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Reynolds at his very best
on February 3, 2010
Reynolds is one of my favourite authors and, aside from him being a great sci-fi writer, it is because he is willing to take creative risks.
He didn't need to leave the Revelation Space universe, but he did. He didn't need to try a Richard Morgan style sci-fi thriller, but he did. That thriller didn't really work for me, but Reynolds is happy to be an author who doesn't need to please his every fan with every novel, and for that I can only admire him more.
House of Suns is arguably his most adventurous novel yet. It spans six million years and the entire galaxy. Space opera? Hell, yes. But it doesn't just rely on its sheer scope to draw the audience in - there is a cracking story to be told.
Campion and Purslane are two 'shatterlings' - the one thousand clones formed from Abigail Gentian and sent forth to explore the galaxy, collectively called The Gentian Line. Every hundred thousand years or so they hold a reunion, 'the thousand nights', and share their experiences - literally share them: each shatterling holds the combined memories of all of them, except what they experience between reunions.
As Campion and Purslane arrive belatedly for the latest reunion they discover that it was ambushed with outlawed system-level weapons, with almost of all of the Gentian Line dead. Who would ambush one of the great Lines? Who even could?
As the shatterlings flip from masters of the Galaxy to hunter's prey, accusations and in-fighting follow, even as they teeter on the edge of extinction.
Mixing hard sci-fi with strong characterisation, House of Suns paints plenty of detail on its huge canvas and is as compelling and satisfying a sci-fi novel as you will read this year. A daring mix of Clarke and Banks, Alastair Reynolds is carving himself a remarkable reputation.
Highly recommended. Five stars.