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Alastair Reynolds "Galactic North", Part 2



Continuing to cover the wonderful collection "Galactic North"
- READ THE FIRST PART HERE

Alastair Reynolds is one of the leading writers of modern space adventure, equally adept at epic novels and short fiction. An absolute must-read for all "hard science fiction" fans, though perhaps a little dry for those who like more conventional science fiction. A big portion of his work occurs within the Revelation Space universe, one of the better realized "Future Histories" in all of science fiction. Reynolds' style of writing can also be somewhat cold and impersonal, but it is ALWAYS entertaining. Blockbuster wide-screen special effects and breathtaking action are guaranteed in every single story, no matter where you decide to start.

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(original unknown)


Alastair Reynolds
"Glacial"

(Revelation Space series)
© Spectrum SF #5, 2001
--novella : 2002 Locus /15
--/ fourth place space sf novella
--/ adventure award
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


What a perfect title for a murder mystery concoction! Chilly in a most intriguing way, slightly morbid, it glimmers with Alastair Reynolds's barely hidden joy at writing such an orderly, distinguished space investigation story (as someone noted, Reynolds likes mysteries). While not as maniacally spectacular as other entries in this collection, this story is indeed a solid, competent example of the "sf mystery" sub-genre, much better than similar (and rather more famous) stories by Isaac Asimov.

The plot revolves around various mysteries inside a deserted human colony (of a period before events in "Revelation Space" novels, approximately around the same time as "The Great Wall of Mars"). Other reviewers noted that "The Great Wall of Mars" and "Glacial" are best read after "Revelation Space" and before "Redemption Ark", as they give a gripping account of Clavain's early years.
(review by Avi Abrams)


(art copyright: John Berkey)

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(original unknown)


Alastair Reynolds
"Great Wall of Mars"

(Revelation Space series)
(prequel to "Glacial")
© 2000, Spectrum SF #1
--novella : 2001 Locus Award /14
--/ fourth place space sf novella
--/ adventure award
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


This is something very epic, as though written by Robert A. Heinlein in his Golden Period, but with a new gleam and shine; plus it has a huge dose of Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist ideas thrown into it for good measure.

Exciting action and thrilling visuals are a given, as we have come to expect from Alastair Reynolds. This novella is the starting point for the whole "Revelation Space" series, so its scale is still pretty small, confined only to the Solar System, but the initial conflict between Conjoiners/Demarchists (or are they Shapers/Mechanists ??) is already revealed in a very concise manner, introducing all the key characters (Clavain, Galiana, Remontoire...) - and starting them on a four-novel, thousand-page odyssey. Isn't it a great feeling, when you can gaze on a whole bookshelf of "Revelation Space" novels and know that even if you spend your whole time reading Reynolds, there is always going to be some more stuff to read?

The embattled walled City of Mars also reminded me of the Venusian City from Henry Kuttner's "Fury" series - with similar subdued militaristic drive and laconic writing. Good taste, good reading times - cheers, let's read some more!
(review by Avi Abrams)

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(left: "Interzone" illustration by SMS)

Alastair Reynolds
"A Spy in Europa"

(Revelation Space series)
© Interzone, Jun 1997
--fiction : 1998 Interzone Poll /10 (tie)
--short story : 2003 Seiun Award

--/ third place space sf story DRB top lists
--/ adventure award
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


"A Spy in Europa is an entertaining mixture of hard sf, James Bond, and Jaws."
"Inventive, colorful adventure steeped in interplanetary politics as rival factions vie for control of Jovian space."
(Locus)

All good reviews can't convey the sense of discovery I experienced upon reading this story - this was my VERY FIRST encounter with Alastair Reynolds's fiction. At first, I liked the underwater caper and the "Thunderball"-like spy intrigue, being "duly" entertained by highly visual descriptions and the overall sense of a cool confidence. It's as though Reynolds has read ALL the best examples of space adventure story on his weekends (or downloaded them straight into his cortex) and decided that he is going to "ace" them all before lunch on a lazy afternoon. Effortless, smooth writing, good control of the plot, intricate world-building - all displayed here, in one of his earliest published stories. Plus there is an interesting twist in the end.

After reading the last page, I shook my head in disbelief and announced to my wife that I've got a new "MOST FAVORITE" sf writer... Her reply was "How many "my most favorites" do you have? Must be some crowded company". She's right of course. Reynolds is good at what he does, but the beauty of the fantastic literature is that it is so diverse and so full of flavors and styles, that there is always room for another "your one and only" favorite writer.
(review by Avi Abrams)

Here is a pretty neat excerpt from the interview in Aurealis: Australian SF:

AUREALIS: I've read you also enjoy spy-novels and this again comes out in many of your stories. "A Spy in Europa" is probably my favourite of this style of story. You intrigue us with a whole mess of espionage and double-crossing, only to turn everything on its head for both the reader and the protagonist. There doesn't seem to be anything sly, or of pulling-the-rug on the reader about this. The ending is rational and logical, you just don't see it coming. Is this an effect you consciously set out to achieve when you write a story? The ability to surprise a reader just when they think they've got it all figured out?

ALASTAIR REYNOLDS: I guess that's the effect I'm striving for with that specific kind of story, certainly. Whether I hit the mark all the time, or any of the time, is another matter entirely. I know people who disliked A Spy... intensely, because they felt it was implausibly contrived. Again, you write the stories you think of. With that one, I got the ending nailed down pretty early and worked back from it. It was actually one of the easiest stories I've ever written: I think I started it on a Friday evening, and had it done by Sunday. Most times, my short stories take at least three to six weeks.

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"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

Most reviews are written by Avi Abrams, unless otherwise noted. Reviews also appear on our unique historical retrospective page Wonder Timeline of Science Fiction. Feel free to submit your own review, if a particular story is not listed here.


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