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Zima Blue and Other Stories

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Short story collection by the critically acclaimed author of Revelation Space and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days.

295 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2006

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About the author

Alastair Reynolds

274 books7,801 followers
I'm Al, I used to be a space scientist, and now I'm a writer, although for a time the two careers ran in parallel. I started off publishing short stories in the British SF magazine Interzone in the early 90s, then eventually branched into novels. I write about a novel a year and try to write a few short stories as well. Some of my books and stories are set in a consistent future named after Revelation Space, the first novel, but I've done a lot of other things as well and I like to keep things fresh between books.

I was born in Wales, but raised in Cornwall, and then spent time in the north of England and Scotland. I moved to the Netherlands to continue my science career and stayed there for a very long time, before eventually returning to Wales.

In my spare time I am a very keen runner, and I also enjoying hill-walking, birdwatching, horse-riding, guitar and model-making. I also dabble with paints now and then. I met my wife in the Netherlands through a mutual interest in climbing and we married back in Wales. We live surrounded by hills, woods and wildlife, and not too much excitement.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 217 reviews
Profile Image for William.
675 reviews324 followers
July 17, 2020
When Reynolds opens his heart, his mind obeys and he produces lovely mini-masterpieces: Enola (here), Turquoise Days, Zima Blue (here) and Weather. Surely his finest works.

Mostly solid collection of stories here, with some true gems.

*** The Real Story
Good solid sci-fi. Familiar but nicely constructed. A good twist or two.

**** Beyond the Aquila Rift
Lovely story with a somewhat predictable but beautifully-realised plot.
Note: The animated version is very good in "Love, Death and Robots" from Netflix.

***** Enola *****
Exquisite, poignant, wonderful. When Reynolds opens his heart, his mind obeys and he produces lovely mini-masterpieces: Enola, Turquoise Days, Zima Blue and Weather. Surely his finest works.

*** Signal to Noise / Cardiff Afterlife - some clever tech, and a plot with echoes of Flowers for Algernon. Pretty good.

*** Hideaway / Minla's Flowers / Merlin's Gun - Merlin is not actually very sympathetic for most of this mini-trilogy. Very clever "gun" tech. But Minla is an all-too-modern tale of motives and means and actions that is truly sad. I did enjoy this series.

*** Angels of Ashes - Very clever and solid

*** Spirey and the Queen
Nice mini-space opera.

**** Understanding Space and Time
A story-based exposition 0f the deep quantum nature of reality, pretty good, but Superb first chapter makes it human and very good. I just heard "Rocket Man" by Elton John, made me smile and appreciate Reynold's serendipity!

** Digital to Analogue
Strained "super hip club scene" - Did not really work for me.

*** Everlasting
Another exposition on the multiverse (which is my view of reality as well), but a bit predictable with oversaturated dialogue.

***** Zima Blue *****
Wonderful, full of heart and introspection. Nicely presented and structured. A personal journey into the mystery of self. Reminds me a bit of "Flowers for Algernon" in many ways. A mini-masterpiece. I cried.

Note: Sadly, the animated version is very POOR in "Love, Death and Robots" from Netflix.

From Zima Blue

Yves Klein said it was the essence of colour itself: the colour that stood for all other colours. A man once spent his entire life searching for a particular shade of blue that he remembered encountering in childhood. He began to despair of ever finding it, thinking he must have imagined that precise shade, that it could not possibly exist in nature. Then one day he chanced upon it. It was the colour of a beetle in a museum of natural history. He wept for joy.’

NOTE: Please, please also read Turquoise Days, a novella, and short stories Enloa, Weather, and Zima Blue. Surely his finest works, along with House of Suns.
177 reviews65 followers
April 12, 2013
INDIVIDUAL STORY THOUGHTS BELOW (so you can skip my review if you want)

A while back I was toying with the silly notion that an author's short story collection is a bit like an album, and that the stories within are individual songs: varying in length, style and quality. While reading the collection Zima Blue by my favourite SF author Alastair Reynolds, I started to think about a concept album based on the collection, with songs having the same titles and coming in the same order as they are in the book, with each song reflecting somewhat the tone and content of each story. Yeah I know, what a wank. I couldn't shake the idea though.

So I was thinking about what kind of album Zima Blue would sound like, and — maybe because they're my favourite band, and their otherworldly lyrics and production have earned them the label "space-rock" — I thought it might end up a bit like a Muse album: bombastic, spacey, dark, catchy. And British. As I read each story I tried to think what kind of song it would be.

Stories like "Beyond the Aquila Rift", "Angels of Ashes" and "Spirey and the Queen" would be the punchy, tight songs with slick production that stick in your head and get a lot of radio play, while "Signal to Noise" would be a slower, stripped-down affair with more emotional lyrics (and "Cardiff Afterlife" would be its outro, or refrain, repeating the same theme but with a darker feel). "Understanding Space and Time" would be a kind of cheesy ballad that Muse often does (eg: the song "Invincible" from Black Holes and Revelations), that inevitably becomes bigger and rockier as the song goes on.

