiors (and hoped for by some), things do not go well for The Renegat. It’s a disaster, in fact. But many of the Renegat crew have their own goals and plans and are determined to make the most of the deadly situation. Some want power. Some want revenge. Some are hoping for redemption.
The Renegat is a long novel (28 hours in audio) and this has its pros and cons. On the plus side, characterization is more carefully managed here compared to previous shorter novels. Rusch gives us plenty of time to form opinions and, in some cases, attachments. It’s amusing to get to know this motley group of misfits and to watch them try to work together as they realize they’ve been purposely sent on a suicide mission. As we get to know her characters, Rush hides a lot of information from us, giving the novel a sense of mystery.
While I credit the novel’s length with the improved characterization, it is, quite simply, too long. Conversations and arguments go on too long, there’s too much introspection from even minor characters, too many spurious details are provided, etc. The story is exciting, and we learn a lot about the DIVING universe (including fold space, the Boneyards, and the anaconda drive), but a shorter page count would have improved the experience.
As usual, Jennifer Van Dyck does a nice job with the narration of Audible Studio’s audiobook edition.