Oh look! Subterranean Press has officially announced this year’s massive career-spanning collection of Alastair Reynolds’ short stories and novellas, titled Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds. It’s a whopper of a book, about 250,000 words (or 768 pages) of quality SF material. It’s automatically a must-buy for me. Let’s break down the details of the announcement, starting with some cover art:
That striking artwork is, I assume, exclusive to Subterranean Press’s limited edition (the cover for Gollancz’s UK edition is sure to follow soon). I’m not sure off the top of my head whether the image is from a particular story, but I like it a lot. Weirdly, the full title isn’t on the cover, but maybe this is just a draft version.
Next up, let’s look at the contents (which are listed on the book’s purchase page). First, it’s strange that only eighteen stories are listed (plus story notes at the end), considering Gollancz’s original book description said the collection would feature twenty. Also, that description named “Signal to Noise” as one of the included stories, but that story is nowhere to be found in the released table of contents. I’m not sure if this means that Gollancz will include two more stories in their edition (“Signal to Noise” being one of them), or if the final contents have been trimmed down at the eleventh hour. We’ll have to wait until Gollancz reveals the details of their edition to find out. For now, let’s examine the Subterrean Press edition’s table of contents.
Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds
- “Great Wall of Mars”
- “Beyond the Aquila Rift”
- “Minla’s Flowers”
- “Zima Blue”
- “The Star Surgeon’s Apprentice”
- “The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter”
- “Diamond Dogs”
- “Thousandth Night”
- “Trauma Pod”
- “The Last Log of the Lachrymosa”
- “The Water Thief”
- “The Old Man and the Martian Sea”
- “In Babelsberg”
- Story notes
Last October I came up with my own table of contents for the book, including the confirmed stories and my own picks to round the book out. I actually capped my contents at nineteen stories, leaving one slot empty because I haven’t read a lot of Reynolds’ more recent stories. But how did my list end up comparing to the actual contents?
Leaving out “Signal to Noise” for now, it looks like I only got nine of the stories correct — including the ones that Gollancz had confirmed. Oh well. I’m really thrilled that the novella “Thousandth Night” made the cut, because I’ve been wanting to read that for a long time. It’s quite interesting that three lengthy novellas are clumped in the middle of the collection (numbers 9 to 11) instead of being spread out a bit.
Oh, and some quick stats: Although Reynolds has been publishing short stories since 1990, the earliest story in this collection is from 2000. Of the eighteen stories listed for the Subterranean Press edition, 2 of them were collected previously in Galactic North, 3 in Zima Blue, 1 in Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, 3 in Deep Navigation, and the remaining 9 were not previously collected.
Overall it’s a really good selection of stories, I just have some personal disappointments about ones omitted. I’m looking forward to hearing the justification for all of the inclusions (whether it comes in the author’s story notes, or in an introduction by editors Jonathan Strahan and William Schafer, or just in interviews around the time of the book’s release), and I also look forward to either revisiting or newly discovering every story here.
Anyway, go preorder this book if a limited edition takes your fancy, and get excited for the release date in June!
Edit: Here’s another weird thing. The press release mentions “Galactic North” as an included story, but it’s not in the table of contents. Maybe it’s really nineteen stories? Who knows? Probably the editors!
Edit 2: Jonathan Strahan has confirmed on Twitter that “Signal to Noise” had to be cut from the collection for length reasons.