The album's centrepiece would be the three-track rock epic made up of "Hideaway", "Minla's Flowers" and "Merlin's Gun", with a symphonic structure, layers of strings and orchestration, and a choir or two. Basically the album's version of "Exogenesis Symphony" from the album The Resistance. "Everlasting" however would be the short, kind of bland song that really should have been a b-side. And "Zima Blue" would end the album on a rather introspective note. You know the kind of song that a lot of bands save for last on their albums.

If you're not rolling your eyes by now, you can apply this idea to Reynolds' other collections. Galactic North is obviously a concept album, as all the stories are set in the same universe. The limited edition Deep Navigation fills in the gaps by collecting the stories that were left out of the other two for whatever reason; so it's a bit like a b-side collection. But the metaphor kind of breaks down when you think too hard on it. Wouldn't a short story collection be more of a greatest-hits compilation, due to the period of time it covers? And what does that make individual novels? Really long songs?

Yeah it's kind of dumb. Rather than continue, I'm just going to talk about the stories as stories from now on. Below are my thoughts on each story, which I wrote as I read them, which is why they start brief and get longer as I progressed. I've put an asterisk next to the ones which I thought were the best of the book. Last thoughts: an excellent collection, reminding me more and more why I love Reynolds as an author. Pity about that one bad story, though.


* = favourites

The Real Story - Off to a good start with an interesting story about identity and a colonized Mars. I can see elements in the worldbuilding that were reused in/from Chasm City (not sure which came first).

*Beyond the Aquila Rift - Starts out like a fresh take on Pohl's Gateway, turns bittersweet, then turns again into something disturbing. Space opera of the highest quality in only 35 pages!

Enola - A short but sweet story about AI, compassion, and post-apocalyptic Sydney!

Signal to Noise - A rather sad story involving the death of a spouse, the quantum-dialling of parallel universes, and the sending of sensory data between them. Greg Egan does this kind of story better, I think.

Cardiff Afterlife - A tiny little vignette looking at the darker side of the technology from the previous story. Also very Greg Egan-esque, also okay.

*Hideaway - The first of three stories featuring the character Merlin. A gripping astrophysical mystery of the kind that Reynolds does best, with a fantastic universe for a backdrop and a killer action centerpiece set in the stormy atmosphere of a gas giant. It's everything that makes Reynolds' books brilliant distilled into a 45 page novella.

Minla's Flowers - A lot to like about this novella. The character Merlin is great, he reminds me of the benevolent travelers of the novel House Of Suns, in his adventures helping lesser civilizations. I also loved the mystery of the whetstone, and the multiple meanings of the novella's title. It's a story format I've seen before (main character observes the evolution of a culture while traveling through time, in a sense) but done so well by Reynolds.

*Merlin's Gun - A really cool final chapter of the Merlin saga, with great action and revelations. And I recognised the star system that they arrive in for the story's climax! Sneaky Alastair Reynolds! I agree with Reynolds (in his post-story notes) that this saga is like Revelation Space turned up to 11. I hope he writes more and more stories in this setting.

*Angels of Ashes - The anthropic principle as applied to asymmetrical supernovae; robots; aliens; quantum probability; holy wars on Mars... WHY IS THIS NOT A FULL LENGTH NOVEL? (PS: I can definitely see parallels between the religions/founders in this story and the novel Absolution Gap)

*Spirey and the Queen - A space opera story of rather a different flavour to Reynolds' usual fare, thanks to a bucketload of inventive jargon like "neurodisney" and "quackdrive". Feels a bit Miéville-ish in that way. The future history of this story is fascinating (humanity divided into corporate factions with logos et al), and I enjoyed the themes of surprisingly benevolent AI evolving beyond the petty wars of humans.

Understanding Space and Time - A story that starts off about the last human alive having cosmological conversations with an either holographic or hallucinated Elton John; then moves exponentially through both time and increasing alien weirdness. The story has a certain cheekiness about it that feels like Douglas Adams or Red Dwarf, although slightly more sombre in its subject material. I have to wonder though, why Elton John?

Digital to Analogue - A disappointingly weak (but short) story involving viral dance music, mainly made up of a lot of musical/audio engineering jargon. Kind of similar to a few stories I've seen China Miéville do. But it's from very early on in Reynolds' career so I can forgive how silly/underdeveloped it is. I don't know whether it speaks more to my tastes or to Reynolds' strong areas, but none of this collection's stories set on Earth are anywhere near as good as the off-world ones.

Everlasting - Groan. Yet another story about quantum probabilities and many worlds theory. Hardly interesting at all, in ideas, setting or characters. This is probably the worst story in an otherwise brilliant collection.

