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View Full Version : I LOVE Alastair Reynolds!



Ilya
2008-Feb-28, 07:29 PM
I am in the middle of reading "Zima Blue", a collection of sort stories, and it is AWESOME. In part it is because Reynolds refuses to refute Einstein -- there is no FTL in his stories and characters take decades or centuries to get from place to place. This leads to stories which are utterly sweeping in scope, for by the time human race or its distant descendants pervade the Galaxy, it takes tens of thousands of years for anything significant to have its full effect. Add time dilation, cold sleep and rejuvenation technology, and you get stories like "Merlin's Gun" where protagonist goes to sleep for three thousand years (she has little choice in the matter) and wakes up to meet a man who had been lost in the mists of legend by the time she was born. Cultures which rose and fell and rose again, and look with mystical awe at millenia-old artifacts they do not understand, even though they themselves are far above our current real-world technology. Wars that span the entire galaxy and tens of millenia, with each side having only a dim suspicion that its enemies arose from the same Old Earth it did.

If any SF writer can make your head spin, Reynolds is it.

redshifter
2008-Feb-28, 08:46 PM
Thanks for the recommendation, I'll have to check that out.

Any other Reynolds books to recommend, other than Zima Blue? I can only think of a few novels I've read where interstellar colonization/wars occur even without FTL travel.

Ilya
2008-Feb-28, 09:12 PM
Any other Reynolds books to recommend, other than Zima Blue? I can only think of a few novels I've read where interstellar colonization/wars occur even without FTL travel.

His entire "Revelation Space" timeline (none of "Zima Blue" stories are in it). The novels, in chronological order are:

Diamond Dogs/Turquoise Days - 2460-2515
Chasm City - 2480-2517, with flashbacks to around 2300
Revelation Space - three separate plotlines starting 2524, 2540 and 2551; all come together in 2566
Redemption Ark - 2605-2653
Absolution Gap - 2615-2727, with a glimpse of 3100 or so

I think Chasm City should be read first. Other books make a lot of references that make little or no sense if you had not read Chasm City. BTW, one of the main characters of Revelation Space is introduced on the last page of Chasm City, although her name is not given and you do not find out for certain it is her until early in Redemption Ark.

The Prefect, Reynold's newest book, takes place around 2450. I had not read it yet.

"Galactic North" is collection of stories set in the same universe:

Great Wall of Mars - about 2205
Glacial - about 2220
A Spy in Europa (http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/europa.htm) - about 2300
Weather - about 2400
Dilation Sleep - could be anywhere from 2300-2500
Grafenwalder's Bestiary - about 2520
Nightingale - somewhere between 2500-2550
Galactic North - begins about 2300, spans next 40,000 years

Great Wall of Mars, Glacial, and Galactic North provide minor background points for Redemption Ark; Chasm City provides major background for Grafenwalder's Bestiary and Nightingale.

Ilya
2008-Feb-28, 09:15 PM
Besides "Zima Blue", the only non-Revelation Space book by Reynolds I read is "Pushing Ice". It is good, but not great; it also takes place (or rather, begins :) ) in much nearer future than most of his stories.

Smiley because emphasis is on "begins". Just how far in the future it ends is almost too scary to contemplate.

The Supreme Canuck
2008-Feb-28, 09:18 PM
Alastair Reynolds is my favourite SF author, for all the reasons above. He simply wins.

Ilya
2008-Feb-28, 09:37 PM
I can only think of a few novels I've read where interstellar colonization/wars occur even without FTL travel.

Greg Benford tried that in his six-novel "Galactic Center" series, but did not pull it off quite as well. First two GC books, "Into the Ocean of Night" and "Across the Sea of Suns", take place in solar system and within a dozen light-years or so. Subsequent four books all take place within a few light-years of Galactic Center -- and 35,000 years pass between second and third. Not surprisingly, because that's how long it takes to get from vicinity of Earth to galactic core. What Benford lacks is sheer sweeping scale of human continuity across galactic distances -- it's more like a travelling tribe than a spreading one. Also, "Into the Ocean of Night" was written in 1970's and did not age well.

