Deep Navigation

What better book to take on an astroholiday than an Alastair Reynolds anthology? Dude’s an astronomer! It’s perfect!

I’d read maybe a third of these stories already, in other places, but I enjoyed re-reading all of them – and it was interesting to read them in the context of his other work. Given this was a collection of previously-published work, I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t arranged chronologically, because I think that would provide some interesting insight into the authors’ development of style and changing interests. I have no idea how the order of stories was decided. I did read them mostly in order (it’s what I do) although I did read one of the middle stories, “On the Oodnadatta,” first since hey: he’s Welsh, but he wrote a story set in waaay outback South Australia. What’s with that? Turns out, quite a lot – it’s one of those stories that starts off innocuously enough but ended up sending deep shivers of horror through my spine. Reynolds also managed to capture the slang and conversation of outback racist bogans very effectively.

I had a number of favourite stories from the collection. For a start, it was nice to see a story set in the Revelation Space universe, since I love it; “Monkey Suit” is about a ship fleeing Yellowstone and the plague there. It’s a closed system, of course, and it’s always interesting to see how authors handle personal interactions in that sort of environment. It’s made me want to re-read the Revelation Space books….

Although I ultimately felt a bit unsatisfied by it, I loved the idea behind “The Fixation”, because I’m fascinated by the Antikytheria Mechanism. I do wonder how people who aren’t familiar with the thing dealt with the story; it’s not vital to know anything about it, of course, because the story is about how history might be changed by seemingly-small things, but still – I think having knowledge of it helped. I liked the conjunction of alternate history timelines, sf theories of multiple universes, and ancient history.

I adored “Fury” when it was first published in Eclipse 2, and I adored it still on the re-read. The grand scope of the story, the slowly unfolding revelations about both personal and galactic issues, the moral conundrums… it’s breathtaking. It’s the essence of space opera, encompassing both the minutiae of the personal and the grandstand of human affairs over thousands of years.

On the other hand, this was the first time I’d read “Fresco.” It’s not really a story, more a vignette. And given that I read it while at an astronomy camp, amidst talk of galaxies and extraterrestrial life… well, I nearly cried.

Deep Navigation is not the easiest book to get hold of – it was published by NESFA, in honour of Reynolds being the Boskone Guest of Honour. It’s apparently limited to 1000 copies, but I’m not sure whether that means overall or just in the hardback version (I got #938). I’m awfully glad I got it, but that’s not a surprise, since I’m a Reynolds tragic…

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