*Zima Blue - A damn clever idea for a story, and I'm happy to see the return of future reporter superstar Carrie Clay. The idea of an artist capturing the attention of humanity with his bigger and (ridiculously) bigger artworks, only for the meaning behind them to be something so humble and touching, was top-notch. A great final story in this fantastic collection.
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews263 followers
April 7, 2017
"Zima Blue And Other Stories" is a nice collection of stories


Introduction by Paul J. McAuley
"Angels of Ashes" (Originally published in Asimov's SF, July 1999)
"Beyond the Aquila Rift" (Originally published in Constellations, edited by Peter Crowther)
"Enola" (Originally published in Interzone 54, December 1991)
"Hideaway" (Originally published in Interzone 157, July 2000)
"Merlin's Gun" (Originally published in Asimov's SF, May 2000)
"The Real Story" (Originally published in Mars Probes, edited by Peter Crowther, 2002)
"Spirey and the Queen" (Originally published in Interzone 108, June 1996)
"Understanding Space and Time" (Originally published in a limited edition of 400 copies for Novacon 35)
"Zima Blue" (Originally published in Postscripts magazine, issue 4, edited by Peter Crowther)
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,158 reviews103 followers
September 21, 2019
Beyond the Aquila Rift (5.0) - Reynolds at his best. Reminds me a bit of Pohl Frederik's Gateway, but a hell of a lot darker! A story that I won't soon forget, if ever.

Enola (5.0) - Mind blowing, somber yet endearing post apocalyptic tale of the emergence of AI and its confluence with humanity. Not to be missed!

Hideaway (4.0) - Brilliant start to Reynolds' Merlin sequence of stories. This feels like a galactic mystery - bizarre spatial and planetary anomalies, ancient civilizations long vanished, a shadow universe (?!) - all in a fascinating world with a fragmented and pursued humanity, hunted across the galaxy by a relentless enemy.

Minla's Flowers (3.0) - This second installment in Reynolds' Merlin sequence of stories feels overly sentimental, as Merlin intervenes in the natural development of a world in dire trouble only to result in some unintended and troubling consequences. This is a dark view of humanity's capacity, or lack thereof, to overcome differences to work together for mutual achievement. Even when that achievement is as basic as overcoming total annihilation.

Merlin's Gun (4.0) - This third installment in Reynolds' Merlin sequence of stories is a wonderful conclusion of sorts to this mini trilogy. The stories essentially follow one man, i.e. Merlin, but encompass an enormous span of time and space, giving them an epic space opera feel. As always, Reynolds not only delivers great stories, but packs in some mind blowing hard science, astronomy and astrophysics in particular, to give them the grit of stories that feel as if they *could be* real, despite how over the top much of it really is.
Profile Image for Claudia.
954 reviews533 followers
April 5, 2020
“Overhead, the bulk carriers slid in one after the other. You heard them long before you saw them. Mournful, cetacean moans cut down through the piss-yellow clouds over the port. […] There were furious blue-white stars embedded in what looked like sheets of velvet. There were hard gold gems and soft red tinges, like finger smears in pastel. There were streams and currents of fainter stars, like a myriad neon fish caught in a snapshot of frozen motion. There were vast billowing backdrops of red and green cloud, veined and flawed by filaments of cool black. There were bluffs and promontories of ochre dust, so rich in three-dimensional structure that they resembled an exuberant impasto of oil colours; contours light-years thick laid on with a trowel. Red or pick stars burned through the dust like lanterns. Orphaned worlds were caught erupting from the towers, little sperm-like shapes trailing viscera of dust. Here and there I saw the tiny eyelike knots of birthing solar systems. There were pulsars, flashing on and off like navigation beacons, their differing rhythms seeming to set a stately tempo for the entire scene, like a deathly slow waltz.”

Hypnotic words - nobody can describe such scenes better than Reynolds.

Beside the stories set up in huge frames of time and space, there are a few staged on Earth, which is kind of unusual but a welcome surprise nonetheless. Another thing which I found to be out of the ordinary was how he intertwined in his stories some elements of UK musical culture. Moreover, at the end of each one, there is an afterword in which Reynolds tells us how that story was born – loved this part also.

> The Real Story – Carrie Clay, a well renowned reporter, goes back to Mars to finally write the story of the first man who landed it there. But nothing goes as expected. 5/5

> Beyond the Aquila Rift – my favorite. The most sensitive, shattering, devastating and blow-minding story ever read. I don’t have enough words to describe it. If all the others are rare gems, this one is the most exquisite and rarest of them all. Rateless/5

> Enola – a lost civilization finds a way to leave their legacy for future. 5/5

> Signal to Noise / Cardiff Afterlife - these two are somewhat related. In a near future Cardiff, Joe invented a system called cold-calling machines or correlators, which linked together two quantum realities: present one and another version of it, in which, after the two of them locked together, they begin to differ; only the persons remain the same.
In the first story, Signal to Noise , Joe helps his friend, Mick, to venture on a journey in one of the realities to gain some closure, after a tragic event. Could it be achieved or the effect will be worse? 4/5
In the second one, Cardiff Afterlife , after a nuclear explosion that destroyed Cardiff in one of the quantum realities, Joe finds himself dead, which wasn’t so shocking but made him having afterthoughts about the machine he created. 4/5