BTW, Benford was my favorite SF writer before Reynolds, and Reynolds credits Benford (also Larry Niven) with inspiration for his major themes.

Paul Beardsley
2008-Feb-29, 09:35 PM
Minor quibble - unless I am mistaken, it is "In the Ocean of Night", not "Into".

I have read quite a few of Reynolds' shorter works, including Galactic North, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, and a rather good short story not set in the Rev Space series. Once I have finished my teaching course I will read Rev Space and Chasm City, which sound interesting.

Ilya
2008-Feb-29, 09:40 PM
Minor quibble - unless I am mistaken, it is "In the Ocean of Night", not "Into".

You are right (http://www.amazon.com/Ocean-Night-Galactic-Center/dp/044661159X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1204321153&sr=8-1)


I have read quite a few of Reynolds' shorter works, including Galactic North, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, and a rather good short story not set in the Rev Space series. Once I have finished my teaching course I will read Rev Space and Chasm City, which sound interesting.

What do you teach?

Paul Beardsley
2008-Feb-29, 09:52 PM
What do you teach?
At the moment, mainly Skills For Life Numeracy, which is everyday maths - things like, how to calculate the three kinds of average, how to deal with measures, convert fractions to percentages to decimals and so on. Mainly to adults who are by no means unintelligent but who had a bad experience with maths when they were at school. I also teach 16-19 year olds how to use computers in a professional manner. I have one student who is fascinated by astronomy, so I lent him some magazines and told him about a telescope salesman who lives very near him - recommended to me by no less than Sir Patrick Moore!

The Supreme Canuck
2008-Feb-29, 10:18 PM
Once I have finished my teaching course I will read Rev Space and Chasm City, which sound interesting.

Frankly, I think that Revelation Space is the better-written of the two. Though I like the noir feel of Chasm City. No spoilers here, but I think Chasm City is a little more distant from the mainline plot of the series.

Ilya
2008-Mar-01, 03:19 AM
Frankly, I think that Revelation Space is the better-written of the two. Though I like the noir feel of Chasm City. No spoilers here, but I think Chasm City is a little more distant from the mainline plot of the series.

I read Revelation Space first, and found it a rather difficult book. It has a lot of details which simply do not mean anything if you had not read Chasm City. None of them are very important to the plot, but you certainly lose out without them, and they cause frustration because you are trying to figure out things which simply can not be figured out from this book alone.

When I re-read Revelation Space after reading the rest of the series, I was amazed just how many details went over my head -- and were promptly forgotten, -- the first time. So yes, while Chasm City is somewhat off to the side from the main plot, I still think it must be read first. It provides the most background, and requires least.

The Supreme Canuck
2008-Mar-01, 05:15 AM
I don't think you need to read Chasm City first - heck, it wasn't even written first. It's nice to have the backstory, but you can do fine starting with Rev Space in media res. I'd read them in chronological order now, but I didn't have the option when I started the series (only Rev Space had been written), and I seemed to get through it just fine. And in any case, Rev is still better-written.

redshifter
2008-Mar-18, 08:45 PM
Hey guys, I picked up Chasm City per Ilya's recommendation - enjoying it so far! It's good enough that I'm planning on reading the remaining 'Revelation Space' books after finishing Chasm City. Thanks for the recommendation!!

Question: Should I read Diamond Dogs next or Revalation Space?

Weird Dave
2008-Mar-19, 12:46 PM
I don't think you need to read Chasm City first - heck, it wasn't even written first. It's nice to have the backstory, but you can do fine starting with Rev Space in media res. I'd read them in chronological order now, but I didn't have the option when I started the series (only Rev Space had been written), and I seemed to get through it just fine. And in any case, Rev is still better-written.
Hate to disagree, but I'd say the opposite - Chasm City was definitely my favourite of the Revelation Space universe. The main three (Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap) all had small niggling problems in my eyes (jarring characterisation in the first two; in the third the very end chapter (might be an epilogue) seemed superfluous given the great "ending" that preceded it). They are all very good though - I do recommend them. Also be sure to check out his one-off Century Rain, which together with Chasm City are his best books IMHO; and Pushing Ice, which has been criticised as unoriginal but I enjoyed it for that very reason (it is almost a sequel to the late great Clarke's Rama; I liked Pushing Ice in inverse proportion to how much I enjoyed the official sequels).

