David Conyers's Reviews > Galactic North

Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds
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it was amazing

** spoiler alert ** Galactic North is a collection of eight novellas and short-stories from British science fiction author Alastair Reynolds. All are set in his Revelation Space series which to date includes the novels Chasm City, Absolution Gap, Redemption Ark, The Prefect and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days. Think Larry Niven’s Known Space updated to current scientific and technological thinking, a lot more political machinations and war fronts, and that’s this series in a nutshell.

The stories in Galactic North cover a period ranging from approximately two hundred and six hundred years into our future, and then some more. This is a time when humanity has explored and colonised Earth’s nearby star systems. There are intelligent alien species to be found, but most are dead or in hiding, and this mystery forms the crux of many Revelation Space tales.

One aspect I liked about all eight stories was how well they captured the sense that our Twenty-First Century is nothing more than ancient history, much like we view the Elizabethan Era. There is no United States, Russia or the Middle East translated into the future, instead a whole host of new competing ideologies and factions have replaced the old ones, building a wide reaching tapestry of intriguing ideas and conflicts.

Demarchists and Conjoiners fight wars for the right to enhance their human capacities into godlike powers. Ultras control the space routes that bind the various systems together. In the middle various planetary governments do their best to survive with whatever technology and resources they can get their dirty hands on.

Yet even with his vivid creations, Reynolds still manages to create poignant tales that mirror the problems facing our world. There are war criminals, propagandists, pirates, refugees, animal smugglers, and world devastating plagues that science is powerless to control. Most telling of all is a great divide between the haves and the have nots, much like the developed and developing world in our times.

All the stories are excellent, but two stood out for me. The first was “A Spy in Europa” which read like a short story penned by Ian Fleming, but set in the far future, on an exotic and vibrant moon as grandiose as any super-villain fortress found in a James Bond adventure.

The other tale was “Nightingale” about a group of mercenaries set upon bring justice to a war criminal. But first they have to find him, hiding out on a hospital ship where a lot of human skin is being manufactured. The ending is straight out of Lovecraft, and very unsettling.

Alastair Reynolds has to be one of the most entertaining space opera writers of today. All his stories in Galactic North have big ideas which he can describe without the technobabble that plagues the writing of many of his peers. His plots are intricate but never complicated enough to become lost. His characters are intriguing but there are never too many to become confusing.

The only thing Reynolds doesn’t shine at doing is expressing emotional depth in his writing, but on all other fronts he is a stand-out science fiction author, and one well worth investing time in reading.

This review originally appeared at www.albedo1.com
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
June 15, 2013 – Shelved

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