> Hideaway / Minla's Flowers / Merlin's Gun - All three stories feature Merlin in his quest to discover the mythical weapon which will help the Cohort to end the war with the Huskers.
> Hideaway - Cohort’s runaway from the Huskers and their struggle to find a way to survive and also Merlin’s attempts to find out how the Waynet worked.
> Minla's Flowers - Merlin discovers how to use the Waynet (unfortunately, how he does that is not revealed which is very frustrating) and during one of his journeys, his ship, the Tyrant, is damaged and ends up on a planet, whose inhabitants face total annihilation because of the malfunction of one of the Waynet’s lines. So, he decides to remain and help…
> Merlin's Gun - last story of Merlin’s quest in search of that legendary weapon.
Loved all the stories, even if so many questions remained unanswered. Reynolds said that he will most definitely return to write more in this universe. Looking forward to it. 5/5

> Angels of Ashes - religion can be deceiving and manipulating no matter what species are involved. 4/5

> Spirey and the Queen - another war between two factions but in which nothing is what appears to be. 3/5

> Understanding Space and Time - the last human survivor’s quest in understanding the universe. Another brilliant piece with a surprise character. 5/5

> Digital to Analogue - an ode (I presume) to music and how it is embedded in us. Not on my taste, but I do acknowledge it has a very interesting approach. 2/5

> Everlasting - Schrodinger’s cat experiment in other circumstances. 5/5

> Zima Blue - Bicentennial Man in a different approach. 4/5

A must read for all Reynolds’ fans.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
December 8, 2016
Notes only on the title story...

Famous galaxy-wide, an artist is known for his use of one particular shade of blue. Now, he's announced that he'll be retiring - but he has one last work to unveil. Journalists and media have flocked to the location, but he's denied interviews to everyone... except one.

But when she meets the artist, it seems that rather than his work, he wants to talk to her about the gadget she uses to record her memories.

Where the story goes from there is profoundly disquieting - and very interesting.
Profile Image for Matthew Gatheringwater.
156 reviews1 follower
September 10, 2007
There are two things that made these stories a real pleasure to read: wonder and optimism. Reynolds writes as if he understands that science fiction authors have a duty to make their readers say "Wow!" He doesn't preach his favorite social theory or explain away anything interesting in the story. Instead, readers must often puzzle out how something works or follow a narrator as she uncovers a mystery or a truth. (I particularly liked the first and last stories in the book, featuring Carrie Clay, 700-year-old investigative journalist.)

Many of these stories span far futures. I'm always encouraged when someone who thinks a lot about the future can picture humans being there. So much science fiction (especially what ends up on film and television) is really anti-science and technology. I prefer folks like Reynolds, who portray humans at their best when they are figuring things out, finding ways to survive, and meeting challenges through adaptation and evolution. Even his story in which the last human dies has a happy ending.

The optimistic tone of the book may not be ultimately justified, especially considering how technology always seems to get a head-start on wisdom in human communities. I came away from the book, however, with the feeling of "Wouldn't it be nice..." and thinking that I wouldn't mind living in one of Reynolds' far futures. That might be important. After all, maybe one way to get to a possible good future is to start by imagining one.
Profile Image for Neal Asher.
Author 132 books2,716 followers
February 24, 2012
If you read and enjoy Alastair Reynolds writing then go buy this. It’s all wonderful engaging stuff. Oddly my impression was that all these were earlier short stories – written in the 90s or before – but on checking the afterword to each I see that quite a few of them were written post 2000 (or appeared then). Maybe my original impression came from a vague recollection of having read a couple of them and one of them definitely being set in the 90s. I particularly liked the trio of ‘Merlin’ stories because that vastness of time and space I look for in Alastair Reynolds stuff was all there. These were only slightly marred when, in Minla’s Flowers, a world leader who is somewhat war-mongering and murderous comes out with the line, ‘There’s no such thing as society’ – big clumsy clue there – and in the afterword we’re told that the inspiration for her comes from ‘a certain grocer’s daughter with ambitions to high office’. Ho-hum. But that aside this collection is still worth buying, reading and keeping.
Profile Image for trestitia ∵.
1,363 reviews340 followers
Want to read
June 7, 2021
love death & robots'tan geldim elbette. hikaye tvdeki kadar vurucu olur mu(ydu) okuyunca bilemiyorum ama iki sezondaki en iyi 3 hikayeden biriydi. çevirisinin olduğunu görmek de gözlerimi yaşarttı. umuyorum bu kitaptaki diğer hikayeler de bunun zima mavisi kadar güzeldir.
Profile Image for Rob.
521 reviews36 followers
January 3, 2016
.... The first edition of this Zima Blue and Other Stories was published in 2006 by Night Shade Books. In 2009 an expanded British edition appeared from Gollancz. I have read the Gollancz version of the collection which includes four additional stories. The stories in this collection are all set outside his Revelation Space universe. Most of the short fiction in that universe can be found in the collections Galactic North (2006) and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (2003). Several of the stories are linked though. The collection contains the three Merlin stories for instance, as well as two stories featuring the character Carrie Clay and two stories set in a many worlds interpretation of Cardiff....

Full Random Comments
Profile Image for Liam Proven.
161 reviews10 followers
December 31, 2012
This is an excellent collection by Al Reynolds.