Ilya
2008-Mar-19, 03:30 PM
Also be sure to check out his one-off Century Rain, which together with Chasm City are his best books IMHO; and Pushing Ice, which has been criticised as unoriginal but I enjoyed it for that very reason (it is almost a sequel to the late great Clarke's Rama; I liked Pushing Ice in inverse proportion to how much I enjoyed the official sequels).

Calling Pushing Ice a "sequel" to Rama is... well... pushing it :) But tribute to Rama, certainly.

Weird Dave
2008-Mar-19, 05:30 PM
Calling Pushing Ice a "sequel" to Rama is... well... pushing it :) But tribute to Rama, certainly.
"Almost" was probably a not a strong enough disclaimer ;). But I was thinking of this review: http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/clarkes2006.htm#reynolds . But I did enjoy it.

redshifter
2008-Mar-19, 07:21 PM
Should I read Diamond Dogs after finishing Chasm City, or go right into Revalation Space?

Weird Dave
2008-Mar-19, 08:19 PM
Should I read Diamond Dogs after finishing Chasm City, or go right into Revalation Space?
I don't think it matters. Depends if you want to read a long or short book next ;) . But do make sure you read Diamond Dogs before reading the short stories in Galactic North (it helps explain a character in one of them).

redshifter
2008-Mar-19, 09:27 PM
Thanks!

Paul Beardsley
2008-Mar-19, 09:46 PM
I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Diamond Dogs whereas I have not yet read Rev Space. (I started it but was sidetracked; I'm looking forward to getting back to it.)

Ilya
2008-Mar-20, 02:52 AM
Diamond Dogs/Turquoise Days is two separate novellas in one book. "Diamond Dogs" is absolutely terrific -- if you like gothic horror. "Turquoise Days" is IMO the weakest Reynolds story yet. It feels very unfinished -- more like an outline of a novel which did not quite get fleshed-out.

eburacum45
2008-Mar-23, 01:59 AM
I like Diamond Dogs too. It does remind me very slightly of the Cube movies- which are not really my cup of tea- but in the Reynoldsiverse, the strategies devised to explore the Spire are somewhat more drastic.

ngc3314
2008-Apr-08, 04:44 PM
I'd like to thank the whole bunch of you for pointing me to Alastair Reynolds. Helped to make up for the loss of my longtime favorite SF writer. I found Redemption Ark and it was good for two 4-hour flights. Alas, he wears well enough that nothing else of his showed up in two large used-book stores I checked while traveling, so I'll keep watching the local outlets...

redshifter
2008-Apr-08, 07:45 PM
I'd like to thank the whole bunch of you for pointing me to Alastair Reynolds. Helped to make up for the loss of my longtime favorite SF writer. I found Redemption Ark and it was good for two 4-hour flights. Alas, he wears well enough that nothing else of his showed up in two large used-book stores I checked while traveling, so I'll keep watching the local outlets...

Ditto for me! Though I haven't had much time lately for leisure reading, I'm still working through Chasm City. It's a great read so far!

The Supreme Canuck
2008-Apr-08, 08:09 PM
No spoilers, but the end is... fun.

And I still maintain the Rev Space is better written. To each his own, I suppose.

Ilya
2008-Jul-08, 08:22 PM
In June I read "The Prefect". Chronologically it is the earliest novel in the series (a few short stories precede it). It too can be used as ther entry story into RS universe.

BTW, I almost finished re-reading "Chasm City" and found a throwaway reference to Nestbuilders, as well as another alien race which AFAIK never appears anywhere else (an no, it's not the Grubs).

Stormstrike
2009-Oct-18, 11:05 AM
Sorry to necro an old thread, but here's my experience, in chronological order:

1) Revelation Space

I found "Revelation Space" while browsing a book store. I was in the mood for some hard SF space opera, even though I hadn't read much at all of that genre in the past. I'm not quite sure what I expected, but I wasn't prepared for how dark it was. By the end of the book, I was thinking, "This is an insanely bleak view of the future, none of the characters are likable, and the info-dumps are too much to take."

