Galactic North is a compilation of eight stories set in the Revelation Space universe. Each of the eight stories has Reynolds' unique fingerprint...dark, frequently noir-ish, often goth-esque scifi tales brimming with far future human cultures spread through numerous star systems and their -- both good and ill -- interconnection with advanced technology.
Amongst my favorite stories in this collection is Weather, which details the rescue of a Conjoiner separated from the rest of her collective and how she helps a stranded lighthugger get out of a sticky situation. This tale also elaborates on and gives us some much desired details of the mysterious Conjoiner drive that has allowed Humanity to approach near-light speed and thus colonize multiple star systems in a relatively short period of time...a mere few centuries.
Also amongst my favorites is Grafenwalder's Bestiary, which tells the story of illicit collector of all things organic and rare, Carl Grafenwalder. His penchant for collecting anything living that is exceptionally rare or virtually unique leads him on a quest -- a quest that he himself doesn't always understand -- for a creature that is thought to be only a myth. But his hunt for this creature of quasi-myth leads Grafenwalder into a predicament he never could have imagined.
Reynolds acknowledges in the afterward that some of the stories featured in this collection were written very early in the evolutionary process of developing his Revelation Space universe. Because a handful of these stories were written almost two decades before publication of this collection, it makes the author's growth as a writer especially stark. His earliest stories show promise (amongst them, Dilation Sleep, the earliest published work in Reynolds' Revelation Space setting), but there is definitely a clear demarcation between his earliest works and his more later material. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing...to see an author's growth in his craft. But nonetheless, I couldn't help wishing that some of the stories had been fleshed-out a bit more. None of this detracts from what the author has created, an artfully constructed future history with its own personalities, cultures and worlds that -- when everything is said and done a few thousand years from now -- may end up being remarkably like what Humanity's actually expansion into the galaxy may look like. Alastair Reynolds has crafted a universe where the dilapidated and the vaunted nest side by side together; a universe where the believable and the extreme are merely two sides of a coin that Reynolds has tossed madly into the air...gyrating and gesticulating wildly, I am enjoying the coin's arc through space...directly towards me.