A man can never have too many friends. He can only have too few. JL Curtis’ new novel Rimworld: The Rift demonstrates this principle from the very beginning. Danny Ortega is a drunken sot. Bedecked in bad hygiene, the stench of his latest bender covering him like some malignant cloud of Suck and Fail, its immediately apparent that Danny has pushed out of his life anybody who might care for him.
So why do we start with this obvious loser? Why should we care about him? As the mysterious Mapper of the Cartographer’s Guild notes “Danny is the only one willing to go back in there time after time.” The ‘there’ mentioned being the Rift, a massive spatial-gravitic anomaly. Mapper needs the work done, and if a down-on-his-luck pilot in need of cash is willing to risk his life for pittance, so be it. Mapper will pay.
Danny Ortega is a loner. Save for his ship’s artificial intelligence, Danny doesn’t even have crew members who like him. Reference is even made to an ex-flame who screwed him out of his dream job, one which would have guaranteed his financial success. As he gains crew, watch and understand how he has to learn to interact with people. Pay attention to these moments dear readers *stomps the floor several times*. As Sergeant Smith used to say at the Field Artilleryman School “This is important material. You will see this again later. Do not forget it.”
Why? Well 1- it’s the truth and 2- that’s how Mr. Curtis does business. The man is meticulous. Clean a grill with the man. I’d never met a human being who truly got every nook and cranny of a smoker/grill combo scrubbed clean. Inside or out. To include removing the puddle of grease residue at the bottom of the cook chamber with a scraper, or vacuuming up every single bit of ash from the smoke chamber then wiping it down. Did I mention thorough? No? No matter, just add it to his list of positive traits.
Curtis’ mind sees a list of problems, he organizes it all, then goes through step by step and solves the problems. In his Rimworld books, the problems take time to be solved. Even shooting someone is not the simple solution it first appears, and The Rift is no exception- an excellent mark of a quality storyteller, in my opinion. You’ll have to read all the way to the very last page. No I’m not joking. And don’t skim, or you’ll miss seeing how neatly he ties the story’s various arcs together.
I will also add that unlike the previous offerings in this particular universe (Into the Green and Milita Up) we see far more detailed piloting, a wonderfully done piece of work which conveys the intricacies and difficulty of being an aviator, in a way that even a ground-pounding jarhead can follow and enjoy. It’s a plunge into the weeds, but you’ve got a quality guide. Hold on tight and smile. You’re in for a ride.
I’ve read Rift three times in total, and laughed every time. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Curtis writes multi-faceted characters, the kind you want to cheer on and see succeed. The journey of reading The Rift is absolutely worth the money. I look forward to seeing where he goes next with this series.