Alastair Reynolds

First proper description of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

planet-crackedAlastair Reynolds’ new novel Revenger arrives in August, and the new plot description is very exciting. I found it on Bookdepository.com. Here’s what it’s all about:

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them …

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future – a tale of space pirates, buried treasure and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism … and of vengeance …

This could end up being my favourite of Reynolds’ universes to date, with its mix of alien ruins, piracy, and a seemingly Firefly-like vibe. I’m dying to read this book.

There’s also, of course, the collection Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds, coming out in June or July (depending on the publisher). Oh and it seems that The Medusa Chronicles (co-written by Reynolds and Stephen Baxter) is out now in the UK. I’ll need to look into ordering it!

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Checking in with some Alastair Reynolds news

Beyond_the_Aquila_Rift_by_Alastair_Reynolds_tradeI’ll be quick, it’s late here and I’m tired. My new job is good, but it’s quite draining. Tonight I’m bringing you just a few pieces of info about some upcoming work by Alastair Reynolds:

  1. Subterranean Press has an alternate dust-jacket for Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds, for the trade hardcover edition. I personally like Reynolds’ own cover more, but that’s quite a bit pricier.
  2. Reynolds has put a very short excerpt of his upcoming novel Revenger on his blog. I haven’t read it because I want to go into the novel completely fresh! Although, I have noticed a new bit of description on the Amazon UK page that describes the novel like so: “A superb SF adventure set in the rubble of a ruined universe, this is a deep space heist story of kidnap, betrayal, alien artefacts and revenge.” A Reynolds space-opera heist? Yes please.
  3. He’s also revealed that he’s sold two new short works, both set in universes of earlier works: “Belladonna Nights”, set in the House of Suns universe, and the longer (maybe novella-length) “The Iron Tactician”, in the Merlin universe. Both settings are incredible, so these will be a treat.

I hope those tidbits have whetted your appetites. I’ll be back soon with a book review or two, and I have some interesting posts on both Reynolds and China Miéville planned!

Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds — first cover art and full contents!

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:

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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.

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It’s 2016! Here’s some Alastair Reynolds release dates

aquilaHappy new year! Time for a quick update on those Alastair Reynolds release dates for this year. To read more about what’s in store from Reynolds in 2016, check out the round-up I did last year.

First up, on May 19th, is The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter. This collaboration should be interesting. I’ll talk more about the original story that it’s based on in the coming weeks, but if you like you can go and read the first five chapters now!

Then, less than a month later on June 16th, we’ll get the “best of” collection, now titled Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds. Hopefully a table of contents will be announced soon, but if you’re interested in what I think will be in it, check out this earlier post.

Finally, on September 15th, there’s a brand new novel called Revenger. It’s not connected to any previous work, and so far all the info the publisher has released is the following:

This is a superb, punchy, action-packed caper from one of the greatest contemporary SG novelists. Fast-paced and accessible, it’s character and story focused and promises to be an incredible SF ride.

Well, cool! Anyway, that’s three great books to look forward to from just one author I love. There’s so much else to look forward to in 2016.

As for my blog this year, I will continue talking about the books I’m reading (I’m running late on wrapping up my 2015 reads, ugh). In the next month or so I’ll get my hands on This Census-Taker by China Miéville, so there might be a review for that. Other than that, I’ll just see how things come. I’m starting an awesome new job in a few weeks so I’ll be pretty busy, but it’s not the kind of job where I’ll have to take work home, so I anticipate plenty of time for reading and blogging.

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.

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Cover art for The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter

I just wanted to share the cover art for the upcoming Reynolds/Baxter collaboration The Medusa Chronicles (out February next year), which was revealed by Gollancz in the last 24 hours. For more info about the book itself, check my post about what 2016 has in store for Alastair Reynolds fans.

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It’s not bad, but there are some weird composition choices. Why not just have Jupiter itself in the background, instead of a fuzzy, transparent patch of Jupiter’s clouds? And why do the ship’s searchlights cast beams through vacuum? It’s a bit weird, but I’m just excited for the book itself so I don’t really care what the cover looks like.

Oh, and I’m still working on that review & recap of Arthur C Clarke’s original novella. Watch this space.

The 2016 Alastair Reynolds forecast — two new novels and more!

areynoldsThis year has been good for Alastair Reynolds’ fans, with the trilogy-concluding novel Poseidon’s Wake and the standalone novella Slow Bullets coming out in quick succession. There’s also the possibility that Subterranean Press’s upcoming collection The Best of Alastair Reynolds will reach us by November, although considering that there hasn’t been any kind of proper announcement yet, it may be pushed back to 2016. More on that book later in this post.

