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Review, 20070101 - Galactic North, by Alastair Reynolds - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Review, 20070101 - Galactic North, by Alastair Reynolds [Jan. 7th, 2007|05:47 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Blogger's note: It is with a measure of personal irony, that one of my most literate lj friends recently posted a screed in which he decried a tendency among some bloggers who seem to believe that reading a certain number of books is a mark of some kind of achievement. Not that I have set any such goal for myself, but at the same time Colin has announced that he will review fewer books, I had decided that, this year, I will try to say at least something about every book I do read this year.

Will I prove to have much to say about them? Time alone will tell.

Space Opera Is Alive and Well and Living in Britain


Well, there's "space opera" and there's space opera. The former, at its best, is Stars Wars written with at least some consideration of internal consistency, if not with the laws of physics. The latter, on the other hand, can go toe-to-toe with the best non-genre popular fiction and Alastair Reynolds, a relative new-comer to the field, is a heavy-weight, writing with a sure hand novels and stories of epic scope, well-drawn characters and a healthy dose of scientific verisimilitude.

Reynolds' latest is a collection of stories set in his "Revelation Space" future history, one spanning tens of thousands of years.

The stories in this volume are printed chronologically - not as written, but in terms of when they are set. The first takes place a couple of centuries in the future, the last ends around the year 40,000. However, unlike too many SF story collections, Galactic North makes no pretense to being a novel (and yet, I can think of some "novels" that hold together as a single narrative less than this collection of stories does).

Reynolds' future is one of spectacular and sometimes disturbing change, yet his characters - even those barely recognizable as human - still manage to be people in whom the reader can believe, even on those occasions when they are repellent.

From war and treachery on Mars, to genetically-engineered humans living 100 kilometres below the ice of Saturn's moon, Europa, to the far reaches of insterstellar space, Reynolds' book kept me turning the pages with pleasure and anticipation.

If you enjoy adventure that makes you think, if you take pleasure in comtemplating the complexities - good and bad - the future might hold, Galactic North seems to be an excellent introduction to Reynolds' universe.

Interestingly, Reynolds seems to stick pretty scrupulously to what is currently known to be at least scientifically plausible (if not necessarily likely). Though there are star-farers galore in his universe, there is no faster-than-light travel or miraculous gateways in time, no god from the machine.

Along with other recent writers of high-end space opera like Stephen Baxter (another Brit), one is tempted to suggest that Science Fiction risks entering a second "golden age".
linkReply

Comments:
From: 10021
2007-01-08 12:38 am (UTC)
colin's post deserves to be in "metaquotes" so everyone can read it.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-08 12:43 am (UTC)

What Dat?

Seriously, I don't know what you mean? Explain, and I will make it so.
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From: 10021
2007-01-08 12:50 am (UTC)

Re: What Dat?

http://community.livejournal.com/metaquotes/profile

tends a lot more towards humor or snark than deep thoughts, though the community profile says it's for both.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-08 01:47 am (UTC)

Re: What Dat?

Aha! I think I actually joined that group for a while; but I don't want to do so again. I have a hard enough time keeping up on the journals already on my list. (Though I doubt Colin would object if you posted his words there.)
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[User Picture]From: miyyu
2007-01-08 12:54 am (UTC)
Will this one stand alone well, or do I need to pick up something else of his first? I am always looking for well-written, thought-provoking science fiction (and historical fiction, come to think of it), which seems to be in short supply.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-08 01:06 am (UTC)

Stands Alone

Yes, it definitely stands alone. Judging by the novel, Revelation Space itself, Reynolds is writing independent stories and novels set in the same universe, not a saga, so you can probably pick it up anywhere.
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[User Picture]From: sooguy
2007-01-08 01:40 am (UTC)
Thanks to the link to your friend's journal. I refrained from posting a reply to it.

For me setting a reading goal and accomplishing it does mean something to me. When you have limited time, career, kids and other aspirations, making time for something you love does have to be scheduled and milestoned.