It brilliantly shows off how wide and versatile his range is. A lot of the stories do carry his pervasive sense of bleakness, the brevity and futility of the human condition in a vast and uncaring universe, but for all that they are full of life and élan. He is far more than the creator of the "Revelation Space" universe and this compilation made me wish that he wrote more widely outside of his future history, much as I enjoy it.

If you like Reynolds' stuff, this is essential. If you are on the fence, this might well convert you. If you are unsure or don't know him, well, read it anyway, but it will give you a somewhat uneven impression - his novels do not contain anything like the breadth of these shorts.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews255 followers
February 8, 2014
4 Stars

These are fun thought provoking short stories from one of my favorite authors. These are lighter than his Revelation Space series, more similar to his latest works.
Profile Image for Ajam.
161 reviews12 followers
January 9, 2021
A Belated Appreciation:
Zima Blue and Other Stories alongside Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds(currently on hold) were among the first few Sci-Fi books I ever read. So in a way, Alastair Reynolds through the stories collected in these books has not only shaped my taste/preference in the genre but has also ruined most mainstream books for me. For that I am eternally and wholeheartedly grateful to him.

Read ~ Apr-Jul 2020
•Zima Blue - 5★
•The Real Story - 4.5★
•Beyond the Aquila Rift - 5★
•Enola - 4.5★
•Signal to Noise - 4★
•Cardiff Afterlife - 3.5★
•Hideaway (Merlin #1) - 4.5★
•Minla's Flowers(Merlin #2) - 5★
•Angels Of Ahses - 4★
•Spirey And The Queen - 3.5★
•Understanding Space And Time - 4.5★

Read ~ 09/01/2021
•Digital To Analogue 1992 - 4★ (Enter The Void ⨉ Climax , Gaspar Noe)
Look at the changes in popular music between 1976 and 1991, which is the gap between the Sex Pistols and Nirvana, and then compare 1991 with 2006 which is the gap between Nirvana and . . . Coldplay
Joy Division were icons of cool in 1991; they're still icons of cool now.

•Everlasting 2006 - 4★ (I'm thinking of Ending Things, Charlie Kaufman)
Profile Image for Mudita Sisodia.
29 reviews
September 25, 2019
Absolutely loved the Merlin stories and Zima Blue. I'd been mulling over my definition of art for a while and Zima Blue gave me some delicious food for thought.
Profile Image for Geoff.
596 reviews32 followers
November 29, 2016
I've read several Alastair Reynolds books. Some I've really enjoyed (House of Suns), some that were underwhelming (Blue Remembered Earth), and a couple in the middle (Pushing Ice, Revelation Space). So I was hopeful when checking out this collection of his short fiction.

It was a good collection of stories. They are all very much in Reynolds' wheelhouse of the far future, space opera genre. There wasn't as much range in this collection when compared to some of the other collections I've read (Asimov, and Le Guin most recently).

Spirey and the Queen
Understanding Space and Time
Profile Image for Mert Avcı.
13 reviews3 followers
August 20, 2020
Hikayeleri genel anlamda sevdim. Hatta kimisine hayran oldum diyebilirim. Öncelikle şunu söylemeliyim; Gene Wolfe okurken nasıl edebiyat ve tarih alanında bilgi ile okunması gerekiyorsa, Reynolds’ın da bilim çerçevesinde kalburüstü bir bilgiyle okunması daha faydalı olacaktır. Kitapta hikayeler çok güzel konular üzerine eğilmiş. Olay ve karakterlerden bağımsız olarak hikayelerin ana fikri işlemesi daha ön planda. Bu yüzden herkesin seveceğini düşünmüyorum ama ben tek kelimeyle her hikayeye bayıldım. Farkı bir yazarın bilim dozu yüksek hikayelerine dalmak istiyorsanız tavsiye ederim. Öne çıkan konuları ve imgeleri araştırın, sorgulayın. Çok faydası olacaktır.
Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
January 31, 2011
This collection of short stories NOT set in the Revelation Space world shows greater range than all of Reynolds' other books combined! Space Opera and identity confusion are mixed with near-future, earth-bound stories and even a completely non-SF story. Some of the characters/backgrounds have multiple stoires and I could happily read more about most of them.

