Tag Archives: alastair reynolds

Permafrost

40048442.jpgAlastair Reynolds.

Time travel.

It’s just such a winning combination.

And the thing is, this is the author who as far as I can remember refuses to use FTL in his stories. So for him to write a time travel story means that there won’t be any Delorean zipping around. Instead, there’s a short but relatively serious discussion about WHAT, exactly, can be ‘sent back’ through time, and a very clever example of what it might mean to change things in the past – what impact that might have on the future.

The story, naturally enough, dips in and out of the time stream. It starts in the past and goes to the future and moves between them beautifully, gradually building up a picture of what has happened for the future to be as it is, and the choices that people make that have an impact ‘upstream’. The slow unfolding is horrific and brilliant.

I liked the characters, I was horrified by the world, and I was intrigued by the method of time travel. This is a fabulous novella.

Shadow Captain

Unknown.jpegThis book was sent to me at no cost by the publisher, Hachette. The trade paperback (which is lovely) is out now; smaller paperback in September.

I mean. HELLO. New Alastair Reynolds! I was so happy to get this to review. So hi, if you don’t know me I’m a massive fangirl, keep that in mind as you read I guess?

This is the sequel to Revengerfrom about three years ago. You probably want to read that before reading this because it sets up the sister relationship that’s at the heart of the story, between Adrana and Arafura (now Fura), as well as the horror in which Bosa Sennen is held throughout the… well, world is the wrong word, but you know what I mean. The area in which the book is set. And that’s the other thing that the first book sets up: that these books are set many, many thousands of years in our future, and they live in the Congregation – which is our solar system having been dismantled and the stuff of the planets used to construct an uncounted number of smaller worlds. Also, civilisation has not been continuous throughout that time; humanity has swelled and fallen over that time, inhabiting more or fewer world, having more or less connections between the worlds, and with technology progressing or lapsing. Which is what allows for the many ships who travel between the worlds to visit the now-uninhabited ones and find ‘treasures’ which may or may not work for them, dating back to previous civilisations.

I guess it’s like modern Britons or Libyans trying to make the Roman aqueducts work.

Anyway, if you haven’t read Revenger I highly recommend it – clearly – as a space opera with deep roots in nautical adventures (including in the language, it’s all coves and sails and broadsides), starring a defiant young woman having mad adventures.

Spoilers for Revenger below this…

Continue reading →

Elysium Fire

UnknownThis book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost. It’s out now… because I’ve had it sitting here waiting for a review for a few more weeks than I feel happy admitting to… oops.

If you’ve read my blog or listened to Galactic Suburbia, you’ll know that Alastair Reynolds is one of my all-time favourites. One of those authors where I don’t even both reading the blurb, I just want the book. So I was very excited last year when I heard that there was going to be a new Prefect Dreyfus story, because I loved The Prefect (now re-released as Aurora Rising).

You know how books are advertised as “a Nancy Drew mystery”? Well, this is “A Prefect Dreyfus emergency”. I love it.

While it’s not a direct sequel to the first Dreyfus story, there are elements that continue from that first book; you could read this and pick up on those things relatively easily, but it would spoil the first book for you. And I love the first book so I suggest going with The Prefect Aurora Rising and then coming to this one. If you like police procedural/ mystery type stories in an epic space setting – ten thousand habitats in orbit around a planet, all only connected by the most direct democracy imaginable – then I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to read both.

So, all that said: Tom Dreyfus is once again acting more like a policeman than he’s meant to, following leads that don’t look like leads to most other people, and generally making a nuisance of himself in pursuit of Justice and Truth. Oh, I’ve just realised why I like him so much. Anyway, someone appears to be trying to destroy that democracy I mentioned as well doing bad things to individual citizens, and Dreyfus is having none of it. Races against the clock, persuading reluctant allies, dealing with unexpected foes, and zooming around the Glitter Band all follow ineluctably and create a delightful story.

I like Dreyfus because he’s not perfect and he’s not just banging a drum about some theoretical ideal; he knows the Glitter Band’s democracy isn’t perfect but it’s the system he’s there to protect. He knows he doesn’t always get it right, but he tries and keeps trying. He’s a good friend and an occasionally subordinate employee but only when it seems necessary – and unlike Poe Dameron, he expects to cop to the consequences.

