If you are a writer handling a series you often find yourself wondering how to keep things fresh. Greg Rucka got to the fifth book with Atticus Kodiak before he broke him down and rebuilt him as something else entirely. “Critical Space” is the point where the Kodiak novels flipped and seemed to throw away everything that came before. That isn’t a bad thing. There is something to be said about playing with expectations. Rucka wanted to play in a bigger wheelhouse than the personal security game that he had been running previously. We really started to get a feel for what he wanted to do all the way back in book three but it is only with this book that he really puts his foot on the gas.
Rucka decides he wants to play in the professional killer action thriller sandbox and rather than starting a new series and building from the ground up he organically inserts a character who has been heading down a rabbit hole into bigger and badder things into a new genre and throws the dice on a risky gambit. Luckily the move pays off and we get a thrilling novel that subverts expectations and leaves us wondering where things will go from there.
The biggest accomplishment of “Critical Space” is that while it is a completely different kind of novel, Rucka makes it feel completely logical in progression. Kodiak feels at home in these situations. We have been led to believe that the man is perpetually outclassed but what happens when the tables turn and he begins to work toward his full potential? That is an interesting thread to unravel, because it also gives us a chance to ask whether the tip-top Atticus is someone he wants to be or if he should allow himself to be that person. Rucka’s character work here is amazing as always and I found myself wondering how far he was willing to go.
It is always nice when a series keeps me surprised. Usually a series comes saddled with a bevy of preconceived notions but this one is downright unpredictable in most regards. I really do like that.