Each story or sequence has an afterword by the author - some of these are interesting.
Profile Image for Lee.
351 reviews192 followers
December 1, 2013
This was a mixed bag for me. There were some of the short stories that I enjoyed and some that just seemed to drone on. I am 'a little bit' into Quantum mechanics and do enjoy the whole an infinite number of other 'me's' experiencing every conceivable outcome.
Profile Image for Tim Hicks.
1,493 reviews116 followers
July 28, 2015
Thoughtful, interesting, hard-SF-but-not-too-complex stories.
Most explore quantum physics and the meaning of humanity/intelligence,
but Reynolds never forgets that rule 1 is to tell us a story.
Profile Image for Candy.
29 reviews
January 30, 2022
I really enjoyed the story, the format of the writing itself was a little confusing for me but that could be because I'm used to a certain type of story writing style. Many hidden meanings behind the story about the purpose of slide and how chasing material things and success won't h=give us happiness but it will lead us back to dissatisfaction. I love how the swimming pool represents Zima coming back home to where it truly belongs. Like its eyes have been opened. While reading this I thought of how it's similar to famous people saying that fame and wealth didn't bring them happiness but there families or the 'small things in life" did.
Author 6 books12 followers
March 30, 2023
Awesome collection. Most stories feel like miniature versions of his best novels, but some of my favorites were ones that broke the mold and felt nothing like his more popular stuff. For example, Digital To Analogue felt like an homage to William Gibson, while Everlasting felt like something Ramsey Campbell might have penned.
Profile Image for Bev.
2,897 reviews258 followers
February 3, 2013
Alastair Reynolds is apparently a fairly big deal in recent science fiction. The fact that I didn't know this and, in fact, didn't even know his name before picking up his Zima Blue & Other Stories for the A-Z Reading Challenge (X, and Z are always such devilish letters to find interesting books for...), well, that just goes to show how out of touch I've been from the SF world.

Reynolds is a British science fiction writer. I have to admit that my SF reading has been very heavily American--with Douglas Adams, Arthur C Clarke and H. G. Wells being my primary authors from across the pond. According to the interwebs, he specializes in dark hard science fiction and space opera and has won the BSFA award for best novel as well as being nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, Hugo Award for Best Novella, Locus Award for Best First Novel, Locus Award for Best Collection. This collection most definitely represents his affinity for dark hard science fiction.

There is a lot of war here...war dependent on all sorts of scientific weaponry that I don't even pretend to understand. War between various offshoots of the human race as well as war against mysterious "others" who may or may not be evil aliens. These are the darkest of the stories as we try to figure out who the bad guys really are. The best stories of the collection--"Signal to Noise," "Angels of Ashes," "Understanding Space & Time" and "Zima Blue" --manage to mix that dedication to hard science with interesting human stories without allowing the scientific details to overshadow the human. Among them, my favorite is "Understanding Space & Time"--I love the infusion of Elton John and "Rocket Man" into the story. I am also interested in the main character's search for enlightenment and how Reynolds ties that into quantum physics.

While the two related stories "Hideaway" and "Merlin's Gun" also have a good story to tell, I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what the heck all these terms meant. I was distracted to the point that the denouement in each case lost much of its punch. I also think it would have helped if the stories had appeared in the order they were written--"Merlin's Gun" first, followed by its prequel, "Hideaway." Many of the confusing details in "Hideaway" would have been much clearer.

I'm not adverse to hard science fiction. I do think, however, that stories that depend on it and which employ author-generated terms to explain such science should succinctly explain the terms. No long, drawn-out lectures--just enough to let the average reader understand what's going on. That's a difficult task for a short story, and that may explain why most of the world-building hard science fiction stories that I really appreciate are novel-length rather than short stories.

All that said, Reynolds is a good story-teller. I've enjoyed my venture into more recent British science fiction and am very glad that the A-Z Reading Challenge led me to his book. There are some very ambitious creations here involving alternate timelines, the augmentation of the human memory, and reality itself. Three and a half stars.

This was first posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.
Profile Image for AmourVarat.
21 reviews
March 7, 2022
This book is amazing! It relates to how humans will never be satisfied with what they have and always need something, but this is also a part of evolution because if we feel fulfilled with what we have, we wouldn't struggle or change ourselves, and overall, we wouldn't be where we are today. This story is very entertaining and I would really recommend this book to everyone!
Profile Image for Maddalena.
382 reviews6 followers
July 23, 2016
My successful encounter with Alastair Reynold's short fiction in Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days persuaded me to look for more of his stories collections and this one proved to be again different from what I expected: there is a wide range of themes and moods in this anthology, and it helped me appreciate the different shades of storytelling of this amazing author.

