Sunday, February 1, 2015
The Really Big Ka-Boom, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Apologies for misspelling Ms. Rusch's name, now fixed.
I may have to revise my rule about what makes a story one of my favorites. I have said they tend to have at least one of three characteristics: a great concept, a twist ending, or heightened language. Ms. Rusch has reminded me of a fourth method to reach the winner's circle.
The plot of this story is not brilliant, but that doesn't matter. The characters carry it. (Let's face it: Wolfe and Archie lifted Rex Stout above some pretty poor plots.)
The narrator is Spade, a three-hundred-fifty pound retired software millionaire whose life revolves around science fiction conventions, for which he provides accounting skills. His soulmate (he wishes) is Paladin, a young private eye who is everything he isn't (except dumb and socially competent): she is small, beautiful, perpetually angry, and rash. Clearly they balance each other out.
In this story they wind up in Portland, Oregon at Christmas time, accompanied by Caspar, a homeless thirteen-year-old computer whiz they rescued in an earlier adventure. The main story begins when they go out to eat and a nearby building explodes. And Paladin, as Spade notes, is the sort of person who rushes into a burning building.
Now, my first paragraph did not mean that Rusch does not provide some wonderful language in this story. Try out this paragraph:
Paramedics had moved a lot of the people Paladin saved, sorting them as if they were damaged collectibles and someone had to grade them: Fair, Very Fair, Good. The folks in Mint condition stood to one side, and those who were judged Poor had already been stuffed into ambulances and driven to hospitals.