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.
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".