PDA

View Full Version : Alastair Reynolds



SharkByte
2007-Nov-02, 01:09 AM
I've been reading a series of books by a guy named Alastair Reynolds recently. According to the bio information on the jackets he has a PHD in Astronomy and use to work for the European Space Agency until he quit to take up writing full time.

The books are futuristic Space Opera's but most of what he writes, science wise actually seems somewhat plausable to me. Starships barely approach the speed of light, trips between star systems take decades, he takes into account and even explains time dilation effects at speeds approaching the speed of light. Is anyone familier with the Revelation Space series? What do you guys think about it?

The Supreme Canuck
2007-Nov-02, 01:30 AM
Yes, Reynolds is one of my favourite SF authors. The later books get a little weak, in my opinion, but are still darned good. Which books have you read?

Paul Beardsley
2007-Nov-02, 07:58 AM
I've only read his shorter works, mainly as they appeared in magazines, but also Diamond Dogs and Turquoise Days. I've got Revelation Space and Chasm City (and also Century Rain) sitting on a shelf waiting for the time when I'm not studying for a PGCE.

I like what I've read so far. At first I thought the stories were a bit cyberpunkish, but unlike most cyberpunk authors Reynolds has remembered to make us care about the characters.

SharkByte
2007-Nov-02, 10:48 PM
I'm just about to finish up Galactic north tonight. I've read all of them leading up to this one except Century Rain which is next on my list because it took Amazon about 2 months to get it to me over here in the middle of the atlantic ocean... lol

It took me a while to warm up to his writing style. The first book, Revelation Space seemed to start out slow but gradually picked up as it went on. The next two I just couldn't put down and the rest have been pretty much the same way:) I do think I might have found me new favorite SciFi writer:)

phaishazamkhan
2007-Nov-02, 11:19 PM
Revelation Space is made of win. My favorite is Chasm City. Supposedly there's a prequel of sorts coming out where the Glitter Band is still the Glitter Band around Yellowstone but I'm not particularly interested in prequels. When I first read Revelation Space I imagined it as an anime OVA and couldn't see it really being done well with CGI or live action.
The final book Absolution Gap was just okay and lacked the je ne se quois embodied by the first three books. His Revelation Space short stories are a hoot too.
Pushing Ice was a good read but nothing to really write home about.
Signal to Noise featured in the most recent iteration of Year's Best Science Fiction is an amazing story that underscores the fact that he's a good writer even when he's not using his established playground.

phaishazamkhan
2007-Nov-02, 11:22 PM
And I would like to recommend Michael F Flynn's short story The Clapping Hands of God.
http://books.google.com/books?id=hZ1Wle17cFkC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=%22clapping+hands+of+god%22&source=web&ots=M9qNLvivuC&sig=Wa46Z9XfMcQNu2C_MMPZciA-tts
As always, long link is loooooong

Ilya
2007-Nov-03, 01:08 AM
Century Rain is not a part of Revelation Space universe (AR himself calls it Inhibitors universe). My favorite book is Chasm City -- in fact I think that of entire Inhibitors series it should be read first. Revelation Space is very dense, and as first exposure to Reynolds might put some people off.

Absolution Gap (the last book in the series) started out great, but the ending was rushed and unsatisfactory. Also, toward the end of the series the science part gets rather rubbery.

I read Pushing Ice (good, not spectacular), and all of the Inhibitors series except the latest book, which was not yet released in the US.

Ilya
2007-Nov-03, 01:12 AM
For those who never read Reynolds, here is a good sample story, free online:

A Spy in Europa (http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/europa.htm)

FYI, it is set (relatively early) in Inhibitors timeline, and is part of "Galactic North" collection.

phaishazamkhan
2007-Nov-03, 02:01 AM
And as if I haven't posted enough in this thread, my favorite science fiction author is Iain M. Banks. Sometimes I'd like to be contacted by a GSV while listening to my police scanner and leave it all behind.
Other times I'll be standing outside on my break staring into the sky and wondering how cool it would be to see the looming arch of an orbital high overhead.
Anyway Banks's future and universe always comes across as being something to look forward to rather than moving forward, shoulders slumped and head bowed ready to take that boot which will smash their face — forever.
Just seems that dystopia is the flavor du jour because the dystopia will make our lives seem far better in comparison to the author's dark opinion of what may come. Heck I think that Banks does a better Federation with The Culture than Roddenberry could or would ever imagine. Mostly because Banks has fun with it and it shows in his writing. Finally there's a certain charm finding such casual use of a particular word (fiki for the esperantists out in the audience) in his novels but that's just me.

Grashtel
2007-Nov-03, 02:28 AM
Revelation Space is made of win. My favorite is Chasm City. Supposedly there's a prequel of sorts coming out where the Glitter Band is still the Glitter Band around Yellowstone but I'm not particularly interested in prequels.
You should check "The Prefect" out, its not really a prequel just another story set in the same universe with no particular ties to the original Revelation Space sequence other than that.

ETA: "The Prefect" is the title of the book set in the Glitter Band that phaishazamkhan was referring to (its been out in the UK for months).