I also liked this book because, like The Prefect before it, it’s not just about Dreyfus; a couple of the other characters also get some space – Jane Aumonier more so in this book than the first, which I also really enjoyed because I love her a lot.

This is a fun read, and a fast one (for me anyway) – the pacing is tight and definitely rolls your through events as consequences start piling up. I’m kinda hoping there might be another Prefect Dreyfus emergency somewhere in Reynolds’ brain…

Galactic Suburbia!

We’re back! Our now fully East Coast podcast has returned to delight and enrage you. You can us at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET/WHAT DO WE CARE ABOUT THIS WEEK?

Alisa moved house; Icefall by Stephanie Gunn acquisition for TPP, new Author Spotlight of the Month gig at TPP

Tansy new novella Girl Reporter released, How To Survive An Epic Journey at Uncanny Magazine, progress report on Mother of Invention.

Locus Recommended Reading List and poll now open for Locus Awards.

Hugo nominations open

Stella Sparks long list includes Claire Coleman for Terra Nullius

CULTURE CONSUMED:
Alisa: All Systems Red, Martha Wells; Altered Carbon; Star Wars The Last Jedi; The Expanse S1; AfroFuturism
Alex: Elysium Fire, Alastair Reynolds; Altered Carbon, Star Trek Disco; Norma reading; The Wicked and the Divine vol 5; Terry Pratchett: Tiffany Aching reread.
Tansy: Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce; Arcanos Unraveled, Jonna Gjevre; Star Trek Disco – read Liz Barr’s reviews; Mary Beard, Women & Power; Ursula Le Guin, Cheek By Jowl, the Pratchat podcast, Steven Universe, Unstable Unicorns

What did you read to commemorate the passing of Ursula Le Guin? Check out the GS Bookclub re-read on our Facebook page.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon – which now includes access to the ever so exclusive GS Slack – and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Bridging Infinity

This book was sent to me by the editor, at no cost.

unknownI have loved the Infinity series so far. I like that the focus is on science fiction, that it’s often a focus on the engineering side of the future but that that doesn’t preclude fascinating characters and intriguing worlds. I am consistently impressed by the variety of worlds presented and the writing talent included.

The anthology opens with a series of stories focused on the solar system. Alastair Reynolds gives us a problem with the sun where the narrative jumps tantalisingly between now and later, while Pat Cadigan provides what might be a prequel story for her “The Girl-Thing who went out for Sushi” in a story set on Earth but focused on colonising near Jupiter. Stephen Baxter goes to Venus with a sweeping story about human hubris and the problem of families. Charlie Jane Anders totally mocks the whole idea of going to space in a hilarious story of being, like, an adolescent in space? Tobias S Buckell and Karen Lord also take the long view, temporally speaking, about what it might mean to undertake engineering projects within the asteroid belt and elsewhere, given the distances (and therefore time) involved. Plus Calypso.

Naturally, there are some stories in the anthology that confront climate change – it’s understandably becoming a go-to theme. Cadigan’s story references the issues in passing; stories by Pamela Sargent, and Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty, suggest possible ways of dealing with the problem – the latter is one of my favourites, being both optimistic and pessimistic, and largely set in the Arctic. Ken Liu writes over an extremely long period of time in posing the idea that the coming of the singularity might solve climate change in a rather radical manner. And Thoraiya Dyer posits a rather intriguing solution to the loss of island real estate while also dealing with the problems of family.

There are also several stories with extra-solar settings. Kristine Kathryn Rusch combines desert urban planning on alien planets with a devastating mystery to great effect; Robert Reed writes a Great Ship story about how the materials you use (and the tools) can impact on the thing you’re making. Allen M Steele’s story sounds like it might be from a pre-existing set of stories, like the Great Ship suite, in that it’s focused on a group of wanderers in what is effectively a Dyson sphere called Hex. It’s less focused on the engineering and more focused on human exploration of alien tech.

A few stories didn’t especially work for me. Karin Lowachee’s story of a contractor alone on a supply depot installation didn’t have enough character development for me to get my teeth into, while Gregory Benford and Larry Niven made my teeth ache with their extra-heavy serves of techno speak and missing out on character or plot. An Owomoyela’s narrative didn’t quite seem to go anywhere… which given the narrative itself is kind of funny, but it still didn’t work for me.