Anyway, I want to take a quick look at what’s coming out in 2016 from Reynolds. It looks like it will be just as exciting a year for new work as this year was!

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My 2015 reading, part two… More reviews and thoughts!

2015_2Now that we’re at the year’s halfway point, once again it’s about time I collect my thoughts and mini-reviews about all the books I’ve read recently. Here’s the first of my 2015 posts. In this post and all future ones I’ll exclude the books that aren’t directly genre-related (which in this case is just one, the entertaining but pulpy World War II thriller, Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean).

So, it’s been half a year and my reading rate has been absolutely atrocious. I won’t go into reasons, but it’s partly things out of my control, and partly being too easily consumed by video games and TV shows when I do get free time.

My goal for 2015 was to read at least 40 books, and so far I’m just on 13 ones finished (with a few in progress). I think I might revise my goal down to 30 and really try to prioritise ones I’ve owned and wanted to read for a long time, instead of getting sucked in by new releases.

Some of the reviews below are more just collections of thoughts about the book rather than coherent reviews, and often I’m cribbing from what I wrote on Goodreads when I finished each book. But I think I give an impression of what appealed to me about each book.

So read on for books featuring fantasy (of the dark, comedic, and “cozy” flavours), futures both optimistic and pessimistic, human-alien relationships, and more!

FINISHED IN FEBRUARY

20007633The Gunslinger by Stephen King – ★★★★½

I think this is my third time reading The Gunslinger, but I’ve never made it all the way through the whole Dark Tower septology before. This time I want to complete the series.

I forgot to write a review when I finished this back in February, and now I don’t have much to say about it, other than it’s a great first book broken into a handful of novellas, each weirder and unveiling more about the world than the last. I particularly love the journey Roland takes through the mountains with Jake, and the remnants of long-dead civilisation that they find there. Haunting.

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My 2015 reading, so far… Reviews and mid-book thoughts!

I don’t get around to writing many full-length book reviews for this blog. But this year, I’ve decided that I’m at least going to write semi-regularly about what I’m reading, and what I’ve read so far.

My pace was abysmal in 2014, and it’s slightly better in the first month and a bit of 2015 — but I still catch my attention wandering a lot whenever I sit down to read almost anything. I’m sure I have some kind of attention span issue, and the fact that I’m currently reading 5 books simultaneously is testament to that possibility. I’ll list those books shortly, but first I’ll talk about what I’ve successfully finished since the year began.

(Note: I thought about listing comics and graphic novels in this post as well, but I might save them for separate posts.)

BOOKS I’VE FINISHED

pandoras-star-by-peter-f-hamiltonPandora’s Star by Peter F Hamilton – ★★★★

First up this year I finished this absolute monster of a tome. I actually started it in October last year, and it took me that long to get through the 1100+ pages. But it was pretty good! The real star of the book was the incredibly detailed world, which Hamilton attended to with the eye of a documentarian. It’s a fundamentally fantastical future universe (what with FTL and wormholes, not to mention the magic elf-like aliens) but thanks to Hamilton’s skill it feels plausible, and that’s an amazing achievement.

There were tons of characters too, and I can’t honestly say I was equally enthralled in all the different plotlines. When some characters showed up and took center stage for 50 pages or more, I could barely scrape through to the next chapter. But other characters’ stories were absolutely compelling, and I tore through those sections. I’ve seen a lot of dislike out there for Ozzie’s chapters, but his adventures were some of the best parts for me.

I’m really looking forward to Judas Unchained and the end of the saga, but before I begin that journey, I need to get some shorter SF novels under my belt.

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Cover art for Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds

Here’s the cover artwork for the UK edition of Alastair Reynolds’ new novel Poseidon’s Wake, the third in the Poseidon’s Children trilogy (sequel to Blue Remembered Earth and On The Steel Breeze).

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It fits well into the new look for this trilogy, but unfortunately for my own collection (and for many others, I’m sure) it doesn’t match the original 1st Edition design for books 1 and 2. Compare the new and the old below:

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Don’t you hate it when a publisher switches designs like that? I actually prefer the busier look of the original covers. They somehow made the book seem more epic. A lot of cover art these days seems to be going for the minimalist look, however. Oh well, it’s what’s inside that counts. The book is out in April, so get excited!

A small excerpt from Alastair Reynolds’ new novella Slow Bullets is available

tumblr_inline_n8gc9oZ9fk1s0669xFans of Alastair Reynolds eagerly awaiting this years’ novella Slow Bullets, published by Tachyon Press, should check out the short excerpt (1666 words long, to be exact) available on Tachyon’s website here. Click on the “Excerpt” tab and enjoy! The book will be out in paperback and ebook formats on June 9th.

