Galactic North (Gollancz S.F.) Hardcover – 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
My two favorites:
"Glacial" stands alone as a classic science fiction mystery. We look over Nevil Clavain's shoulder as he puzzles out the reason everyone on a remote, ice-covered planet suddenly died. As a fan of other Nevil Clavain stories, I have conflicting feelings about encountering Nevil, Galiana and Felka as an odd, but close-knit little family.
"Nightingale" smuggles us along as a carefully-picked assault team works to bring a war criminal to justice. Any mission the whole team can walk away from is a success, is it not?
This book is recommended to science fiction fans, particularly those who enjoy hard science fiction and complex space opera. It is required reading for Alistair Reynolds fans.
Give me a book of short stories over a padded, meandering `epic' any day!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Great Wall of Mars is a Conjoiner story about Nevil Clavain and Galiana in the home nest. Glacial relates another Clavain and Galiana tale about a failed outsystem colony. A Spy in Europa recounts a Demarchist tale about an enemy agent who gives his all. Weather describes the rescue of a Conjoiner from a pirate ship and how she returns the favor.
Dilation Sleep tells of a refugee from Yellowstone who operates on a crewmember with the Melding Plague. Grafenwalder's Bestiary features a collector of rare beasts in the Yellowstone Rust Belt. Nightingale is about a mission to retrieve a Sky Edge war criminal from a lost hospital ship. Galactic North takes a ramliner captain on a millennia long pursuit of a pirate ship.
These stories convey various short subjects within the RS milieu. It covers all the several technological/political groups found within the novels, but develops their characteristics in greater detail. Since the novels are packed with strange technologies and politics, this collection makes a great introduction to the longer works. Enjoy!
Highly recommended for Reynolds fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of lightspeed ships, exotic technology and outsystem colonies.
-Arthur W. Jordin
This book presupposes some familiarity with the Revelation Space series, as some stories lose a lot of their meaning or significance if you don't understand persons or events referred to. Others depend much less on any familiarity with RS.
Along with the recent publication of The Prefect, Alistair Reynolds has begun publishing in the RS universe again. Stories here include background stories on Nevil Clavain, Felka, and Galiana, stories set in the Sol System, a story set on Yellowstone post-plague, one on Sky'e Edge, and a somewhat bizarre story which finally gives more than a name to Greenfly, (which was tossed into the very end of Absolution Gap with no explanation whatsoever, one of several defects in that title,) though the temporal telescoping in the last story reminds me more of something Poul Anderson might have written.
I wonder if Reynolds himself had decided on the origin of greenfly when Absolution Gap was published; the 4-page epilogue which substituted for actual resolution of that book gives few if any clues...
This is an enjoyable collection, well worth getting!
Many of the stories are simply mysteries to be solved; others highlight a new direction for mankind or choices we will one day be forced to make. All of them draw the reader into the action and the characters until, at the end, a sort of surrealistic haze covers the landscape. He has gone beyond words and yet there they are, describing almost unimaginable creatures and events. Yet, after all is said and done, after all the smart matter, new intelligences, nanotech, discovery of the inner secrets of the universe, it is still the human relationship that excites and drives and makes us want to read more.
My Grade: A
Two of the stories feature the Conjoiner hero Nevil Clavain, who, despite his heavy neural augmentation and integration into a near-hive-mind, is virtually the only decent, good-hearted human being in the REVELATION SPACE universe. The story "Great Wall of Mars" shows how Clavain came to be with the Conjoiners; a different take on the same events is included in ABSOLUTION GAP (I think). In "Glacial," Clavain and the Conjoiners encounter a human colony on icy world and must piece together the events that left all but one of the colonists dead.
While Reynolds is very much a mainstream SF writer, there is a strong streak of Horror running through his work. "Diamond Dogs," a novella collected elsewhere, differs from the typical man vs. haunted house tale only in its SF trappings and its cruel inventiveness. "Nightingale," in which a team searches an abandoned hospital spaceship for a war criminal rumored to be hiding there, is in much the same vein (no pun intended). Horror is full of twisted what-goes-around-comes-around comeuppances, and that is what we see in "A Spy in Europa," about a cold-blooded mercenary doing undercover work on Jupiter's moon, and "Grafenwalder's Bestiary," which concerns an obsessive creature collector in the post-Melding-Plague Glitter Belt. Not entirely by accident, "Grafenwalder's Bestiary" also ties in to "Diamond Dogs." "Dilation Sleep," which takes place in the early stages of the Melding Plague, features a horrific psychological twist worthy of Philip K. Dick.
In "Weather," a Conjoiner woman rescued against her will from a doomed ship performs a heroic act and in the process reveals something unsuspected about the Conjoiner engines that power the galaxy's lighthugger ships. (That's revelation #1.) There's not a lot to "Weather," but it's probably the most rewarding of the stories in this collection.
At the opposite end of the scale is the tedious "Galactic North," notable mainly for explaining the origins of the deadly "greenfly" infestation introduced at the end of ABSOLUTION GAP. (Revelation #2.) In a tale of terribly overblown obsession, the captain of a lighthugger robbed by pirates pursues the crewman who betrayed her across the galaxy and through tens of thousands of years. Conjoiner fans will be pleased to see that Remontoire appears in the story, albeit as a minor player.
Fans need not feel obligated to pick this up, but they'll probably enjoy it. Newcomers should start with REVELATION SPACE instead.