I finished the book with no intention of reading the sequels. But I realized that, in the weeks following, my mind kept coming back to the big concepts and ideas in the book -- the Pattern Jugglers, the Shrouders, the Melding Plague, the massive Nostalgia for Infinity and its ancient "districts" that hadn't been walked by humans in centuries.

2) Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days

I read Turquoise Days first. As others have said, it's okay. Nothing more. The high note of this story is the extra background information on the Pattern Jugglers, which was interesting enough to keep me reading.

As for Diamond Dogs, I thought it was just a little too heavy on the Cube references, but I loved the way Reynolds set it up -- he builds great tension from the early scenes in Yellowstone right up until the crew arrives at the base of the Blood Spire. Without getting into spoilers, this story gets progressively more shocking and disturbing with each page.

3) Redemption Ark

Probably my least favorite of the RS books. Some of the characters (like Clavain) are an improvement, but Skade was intolerable, and probably not in the ways that AR intended. Also, Volyova's actions in Resurgam space in this book seem highly implausible, considering her past history.

Still, the big ideas are present in this book, the plot moves forward with the Inhibitors, and the action picks up significantly with the space battles toward the end of the book. We also get to learn a lot more about the Conjoiners, a high point of this book.

4) Absolution Gap

The Quaiche storyline -- and the resulting religion -- was brilliant. I think Reynolds could have written a whole series about the religious fanaticism, the "cathedrals," the "miracle" and the origins of Quaiche aboard the Dominatrix.

The Rashmika storyline goes nowhere, unfortunately, but that gets lost once the action picks up in Ararat space and the battle with the Inhibitors becomes gradually more pitched.

Overall, I liked this book.

5) Chasm City

I loved this book, and in many ways I think it's better than Revelation Space. It may not be able to quite compete with the latter book in terms of big ideas (although it comes very close), but Chasm City is better in so many other ways -- the descriptions, the characters, and most importantly the plot. There's really a sense of adventure here that reminds me of Iain M. Banks.

I loved the descriptions of the post-Melding Plague Chasm City, the ways the wealthy elite entertained themselves, the dank locales of the Mulch and the insane situations Tanner Mirabel finds himself in.

But what puts this book over the top are the Sky Haussmann flashbacks. Haussman is like a literary version of Commodus from the movie Gladiator -- he's a corrupt psychopath using his position to consolidate power, even at the expense of his closest friends and family, and he has absolutely no conscience.

Reading about Haussman's "edge" over the other flotilla ships; the mystery of a rumored ghost ship; the psychological and memory games; Sleek and Clown and Traveling Fearlessly...just wow.

Sky Haussman could have been the focus of an entire book, and I cannot imagine it would be even the slightest bit boring. Add to that the intrigue, resentment and politics of the flotilla's colony ships -- and its "generation crews" -- and this story is easily the most memorable in any Reynolds work.

6) Galactic North

Dilation Sleep was the best of these short stories, IMO. The mood was perfect for an AR story, the setting was creepy, and the plot was the perfect mix of SF, horror and suspense. I didn't see what was coming.

Nightingale was my second-favorite in this collection. It's just as disturbing as Diamond Dogs, and again Reynolds uses a ghost ship theme to build up massive amounts of suspense before the story even gets really started. There's also an interesting element involving the ethics of war, and questions about emotions in computer AI.

7) The Prefect

This book is proof that Reynolds is improving stylistically, plot-wise, and most markedly in character development. For fans of the RS universe, it's thrilling to see the Rust Belt in its glory days as the Glitter Band, during the previously only-hinted-about Belle Epoque.

It is true that, at its heart, this is a police procedural, but I've never read any cop story like this, and Reynolds does a great job of making this a police procedural in the Revelation Space universe, not just a story about cops with futuristic trappings.

Again, there's some great theoretical stuff about human behaviors in AI in this story, with two "villains" who share similar incarnations, even if they arrived at their respective points in completely different ways. There are great meta-references to other characters, plots and ideas from the earlier RS novels, and the glimpse of Demarchist society at its most powerful was extremely interesting.