If he wants to be a literary snob, that's his choice. Personally I don't pass judgement on anyone that wants to pick up and reads book regardless of their motive. So what if they want to plow through X number of books to be able to boast about being an avid reader even if they don't grasp half of what they read. As long as they buy some of those books first hand there's a few more entertainment dollars that found their way to some publishers and writers somewhere in the world.

Sorry if I sound like I am replying to his post in your journal. I guess in a way I am. It wasn't my intention.

Getting back to your review, I've seen some of Alistair Renyolds works around, but can't say as I have read him. I'll keep him in mind. Have you read any of Karl Schroeder's work? Not all of his work is exactly Space Opera, but his Permenance was rather enjoyable. And I have high hopes for his Space Pirate novel Son of Suns which he said he had immense fun writing and blowing stuff up after the very intellectually dense Lady of Mazes which I have, but have not read.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-08 01:58 am (UTC)

Judgements Galore

Personally I don't pass judgement on anyone that wants to pick up and reads book regardless of their motive.

If one's motive is only to hit a certain number, or to read particular books simply in order to say that one has read them. What I suspect (without having asked him) really set him off is the tendency of some to either "review" a book by quoting a synopsis from Amazon or something, then tagging that with 2 or 3 sentences that amounts to, "I liked it" or the opposite.

Or worse, those who simply list books they bought, which simply baffles me.

"[M]aking time for something you love" is, I think, something very different.

I did read Son of Suns when it was serialized in Analog a while back, but though I finished it I found it frustrating. More than anything else, I think the high-tech/low-tech background simply didn't convince me. Nor, come to think of it, did the semi-feudal political order.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-20 01:09 am (UTC)

Post-Scriptum re Karl Schroeder

The current issue of a href="http://analogsf.com/0703/issue_03.shtml" target="_blank"> has started serializing Schroeder's sequel to Son of Suns. I'm still having a hard time swalling the technological conceipt, but I confess I'm looking forward to part two.

You might, just possibly, be able to find Analog at the Black Cat magazine store downtown (Durham Street?). If not, they might order it for you.
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[User Picture]From: steelcaver
2007-01-11 09:17 am (UTC)
Along with other recent writers of high-end space opera like Stephen Baxter (another Brit), one is tempted to suggest that Science Fiction risks entering a second "golden age".

If so, bring it on. :)
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-12 01:55 am (UTC)

Pohl!

I'm going to go out on a silly limb and blame the so-called "renaissance" on John Varley's "8 Worlds" books and story's, with an honourable mention to Fred Pohl's Gateway. Good writing, good characters and gosh-wow!
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[User Picture]From: steelcaver
2007-01-19 09:05 pm (UTC)
It's more than just in print. Have you seen the new Battlestar Galactica? Or any of the other new Sci-Fi offerings on film and television? It's a drastic improvement from a few years ago, when Andromeda was all we had to look forward to.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-20 01:13 am (UTC)

BSG! BSG!

Yes, I've seen it. I don't watch a lot of teevee anymore - and haven't for years so take my opinion with a grain of salt - but Battlestar Galactica is probably the best television drama I have ever seen, let alone the best science fiction show. It deals with politics with remarkable complexity.
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[User Picture]From: steelcaver
2007-01-21 05:08 pm (UTC)
Hold the salt. Everyone (except for aging 70's-television-show buffs) agrees that the new Battlestar Galactica is the shit.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-27 03:27 am (UTC)

"Everyone"?

I don't know where you're getting your information, but I've barely seen a mention of BSG in the Globe or other mainstream publications. I suspect the traditional liberal-arts bias against science fiction.
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[User Picture]From: steelcaver
2007-01-29 07:42 am (UTC)
I barely see a mention of anything arts and entertainment related related in said publications in the first place.
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[User Picture]From: colinmarshall
2007-01-13 02:45 am (UTC)
Well, I won't exactly read fewer books -- if I did that, I'd die -- but I'll more consciously avoid reading with a purely numerical goal in mind. I've never veered particularly close to that reading style, but now I'll keep well to my side of the road.

That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with posting about what you read, assuming you're not simply chasing a quota. In fact, that's welcome.
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