2015 is going to be an awesome year for Reynolds fans.

Some more 2015 Alastair Reynolds info, including the title of the next novel

poseidonJust some quick updates on Alastair Reynolds’ output for the near future (see more in my previous post).

Firstly, the title of the third book in the Poseidon’s Children trilogy will be Poseidon’s Wake. It’s the sequel to Blue Remembered Earth and On The Steel Breeze, and should close out the saga of the Akinya family while answering a buttload of questions! Here’s the Amazon page. I’ve checked with the author himself on Twitter and he’s confirmed the title is correct! Look for it in April 2015.

Secondly, Subterranean Press is doing a “Best Of” collection of Reynolds’ short stories (and, potentially, a novella or two). It will be edited by William Schafer and Jonathan Strahan. It’s likely to include previously collected short stories as well as ones that have yet to be in a collection. Hopefully there’ll be a press release soon, but so far there’s just been an informal announcement on Twitter:

These two books will drop next year, as will the novella Slow Bullets, making 2015 a very exciting year for Reynolds fans!

My 2015 SF/F reading resolutions

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It’s not too early to post a New Year’s resolutions post, is it? Oh, it is? Well, I’m going to do one anyway, because currently I’m neck-deep in books that will take me until the end of this year to finish — so whenever I think of books I want to read in the future, I know I’ll be starting them in January 2015 at the earliest.

2014 hasn’t been a very bookish year for me. I’ve been busy with (or just distracted by) quite a lot of other things, and my reading has fallen by the wayside. In previous years I’ve read anywhere from 40 to 52 books (that perfect one-per-week goal, sigh) but this year I’ve finished just 23; and I know for a fact that I won’t hit 30 by the end of December. So it’s been pretty slow year.

Next year I want to aim high again. I don’t know if I’ll reach 52, but I’m going to do my best, hopefully by limiting distractions from Youtube and other places! Of course, when other things arise that are actually worthy of my attention (most notably my university studies) I will probably have to sacrifice reading time.

Here’s a list of some of the books I want to read next year. I’ve talked a little about each one and why I want to read it. I’ve excluded non-genre and non-fiction works because they’re not the focus of this blog, but I intend to read a smattering of those as well (particularly some books about history). Most of the following I already have in my possession, but some won’t be released until 2015. Of course, there will be some not-yet-announced 2015 releases that I’ll want to read as well, and I may discover new obsessions that will rocket other titles to the top of my reading list. All added together, here’s hoping I can reach 52 books next year!

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New and upcoming work by Alastair Reynolds, including a collaboration with Stephen Baxter

STPSummer2014-425x561The last issue of Subterranean Press Magazine is out now, and it includes a real treat for Alastair Reynolds fans: a new Revelation Space short story titled “The Last Log of the Lachrimosa”, which you can read for free here!

It’s his first work in that universe since 2009, and it’s a great return to the creepiness and existential terror of what I think is one of the best science fiction series ever. One comment I saw online said that it read like Prometheus if it had been done right, and I agree. Here’s hoping there’s much more to come in the future.

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tumblr_inline_n8gc9oZ9fk1s0669xTalking of the future, Reynolds also has a new novella coming out next year called “Slow Bullets”, to be published by Tachyon Publications. It’s interesting that the cover art matches the unified look that Gollancz has given all of Reynolds’ main works. According to Reynolds, the novella is around 40,000 words — which should give a page count of roughly 100 pages. Other than that, there’s next to no info about the story at this point. 

ADDENDUM: Tachyon’s website now has further info about the novella! Here is the description:

From the author of the Revelation Space series comes an interstellar adventure of war, identity, betrayal, and the preservation of civilization itself.

A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.

Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.

Hopefully, of course, both of these works will make it into Alastair Reynolds’ next collection, whenever that will be arriving.

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And finally, here’s something really exciting: Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter are collaborating on a sequel to a classic Arthur C. Clarke novella, A Meeting with Medusa. The new book is called The Medusa Chronicles, and is coming out in May 2016 according to Amazon. Here’s the synopsis on Amazon as of right now:

Following an accident that almost cost him his life, Howard Falcon was not so much saved as he was converted, through the use of prosthetics, into something faster, stronger and smarter . . . but also slightly less human and more machine than he was. And with this change came an opportunity – that of piloting a mission into Jupiter’s atmosphere, and ultimately of making first contact with the life forms he discovers there.

Picking up the threads of humanity versus artificial intelligences and machines, and of encounters with the alien, this collaborative novel between two superb writers is a sequel to Howard Falcon’s adventures. A proper science fiction adventure, this is perfect for fans of Golden Age SF as well as the modern SF reader.

