Update on The Best of Alastair Reynolds — including the first description

minlaFans of SF short stories pay attention: Amazon UK now has a description for the upcoming collection The Best of Alastair Reynolds! It’s for the Gollancz version, but I assume the contents will be the same as the Subterranean Press version, which supposedly will be arriving sooner. Still no word on the release date — as I reported previously, different Amazon catalogues have different years listed (2016 or 2017). Anyway, here’s the description:

With an introduction by noted SF critic Jonathan Strahan, this collection of twenty short stories, novellettes and novellas includes MINLA’S FLOWERS, SIGNAL TO NOISE, TROIKA, and seven previous uncollected stories, including TRAUMA POD, THE WATER THIEF and IN BABELSBERG.

Alastair Reynolds has won the Sidewise Award and been nominated for The Hugo Awards for his short fiction. One of the most thought-provoking and accomplished short-fiction writers of our time, this collection is a delight for all SF readers.

There’s also a short review quote from The Times, but I can’t find the actual review in question. It’s probably one they were asked by the publisher to provide in advance.

So, let’s examine the description. Twenty stories is a good number, but it looks like there will be a good deal of overlap with Reynolds’ previous collections. That’s to be expected, because this is a career highlights package, but only seven uncollected stories is a shame considering Reynolds has been very prolific since his last collection in 2011. (Actually, they don’t list the novella “Troika” with the other uncollected stories there, so I’m not sure if it’s actually meant to say eight uncollected stories…)

Of the six stories listed, I’ve only read “Minla’s Flowers” and “Signal to Noise”, both of which are in Zima Blue — check out my review of that book to see what I thought of them! “Minla’s Flowers” is good, but it’s really better read alongside its companion stories “Hideaway” and “Merlin’s Gun” (also found in Zima Blue). It’s also good to see “The Water Thief” included, because if I recall correctly, it’s part of the Poseidon’s Children universe.

Now, as for the rest of this collection’s contents, let me talk about what stories I hope get included.

* * * * *

Firstly, which Revelation Space stories? I loved the recent, super-creepy “The Last Log of the Lachrimosa”, which was also published by Subterranean Press, so there’s a good chance it will make it in. Nearly every other Revelation Space story (apart from “Monkey Suit”) is already collected in Galactic North and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days; I think they work best when grouped all together in those collections. But if I had to pick just a couple to be in this new volume, I’d say “Glacial” and “Galactic North” are the most impressive, and offer the most fascinating ideas of the lot.

Next, which stories from Zima Blue and Deep Navigation should be recollected? There were some definite standouts in each book. From Zima Blue, the winners for me were “Beyond the Aquila Rift”, “Angels of Ashes”, “Spirey and the Queen”, and “Zima Blue”. I also loved the Merlin trilogy of stories, of which we know “Minla’s Flowers” is included. I would have chosen “Hideaway” myself, but oh well. From Deep Navigation, my favourite stories were “The Fixation”, “Feeling Rejected”, “Byrd Land Six”, and “Tiger, Burning”. For mini-reviews of each of these stories, by the way, check out my story-by-story thoughts about each book (linked in the first sentence of this paragraph).

Finally, which uncollected stories deserve the most to be collected? I have a rundown of all of Reynolds’ uncollected work here. I haven’t read most of it, so I hope the editors of The Best Of pick well and I’m pleasantly surprised. I can definitely recommend “Scales” though, which is Reynolds’ short and subversive take on military SF. Of what I haven’t read, I really hope “Thousandth Night” gets included — it’s an alternate take on the universe from House of Suns, featuring the same characters, but in a very different situation. I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time.

* * * * *

Based on what we know is in the collection, and my hopes as listed above, here’s a possible table of contents (in no special order) for The Best of Alastair Reynolds. I know this will probably end up being way off the mark, but we’ll see soon enough.

  1. “Minla’s Flowers”
  2. “Signal to Noise”
  3. “Troika”
  4. “Trauma Pod”
  5. “The Water Thief”
  6. “In Babelsberg”
  7. “The Last Log of the Lachrimosa”
  8. “Glacial”
  9. “Galactic North”
  10. “Beyond the Aquila Rift”
  11. “Angels of Ashes”
  12. “Spirey and the Queen”
  13. “Zima Blue”
  14. “The Fixation”
  15. “Feeling Rejected”
  16. “Byrd Land Six”
  17. “Tiger, Burning”
  18. “Scales”
  19. “Thousandth Night”
  20. (one more previously-uncollected story)

One last bit about the collection: Reynolds has confirmed on his Twitter that he’s writing story notes for this collection:

It’s always fun to get a look inside the head of writers I like. And that’s enough speculation for now… this post was way longer than I intended. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to bring something more solid like a proper table of contents, or the cover art!

EDIT: Oh, while I’m at it, Reynolds also tweeted a few days ago that he submitted a new novel to his publisher! Probably a first draft, but still exciting news!

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