Highly recommending this anthology for lovers of science fiction.

Galactic Suburbia 151

In which we consume culture and take names! get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia. 

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?

Tansy’s novel Musketeer Space is half price this week on Kindle (and in other ebook stores)! Price goes back to normal on Wednesday.

CULTURE CONSUMED

Alisa: Vaginal Fantasy; Crosstalk, Connie Willis

Alex: Revenger, Alastair Reynolds; Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer; Stealing Snow, Danielle Paige – abandoned!; The Silk Roads, a New History of the World, Peter Frankopan

Tansy: Superior, Jessica Lack; Fangirl Happy Hour on Ghostbusters: Eps 49, 50 & 52

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Revenger

I received this book from the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. It’s out in September; RRP $32.99.

Unknown 7.21.29 PM.jpegIt’s hard to really talk about this book without massive spoilers that completely take away from the gripping revelations that come as the story unfolds. So I’ll do that below the cut. But firstly: I really like this cover! The flat picture doesn’t do it justice. The stark black with pinprick stars and a black silhouette of a spaceship in the middle – it’s lovely. The title font is a bit Alien, although without a narrative connection, and the silver does cool things in the light. I’m interested that the title is larger than Reynolds’ name, since on his last (solo) novel, Poseidon’s Wake, it wasn’t (nor on the novella Slow Bullets). Must be a deliberate decision but I couldn’t speak to why.

Anyway. It gets a lot darker than I was expecting, it’s fair to say – not in a bad way but in an intriguing way. Adrana and Fura are sisters from a sheltered little world and a sheltered little family who decide to run away to sea – well, to space. The crew they join is welcoming if a bit dubious, as you would be, but things generally go well… until they don’t. And then things go quite bad.

Fura is the narrator, and when the action opens she’s not yet reached her majority. It’s unclear how old that is on her world, but one of the early tensions is the question of whether Fura is capable of making decisions for herself, or if she’s just being pulled along by Adrana. Of course, as the story progresses she develops and grows and – no spoilers – shows that she can indeed be responsible. Ish. There are some really interesting relationships that develop, but they really take back seat to the development of Fura herself.

A note on language: Reynolds hasn’t gone all Andrew Macrae Trucksong and re-invented language to represent the immense span of time; neither is he insisting that this is English – it’s just some universal language. But it’s not just transliterated (as it were). The spaceship crew, like sailors of the 18th or 19th centuries, have their own patois: people are coves, there’s lots of abbreviation and slang. More generally there are some words that are different – lungstuff, for instance, for oxygen; my favourite is quoins, for money. It doesn’t always work – it doesn’t always feel completely natural – but I especially like that the different social groups are clearly differentiated by their language, which is very real.

I love the narrative but I am really, really intrigued by the universe that Reynolds has created here. It is – I am almost certain – our solar system, but it’s an unimaginable time in the future. There’s an enormous number of worlds called the Congregation, most of which are not worlds as we know them, but small and many clearly artificial. There have been many collapses and resurgences of humanity, with concomitant loss of memory and history and mysterious rubbish left behind. The ship Fura and Adrana head out on are, brutally, junk connoisseurs – what can they find in places that might have been picked over several times in the last few centuries? But there’s a trick there, since the places with good junk are protected and dangerous. And there are alien races, too. I would really, REALLY like to see more stories set in this world.

A couple spoilery thoughts below… but the long shot is, this is a great fun novel and I’m super excited to see yet what else comes out of Reynolds’ brain.

Continue reading →

Galactic Suburbia 144

In which books take longer to make than they do to read. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia. 

What’s New on the Internet?

Nebula Awards given

CJ CHerryh named SFWA grandmaster

SF Signal closing – farewell to our friends and thanks for all the links!

Get in your nominations to us for the GS AWard: for activism and/ or communication that advances the feminist conversation in the field of speculative fiction in 2015.

CULTURE CONSUMED
Alex: The Expanse Season 1; The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds; The Philosopher Kings, Jo Walton

Alisa: books released & in progress: Defying Doomsday, Sharp Shooter, Grant Watson’s upcoming collection of film essays – see her Friday night at Continuum!