There’s so much to look forward to!

Space horror: five recent works

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Space horror is one of my favourite subgenres of science fiction. Outer space, being so vast, cold and unknowable, is a rich setting for some really scary stories. Hollywood has exploited this idea for ages, producing such creepy films as Event HorizonPandorumSunshine, and of course the incredible Alien series — although we all know the latter is a mixed bag quality-wise. Count me in as one person, by the way, who actually enjoyed Prometheus as a horror film, even though it was ridiculous as a SF film. Anyway, I digress.

Sadly, there have not been too many space horror novels. Over on Goodreads I created the “Space horror” list which I’ve been adding to (as have others) for a few years, any time I hear about something space-horror-ish. While Goodreads’ lists are prone to spamming by self-published authors (who are the bane of Goodreads and of the writing industry in general), I think the list has evolved into a generally good survey of the space horror genre. But it’s not a huge list overall.

I haven’t read all of the books on the list — in fact I’ve barely read any. However, since finishing The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher I thought I’d do a little post reviewing five recent works in this subgenre. I write this in the hopes that someone out there might find it useful when they’re searching for a novel with the vibe of the great space horror movies I listed.

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Here’s an excellent half-hour chat with Alastair Reynolds

Sword & Laser is a fantastic SF/F online bookclub with a huge Goodreads community, an audio podcast and a Youtube channel! In their latest series of videos they’ve been doing author spotlights, where they sit down and chat with a different SF/F author each week. The latest video features one of my very favourite writers, Alastair Reynolds! The hosts sit down with Reynolds for nearly half an hour and talk about all sorts of interesting things. At one point Reynolds mentions that he’s working on a new short story set in the Revelation Space universe. Hopefully we’ll see that in a new collection sometime soon!

The interview is well worth watching, so check it out below, then go get into the other videos and podcasts!

SF & fantasy books I can’t wait to read in 2014

I have a staggeringly huge to-read list, yet thanks to my slowish reading speed, other things competing for my attention, and the fact that I’m in the second year of a PhD, I know I won’t get through too many books this year. In the last few years I managed around 45-50 books per year. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to list off some of the SF&F fiction I can’t wait to get stuck into this year. It’s not a comprehensive list, and I’ve left off non-genre fiction and nonfiction because that’s not what this blog is about. Here are my “can’t wait to read” genre fiction titles for 2014:

NEW BOOKS

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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – I have, shamefully, never read a Jeff VanderMeer novel, so I intend to start with this new book before making my way through his back catalogue. He is often compared with China Miéville, and I find myself having a hankering for some New-Weirdness. This book sounds like an expedition into VanderMeer’s version of Miéville’s Cacotopic Stain: nightmarish and bizarre, and I am down for the ride!

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias – A debut novel with hard-sf, alien contact and galactic politics? I’m there! This does sound rather similar to City of Pearl by Karen Traviss, only set underwater, but I’m a sucker for first contact stories (or any stories with well-realised alien races).

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher – I haven’t read any Adam Christopher but the synopsis of this book (creepiness and suspense on a space station) makes it sound like he wrote it specifically for me!

Echopraxia by Peter Watts – Sequel to Blindsight, one of the scariest and smartest SF books I’ve ever read. Cannot wait.

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The next Alastair Reynolds short story collection? Possible contents

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Alastair Reynolds has a huge number of short stories, many of which have been collected in a handful of volumes. His UK publisher, Gollancz, has three collections of his short work, and a fourth was published by NESFA Press. Counting the latest editions of these works, the four volumes contain a total of 39 short stories and novellas. I won’t list the contents here, because they’re easy to find on Wikipedia and other websites, but the collections so far are:

  1. Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (2003) – 2 Revelation Space novellas
  2. Galactic North (2006) – 8 Revelation Space short stories and novellas
  3. Zima Blue and Other Stories (2009) – 14 short stories and novellas
  4. Deep Navigation (2011) – 15 short stories and novellas (one set in the Revelation Space universe)

(NB: years given are for the latest edition; links go to my reviews of the collections)

What does this leave uncollected, and what might a future collection of Reynolds short fiction be like?

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There should be more books like Mass Effect! A lament, with recommendations

I’ve been reading science fiction avidly for about 5 years now, and I really got into it to begin with thanks to the Mass Effect video game series. Those games have, I believe, a sense of worldbuilding that’s hard to find in published science fiction. As a setting for SF stories, it’s unbeatable to my mind. It’s a densely-populated galaxy filled with humans and numerous, diverse alien species, living and working side by side. It’s a co-operative, optimistic future, despite all the peril it gets put in during the games’ storylines. To put it simply, it’s a future I would love to live in.