Non-RS:

Century Rain

I loved the main characters, especially Floyd, and I got into the concept of a preserved mid-20th century Paris. But I suppose I'm spoiled by the hard science in AR's other work, because I didn't like the wormhole-esque travel system and the fact that the plot leaned on the technology of an unidentified, technologically superior alien race. There are also overt, incessant and very cheesy references to the movie Casablanca, which only get worse as the book progresses.


House of Suns

A return to form for AR. The concept of the Lines was fascinating, as was the vast galactic knowledge archive and the use of information as the ultimate currency. AR was less concerned with plausible technology in this book, but somehow he was able to keep some of the qualities that made RS so great, while showing off some new skills.

Hesperus, Campion and Pursale were all fun characters to spend time with. I especially loved the Spirit of the Air, its origins, and its role as a bridge between the machines of the past and present day. The end of this book is also the most poignant, hands-down, of any AR book to date.


/novel

tdvance
2009-Oct-18, 07:37 PM
I know "info-dumps" are considered a newbie mistake in SF writing--but I actually like them---IF they make good sense (some so-called SF writers do info dumps are clearly "science" needed to make the story work but are not part of any consistant body of knowledge, much less real-world science--a long treatise explaining, say, how a teleporter works is entertaining to me only if I find it believable rather than contrived.). I enjoy Reynold's explanations--he's an astrophysicist, and even when he makes up new physics, it's not that far from believability.

Incidentally, responding to a post way, way back, it's not quite true he uses no FTL. He uses very little FTL, and in the books I read, the humans never discovered it for themselves, but used alien technology (thus getting around the need to explain how it's done--the characters themselves don't know). And he tried to keep it from being badly contradictory to the physics as we know it (e.g.---the ending of House of Suns where the Absence finally gets explained by the robot made of marbles).

tdvance
2009-Oct-18, 07:40 PM
Incidentally, it's "Purslane" in House of Suns.

I looked at the names given to the Gentians, and to the Machine People ("robots" is so politically incorrect--robots are people too! They are "machine people") and suspect both sets of names followed some kind of pattern, but I don't know what it is.

tdvance
2009-Oct-18, 07:44 PM
A short description of Reynolds:

take a little of Heinlein, a little more of Niven, "harden" it up and modernize it some, and darken it quite a bit, and you have Alastair Reynolds.

Reynolds said his favorite author as a boy was Niven, and Niven was his writing inspiration. He liked that "Known Space" universe and wanted to invent his own consistent (as much as a writer can humanly make) universe and write to it.

Ilya
2009-Oct-19, 01:41 AM
Incidentally, it's "Purslane" in House of Suns.

I looked at the names given to the Gentians, and to the Machine People ("robots" is so politically incorrect--robots are people too! They are "machine people") and suspect both sets of names followed some kind of pattern, but I don't know what it is.
All clones of Abigail Gentian have names of obscure flowers. Hence "House of Flowers".

I believe same is true for House of Moths. Hadn't figured out the names for Machine People.

Ilya
2009-Oct-19, 01:42 AM
Reynolds said his favorite author as a boy was Niven, and Niven was his writing inspiration. He liked that "Known Space" universe and wanted to invent his own consistent (as much as a writer can humanly make) universe and write to it.
Reynolds cited Greg Benford as his other inspiration.

Solfe
2009-Oct-19, 02:12 AM
I picked up The Prefect at my local supermarket for less than $5.00. I loved it, but where do I go from here? Any suggestions?

<edited to remove html, sorry.>

Ilya
2009-Oct-19, 12:16 PM
I picked up The Prefect at my local supermarket for less than $5.00. I loved it, but where do I go from here? Any suggestions?

My suggestion is read "Chasm City" next.

tdvance
2009-Oct-19, 08:27 PM
Also, I KNOW Reynolds has read Douglas Adams. Several times, I've seen something from Adams rendered in Reynolds-space, except seriously instead of humorously.

Of course, now I'm trying to think of one....