Fiction Reviews

Galactic North

(2006) Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, 9.99, hrdbk, 343pp, ISBN 0-575-07910-X


Not counting the double-novella book Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, this is the first collection of Reynolds' short stories, consisting of eight tales all set in the 'Revelation Space' Universe, three of which are new for this volume. They are placed in order of their internal chronology and include "Great Wall of Mars", which tells of Clavain throwing in his lot with the Conjoiners; "Glacial" a Clavain tale set on a deserted ice planet visited by Americans; "A Spy in Europa" which introduces the 'Denizens' in the sea of Europa dominated by Demarchists; "Weather" the tale of a Conjoiner prisoner among Ultras; "Dilation Sleep" about an Ultra's ship falling prey to the Melding Plague and losing his ex-wife's avatar; "Grafenwalder's Bestiary" about an unusual collector around Yellowstone trying to acquire a Denizen and falling afoul of the criminal, Trintignant; "Nightingale" set near Sky's Edge and featuring a hunt for the war-criminal, Jax, aboard the supposedly destroyed hospital ship Nightingale; and the title story "Galactic North" in which an Ultra, betrayed by a colleague to the enhanced-pig pirate Run Seven, chases her nemesis from AD 2303 to AD 40,000, along the way starting the 'green plague' that outlasts the conflict with the Inhibitors. The book also contains an afterward about Reynolds' influences in creating his 'future history' (now including four novels, the aforementioned novellas and these stories), not least Larry Niven's tales of 'Known Space', as well as plugging Greg Benford, Sam Delaney, Michael Swanwick, Iain Banks and M John Harrison. It is a fascinating look into Reynolds' mind and thinking.

If you have already enjoyed Reynolds' work, including the two novels not set in the 'Revelation Space' universe, then you will not be disappointed here. If you have yet to encounter him, this collection is as good a place as any to start, and might actually serve as a good introduction before steeping yourself in the novels. So far at least, that is since 2000 (to 2007), I would have to say that I think Reynolds' is the best writer so far discovered in the 21st century (with Richard Morgan close behind), and I am more than happy to highly recommend his work.

Tony Chester

See Jonathan's take on Galactic North here.

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