SharkByte
2007-Nov-03, 01:25 PM
I have the Prefect, Zima Blue and Century Rain sitting on my shelf waiting to be read now:) I finished up Galactic North last night so I'll be moving the giant bean bag sofa out back by the ocean and kicking back with Century rain in a little while:)

Ilya
2007-Nov-03, 08:25 PM
I read Pushing Ice (good, not spectacular), and all of the Inhibitors series except the latest book, which was not yet released in the US.

I too, was referring to The Prefect. I did not remember the name at the time.

Ilya
2007-Nov-03, 08:29 PM
Anyway Banks's future and universe always comes across as being something to look forward to rather than moving forward, shoulders slumped and head bowed ready to take that boot which will smash their face — forever.
Just seems that dystopia is the flavor du jour because the dystopia will make our lives seem far better in comparison to the author's dark opinion of what may come. Heck I think that Banks does a better Federation with The Culture than Roddenberry could or would ever imagine. Mostly because Banks has fun with it and it shows in his writing. Finally there's a certain charm finding such casual use of a particular word (fiki for the esperantists out in the audience) in his novels but that's just me.

My problem with The Culture is that humans lost control of their destiny. The Culture is run by AI's; they take care of humans; the humans are pets. And I would not call Alastair Reynold's or Peter Hamilton's futures dystopian. (Aside from hostile aliens, that is. :) )

eburacum45
2007-Nov-03, 08:40 PM
This is a problem with the future, rather than with Iain Bank's novels; every far future scenario has to either deal with the existence of vastly superior AIs, or explain why they don't exist.

Ilya
2007-Nov-03, 10:42 PM
BTW, who said an SF future must be utopian OR dystopian? Personally, I prefer reading about futures which are neither. In Peter Hamilton's, Larry Niven's, Alastair Reynolds' stories set centuries from now there is still social inequality, crime, terrorism, conspiracy theories, religious nuts and airhead heiresses, but most people exist in neither bliss nor despair, mostly just minding their own business. IOW, not too different from present. With certain differences, of course: "Life is a *****, and then you rejuvenate and do it all over again!" is how one Hamilton's character defines middle-class rut.

Ilya
2007-Nov-03, 10:44 PM
This is a problem with the future, rather than with Iain Bank's novels; every far future scenario has to either deal with the existence of vastly superior AIs, or explain why they don't exist.

Since the inevitability of "vastly superior AIs" is by no means proven, I do not see it as a big problem.

eburacum45
2007-Nov-04, 02:21 AM
No, but if they are absent in a fictional scenario, then some mention of why they don't exist is often given nowadays. For instance, in Pandora's Star the SI is lurking round every corner, no doubt waiting the right moment to pounce upon humanity. Similarly in Dan Simmon's work, the AIs are planning for the day when they will relieve humanity of their responsibilities. The prequels to Dune seem to have been written with the Butlerian Jihad as the main focus; as indeed they should be.

Maybe 'vastly superior' AI won't appear in the future of humanity; but if it does, the focus of all history will change.

I see it in almost all modern SF writing- the struggle for freedom against the oppressor, or the manipulative éminence grise behind the scenes, or the mysterious and powerful benefactor that gives the protagonist gifts of wealth or power; once these characters would have been people, or gods- nowadays, in SF, thay are likely to be AI.

eburacum45
2007-Nov-04, 12:13 PM
One way to look at it is by comparing advanced AI to an 'elephant in the room'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_in_the_room
(Fans of QI will recognise this concept.)
An elephant in the room is almost always the most important thing in that room; if no-one mentions it, one wants to know the reason why.

If yoy are describing an advanced civilisation the possibility, or likelihood, of advanced AI is always there; if it is absent then one one wants to know the reason why.

In Reynold's very dense works, the Human race has mostly travelled down the path of IA, (intellgence augmentation) rather than AI (artificial intelligence); yet the main existential threat they face is immensely powerful and entirely implacable AI entities (the Inhibitors). The elephant in the room is why the Conjoiners and other transhuman factions don't make their own anti-Inhibitors to combat the threat. and the answer seems to be that this will just create twice the problem.

However the humans in Reynold's stories don't shy away from using technology created by aliens which seem to have vastly superior AI themselves, like the Hades Matrix; one wonders why they couldn't cut out the middle man.

Ilya
2007-Nov-04, 07:10 PM
The elephant in the room is why the Conjoiners and other transhuman factions don't make their own anti-Inhibitors to combat the threat.
They did -- they made Greenfly.

and the answer seems to be that this will just create twice the problem.
And that's exactly what happened.

eburacum45
2007-Nov-04, 08:57 PM
The Greenfly are an anti-Inhibitor measure? That makes a lot of sense- I must have missed that. I thought they were just a rogue terraforming swarm.

Ilya
2007-Nov-05, 02:56 AM
I misspoke, and you are correct -- Greenfly were not released intentionally. I meant they are an example (both to the reader and to human characters) of why introducing self-replicating mutating space-adapted artificial life form for ANY purpose is a very bad idea.

Kelfazin
2007-Nov-09, 11:54 PM
Pushing Ice is the first Alastair Reynolds book I've read (actually just finished it the other night) and I thought it was pretty enjoyable. It's nice to have books by people that have a good understanding of the field they're writing about :)