Tansy: Finished writing a book! My research reading list over the last several years includes: Orlando Furioso (Ludovico Ariosto/Slavitt translation), Thomas Bulfinch’s The Age of Chivalry & Charlemagne, E Nesbit’s entire backlist, Christina Rossetti, George McDonald, etc.

Also: Tansy’s serial Glass Slipper Scandal is now complete at the Sheep Might Fly podcast.

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

The Medusa Chronicles

This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

Unknown.jpegSo. This book. When I heard that Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter were collaborating, I was beside myself. This is two of my great SF loves coming together. It’s Robert Plant and Jim Morrison jamming.

At the back of my mind was the reminder that I haven’t quite adored Baxter’s latest novels, and that Reynolds’ latest novels have been quite different from his early ones too. NONETHELESS. Plant and Morrison, folks.

I really liked it… but I didn’t love it. It feels… old fashioned.

The premise: building on Arthur C Clarke’s “A Meeting with Medusa,” Baxter and Reynolds take the main character, Howard Falcon, who is a cyborg due to a serious crash years before, and extend him way into the future. This is a future where humanity is incredibly suspicious of machines and artificial intelligence, and Falcon – being the incredibly weird hybrid that he is – is often at the receiving end of that suspicion. But it also means that he’s useful as a mediator when humanity’s machines start developing consciousness, which means he’s there at the birth of that intelligence, which means he continues to be useful as an intermediary. This becomes the story of Falcon’s life, and thus the story of The Medusa Chronicles.

I did like it because I like thinking about humanity in the solar system and how that might work (this is another one where there’s looming interplanetary conflict, so apparently that’s unavoidable). I liked the whimsical attachment to the notion of ballooning as inspiration for astronauts and Jovian exploration. And I also like stories of the development of artificial intelligence and the consequences of that for humanity, although I did feel like that wasn’t explored enough here.

The novel feels a bit old-fashioned because I can’t quite fathom humanity being suspicious of machines. I assume this reflects the novels and other media I’ve been consuming – I mean yes, be suspicious, but surely only after they’ve shown that they want to kill us and use our bodies as compost? There’s also a significant level of info-dumping, which isn’t always a problem for me but can be a barrier, I know, for others. And, too, there’s a lack of significant character development. The reader gets to know Falcon almost by default, as our point of view, but most of the others – like Hope Dhoni, Falcon’s medical expert for much of his incredibly prolonged life – are almost faceless, ciphers.

There are some lovely moments and a few odd moments in the novel. The odd moments are especially where Falcon makes reference to old literature or films and wonders if anyone will get the reference – for example, to Tolkien – and yet Project Silenus is thus named because of Euripides, and in explaining the naming he doesn’t have to explain who Euripides is. I’m unconvinced about the longevity of Euripides over Tolkien (we’re talking centuries here), although I guess Euripides does have form. Some of the lovely moments are in the alternate history of NASA and thus humanity in space that Baxter and Reynolds present. Here, the threat of an asteroid completely changes the direction of the Apollo programme and has consequences for humanity going to Mars and beyond; the authors reference real astronauts, like Frank Borman and Charlie Duke, but give them a slightly different career path (and there’s no reference to ‘any similarity to real people is purely coincidental’ or however the line runs, in the fine print).

Overall this is a pretty good science fiction novel, but it’s not one of my favourites for the year.

Galactic Suburbia 124

An all culture consumed special (with a little awards chat just for old time’s sake). You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Hugo Awards update – how we voted. If you’re voting, get in before the eleventh hour!

World Fantasy Awards: Aussies on the ballot.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: The Almighty Johnsons; Wayward Pines

Alex: Arrow season 1; Beauty, Sheri S Tepper; Poseidon’s Wake, Alastair Reynolds; Of Noble Family, Mary Robinette Kowal

Tansy: Uncanny Magazine No. 5: “Midnight Hour” by Mary Robinette Kowal, “Woman at Exhibition” by E. Lily Yu, “Ghost Champagne” by Charlie Jane Anders, “Catcall” by Delilah S Dawson, Natalie Luhrs “Ethics of Reviewing”. Black Canary #1. Glitch.

In August we will be reading:
James Tiptree Jr: The Double Life of Alice Sheldon, Julie Phillips
“Houston, Houston Do You Read?” and “Your Faces, O my Sisters, your Faces filled of Light!” by James Tiptree Jr.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!