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19 reviews
February 6, 2023
I found this story to not be the best of the best but most definitely not the worst in any way. Its main focus is on, as its title suggests, a specific color which holds unparalleled significance to its main character, an artist by the name of Zima. Throughout the story, the relevance of the color and how it ties into Zima’s character is explored. This partly relates to what I said earlier about not seeing this story as the best – it’s because I didn’t feel all that attached to Zima (which should be hard regardless since we are indeed talking about a sentient universally-acclaimed artist). I want to acknowledge that this is probably intended on the author’s part since it makes the audience feel like the time we spend with him is short and brief, akin to another passing drop of water in the endless torrents of time, to exemplify a sense of immediateness but I couldn’t get around feeling like his chosen ending – returning to being a pool cleaner without higher brain function – was lacking of impact. I don’t mean to say I didn’t like it from a narrative sense in any capacity; what I mean is I felt lacking of connection toward the character at what was meant to be this grandiose moment of a sentient lifeform rediscovering himself and returning to his origins, at peace with it all. Having said that, I am happy to say all I have left is praise. The writing is elegant and beautiful, I can picture the architecture and scale of the world at hand easily and the image painted in my mind is nothing short of stunning. It really adds to how this story spans across galaxies and the significance of the renowned artist we are learning of (I liked that some of his most ambitious paintings stretched and sprawled across entire planets!). The characters are also well written. Carrie, the interviewer who isn’t the main focus of this story, feels extraordinarily human and real. She doesn’t just fawn over Zima and listen to his every word without any hint of doubt like another poorly crafted side character that only exists to be a vessel for the “main character’s” story, she expresses genuine impatience whilst exhibiting traits of a great journalist including but not limited to her curiosity and drive to record the absolute truth. Zima himself isn’t dull either. I cherished the idea of a robot who lost himself after growing more and more successful. His ending performance is entirely conceivable too. If I were a bored celebrity and artistically minded, I’d most likely attempt something similar. The detail of his final work being rarely understood having a small audience is intriguing as well because I think it reflects something inherent to the real world: people will look at something beautiful and easy to digest and praise its beauty to unimaginable extents (referring to his prior works) but will also fail to recognize perfection in pieces of work that are more subtle and nuanced. Looking back at this I think what I just typed reminds me a lot of myself and my sentiment on relating to the human side of Zima. Maybe this is truly the most beautiful tale the world has to offer and I’m just to simple minded to understand it’s intricacies but oh well, they say ignorance is bliss… There isn’t much left to say so I’ll end this review here. Solid read 4/5.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Pan.
73 reviews
February 6, 2023
Warning: This review was written by a person of neurodivergence. Pay no mind to anything I say.

A true menace in the mid lane; this piece of lore for the big blue man of League, Ryze, disguised as an award-winning short story would make for a most phenomenal bedtime story considering how much my usually high-energy self – enough that a kindergarten teacher thought I had ADHD – wanted to put myself out of my misery and go into an eternal sleep with the cyanide pill embedded in my glasses as I forced myself to endure the 25 page story.

I must declare that I am an idiot. A most simple-minded creature whose underdeveloped monke brain only has the capacity to process the most basic of stimuli and return an instinctual response: cute girls doing cute things, me happy. Furthermore, I choose to be ignorant. If being a cultured reader of refined tastes meant I had to spend any of my miniscule mental capacity to unpack the supposedly intricate layers behind the story and pretend it was somehow good, then I would much rather be content with my simplistic blissful ignorance, willingly letting myself become Pavlov’s dog, hard-wired to enjoy the generic slave harem Isekai #312, and I would laugh in the face of all the nerds.

The writing, the themes, the morals, however deep and touching they may be, completely went over my head, gracefully flowing in laminar motion past my mirror polished aerodynamic brain. I failed to notice how the story is a powerful treatise on the nature of happiness. I cared not about the touching story about a robot finding his place in the universe. I missed what it had to say about the human nature to endlessly search for meaning. I missed the message about staying true to one’s nature and finding peace within. I do not care about allusions to eastern religions, the metaphors, and similes, and whatever literary device they come up with. I simply don’t care. Half the stuff I listed was probably wrong, and I cannot be bothered to check it.

All I saw through these two eyes of mine were a goofy ahh title, a pretentious robot, and an annoying reporter who talked too much. No more, no less.

Honestly, I feel the same way reading anything that has more intellectual depth than the average nursery rhyme, so this story is not particularly special in this respect. If I were in a better mood, it would’ve probably netted a 4-star review. However, it came at the right time to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Thanks for coming to my ted talk.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
21 reviews
January 25, 2022
This short story feels quite dull plot wise, but is very impactful message wise. This story holds many messages, and the one that stands out the most to me is “finding what makes us truly happy”, because it can easily resonate with everyone - people still live on while trying to find the thing that makes each of us truly happy. However, we try to find this in the things we set our goals on, creating even higher goals once we reach one goal but still feel unsatisfied because that’s how society shapes this mindset of ours by saying things like “aim higher” or things along that line. However, we don’t really try to look back to the simple things that are around or right in front of us. This is in the perspective that Zima represents an individual.
In another perspective, Zima’s existence is like a metaphor of our human species. Zima’s additional ‘programs’ are like the evolution of humans. We, as a species, started out humbly in the middle of the food chain. However, after mutations that led to our cognitive evolution, we adapted, invented, and changed until we are who we are today. We have many materialistic things by our side and have earned great achievements as a whole. The goal of our inventions and discoveries is to make our lives easier, more comfortable, and hopefully, more ‘happy’. We actually reached this goal many times, but we continued to add on to it. Well, I feel like this process of finding or creating one thing which opens the paths to many other is an endless cycle of sorts, not that I complain or anything. What I’m trying to say is that, in addition to all the new things we invented, we overlook or forget the things that are already there - nature. Just by thinking of nature, a vast forest for example, you would probably feel a sense of calmness and peace. (or is it just me? Ok then.) I think that there is a reason for it. In this analogy, our forest here is like Zima’s swimming pool - it is our (specie's) origin - giving us a sense of peace and comfort. Of course, there’s many scientific explanations behind this but that’s besides the point.
To move on, I think that the author also smoothly brought up many questions that relate back to our own lives and make us think. For example, the conversation about the beautiful nature of fallibility leads to memorable memories. The language used in the story is very descriptive and the way the author describes the scenery creates a beautiful aesthetic in my mind as I read along. The word choice also creates a calm atmosphere while the contents of the story is discussing deep topics.
Overall, there’s just so many things that you can take from this story. It’s one of those great short stories that makes you think and question many things.
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20 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2022
honestly, there are many things to say about this story. When I finished reading this for the first time, I wasn't thinking much about the hidden meaning or what is the pool really reflected. Like c'mon, the Zima Blue pool? what can it possibly symbolize? But then I started to realize that there's a lot more in dept. My favorite line would be when Zima explains his idea about certainty and memory. Uncertainty is a core of reality, it gives you an ability to be certain of misremembered details that made humans differ from machines. If we were to remember every detail so clearly, there would be no room for imagination and false memory. this is why our memory is so vivid and exciting since humans tend to remember the stuff that they feel like and choose to abandon those that they feel are unnecessary. Zima Blue, himself, symbolizes the idea of people worshipping a false idol. No one really understands what is he talking about but chooses to praise him because of "the trend." I can relate to this since I live among the people who are praising brands, artists, or celebs. We don't really know what's going on and to be honest, I don't even care why Monalisa is sooooooooooooooooo famous. But yea I pretend like I care since it made me look cool. Same with all the singers and actors out there, I think tons of them are being overrated but I could never say this out loud. Yes, I am talking about Harry Styles, Zendaya, and especially, Rihanna. like wth, y'all really trying to be emo kids. Euphoria high vibe going on, I guess? I just can't keep up with the trend. People will probably be throwing rocks at me if I'm being shady towards Harry Styles.
Maybe this is the reason that Zima never feels complete. He knows that at least half of them don't admire his work, but they just admire the fact that they're trendy. The fact that they know Zima and own his artwork are making them praise him. Not because of his talent, but because of the fame that his work will bring to them.