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The notion of entirely alien species being your co-workers, friends and even romantic partners is just such an alluring one, and it’s why I’ve read far and wide trying to find an SF author who feels the same way. While I’ve found some wonderful authors that come somewhat close to the feeling I got from those games (Reynolds, Banks, Brin, Vinge, and others… see below), I’ve yet to find any novel or series of books that entirely scratches that itch. A reading experience that brings to life a universe I want to live in and explore.

And no, the Mass Effect tie-in novels don’t count. They’re just awful.

This blog post has two aims:

  • Firstly, to lament upon the lack of recent books that fall into a similar worldbuilding niche as the Mass Effect games (the ‘recent’ part being important, I’ll explain why soon).
  • Secondly, to give some recommendations to works of science fiction that admittedly do come close. This will be my personal selection of recommendations for anyone else who, like me, came to printed SF via the Mass Effect games, and who wants to read books with a similar feel.

There should be more books like Mass Effect!

The first Mass Effect game came out in 2007, with the sequels coming in 2010 and 2012. I don’t blog about video games, so I won’t go much more into the specifics of their releases, but they were pretty damn popular. And they were, deservedly, critically acclaimed; yes, even the third title with its controversial ending. Moreso, they are without a doubt influential and key works of recent space opera. The website io9 called the series a “major highlight in the history of space opera” and “the most important science fiction universe of our generation”.

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Review: Aliens: Recent Encounters (ed. Alex Dally MacFarlane)

aliens_cover IMPORTANT NOTE: The first edition of this book (ISBN 9781607013914), at least, is missing the second half of “Seasons of the Ansarac” by Ursula Le Guin. You can read the missing part of this story here.

Aliens — realistically developed, biologically plausible, sentient species — are my absolute favourite element of science fiction. My dream anthology would be a hard-SF-only collection of stories about aliens: their biology, culture, and interactions with humans. Aliens: Recent Encounters (2013), edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane, mixes both hard and soft SF with a smattering of magical realism and mythology, so not every story was to my taste. However, it is still an excellent anthology, thematically strong, while providing lots of variety.

This is a reprint anthology containing 32 short stories, all originally published between 2000 and 2012 (hence the book’s subtitle). The editor has done a good job of representing a number of nationalities with her author choices, and the gender balance is good too, with 21 stories by women, 10 by men, and one “neutrois” (neutral-gendered) author. There are a few really big names (i.e.: all the ones on the front cover) but a whole bunch of relative unknowns as well.

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Story-by-story thoughts: Deep Navigation by Alastair Reynolds

dnNot really a proper review for this one, but you still get my thoughts on each & every story!

A nice collection for the Reynolds completionist, which includes a bunch of very good stories, and a bunch of okay ones. Not exactly as required-reading as Zima Blue and Other Stories was, but this collection has its share of must-reads.

One thing missing was notes from Reynolds himself after each story, which Zima Blue (and, I think, Galactic North) had. That would have made this collection just a little sweeter.

STORY-BY-STORY THOUGHTS

NB: Asterisks (*) before titles indicate the stories I thought were best of the lot.

Nunivak Snowflakes – Messages from the future sent in rains of fish; intelligent spacetime inhabiting the mechanical arm of a Inupiat teenager; a lone Canadian spy trying to keep ahead of several world superpowers. This is a wonderfully weird story, a wholly unique idea, and the first piece Reynolds ever published (at the age of 24!). Great start to this collection.

Monkey Suit – A nice little piece, with a sci-fi spin on the idea of the unfinished business of the recently departed. It doesn’t really add much to the Revelation Space universe though, so I was a tad disappointed.

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Review & story-by-story thoughts: Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds

zb(Feel free to skip the review text and go straight to my story-by-story thoughts)

A while back I was toying with the silly notion that an author’s short story collection is a bit like an album, and that the stories within are individual songs: varying in length, style and quality. While reading the collection Zima Blue by my favourite SF author Alastair Reynolds, I started to think about a concept album based on the collection, with songs having the same titles and coming in the same order as they are in the book, with each song reflecting somewhat the tone and content of each story. Yeah I know, what a wank. I couldn’t shake the idea though.

So I was thinking about what kind of album Zima Blue would sound like, and — maybe because they’re my favourite band, and their otherworldly lyrics and production have earned them the label “space-rock” — I thought it might end up a bit like a Muse album: bombastic, spacey, dark, catchy. And British. As I read each story I tried to think what kind of song it would be.

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