Coming back to Zima, I do feel like he's a typical rich person. They have fame, money, power but still, be unsatisfied. I guess this is the result of him accomplishing everything in life, to the point that everything just seems so vague. He's trying o find the true purpose of his existence because it would make him feel complete.
23 reviews
February 6, 2023
Written by Alastair Reynolds, Zima Blue is a story told about an artist, Zima Blue. Little is known about him as he is like an enigma, he is known for his various works of stunning art. But as he started making his work more abstract, he would add shapes in the middle with the color that people all knew to be, Zima Blue. As Zima Blue was about to present his last work or his retirement, he let a journalist that had always been asking him nicely to do an interview, come and talk with him. Slowly, the journalist started to uncover Zima’s secrets, like how he was always initially a robot that was created to do simple tasks, or how he went around the entire universe in search of something, or a resolve the universe must have for him. It was then that this made him realize something.

Zima has gained a wealth of knowledge that his ‘life’ becomes a burden. As Socrates said: “The only true wisdom is knowing nothing”, in this case, it is the exact opposite of the story. Zima Blue traveled the entire cosmos and learned from various sources of wisdom, this could potentially mean that he might have gained all the information and all the answers to the universe. From my personal philosophical perspective, having complete knowledge of the universe may bring a sense of enlightenment, understanding, and transcendence. On the other hand, this might happen to Zima Blue, is that it could also bring feelings of overwhelming responsibility, moral dilemma, and a loss of personal identity. Zima Blue is jaded from the wisdom he acquired, he lost a sense of significance to everything, and thus he lost himself in the process. Hence, the ‘suicide’ happened when he got to go back to his old ways. Simple, yet meaningful and fulfilling. Sometimes, bliss does come from ignorance. And to be honest, I am glad to not know everything, after all, curiosity does kill the cat. I find the concept present to be quite charming, so the story is yet another great short story.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
February 8, 2023
Story 8

Language 7

Ideas 8.5

Characters 9

Enjoyment. 8

Overall 8.1 4 stars

Zima blue, a story I never knew was this deep in philosophy. The first time I witnessed this story was not through this book but through the Netflix series. It was already a satisfying episode then, but reading the book made it much better. The book unknowingly gave me many questions about life and how someone would live through it. Do you live your life venturing for fame and money or for happiness and comfort? How much is enough? And what is happiness? These are some of the many questions I got from this book.

Zima, the main character of this story is certainly not human and is arguably not living. Yet, Zima went through an entire life time chasing want he thought he needed. In the end, it wasn’t what he needed that satisfies him, but his actual life and experience. All he needed was his origin story and the place where he began. The place where he only served one purpose. The place where he was unconscious yet happy.

Ironically, the central concept of a robot having a deep connection with the color zima blue is humorous when thinking about what the story gave. There were many other things that Zima could have connected to, but no, the author specifically chose the zima blue tiles on the side of a swimming pool. This personally gave me some extra enjoyment on top of the questions that came with the story.

Other than the philosophical perspective the book gave, there was the enjoyment of imagining the huge murals and paintings Zima drew and made. There wasn’t a day in my life where I would think of an entire planet slowly being color blue, zima blue. This gave me extra enjoyment when I was reading through the s
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