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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 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.
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on May 29, 2015
On my continuing mission to find some modern Sci-Fi that I enjoy as much as the classics from the likes of Azimov, Harrison, Pohl, Aldiss and the rest, I have recently been stumbling around rather unsuccessfully. I obviously encountered the incomparable Iain M. Banks back in the late 80's but I have never found anyone else with his depth and scope of imagination.

Until, that is, I happened across Alistair Reynolds while browsing for new (to me) authors. What a find! I suppose this book could be summed up as an ultimately intergalactic space opera action mystery love story, but that doesn't do it justice. The shatterling concept, by itself, is brilliantly original, but the characterisation and galaxy & millennia spanning narrative are simply magnificent. I'm not entirely sure the early life of Abigail Gentian and her subsequent Palatial obsession adds an awful lot to the story, but inasmuch as they pertain to her personality and that of her shatterlings, they are relevant and add depth to the narrative. There are, of course, nuggets gently borrowed from other masterpieces of the genre, but these are in no way derivative; more of a respectful homage to earlier masters.

There is nothing more to add. More Alistair Reynolds - Now!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon February 20, 2013
Alastair Reynolds has written the best galaxy-spanning, big-idea space opera since Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep. It has a fascinating universe with characters operating from truly deep-time, cross-galaxy perspectives. Among them are:

Campion and Purslane, two non-identical clones from an original set of a thousand "shatterlings." They and their siblings were created to repeatedly make exploratory circuits of the galaxy and meet every 200,000 years or so to share memories and plan their next circuits. Risking official censure, Campion and Purslane consort during their circuits rather than exploring independently.

Hesperus, a robot of the Machine People who has lost much of his memory, but strives to discover and complete his mission. His actions demonstrate repeated loyalty to Campion and Purslane.

The Spirit of the Air who was once a man, became a machine intelligence, and finally evolved into a distributed machine intelligence. It controls the climate of the planet Neume and is regarded by the population as a capricious and inscrutable god. Asking the Spirit for favors is dangerous to everyone.

The Vigilance, a civilization of immortal archivists, collects information about the entire galaxy, continually sifting and prioritizing it. Some of this information is shared with other civilizations--with unforeseen consequences.

The novel is also rich with highly-imaginative Big Ideas. Stardams are containment devices of only partially understood technology that can contain entire solar systems. Aspic of Machines is a high-tech paste that can perform any number of miraculous tasks--just smear it on the problem surface. "Whisking" from place to place using dynamic transporters seems the least of the marvels available in the far-distant future.

The book has two characterization flaws worth mentioning. First, many of the long-lived characters--particularly Campion and Purslane's fellow shatterlings--lack the experience and insight one would expect from human beings who have lived for tens of thousands of years. The author might learn a lesson or two from the age-weary wisdom of Poul Anderson's characters in The Boat of A Million Years. Second, many of the shatterlings are difficult to tell apart given what little we learn about them. This is particularly frustrating when readers are trying to figure out which one is a traitor to the Gentian Line. The author could have extracted key episodes from each shatterling's history and presented a Tom Clancy-like one-page profile that left readers with a feel for the shatterling's personality and motives.

There are also two story weaknesses. I won't summarize the plot, as it is best experienced without advance cueing. I will say that it drags in places. I am tempted to conclude that the author does this deliberately to help us short-lifers understand the book's timescale, but it happens too often in dialogue for this to be entirely true. While there are interesting and surprising resolutions to many of the questions raised in the story, there are some left unresolved. For me this felt more like unpolished storytelling than cliff-hanging for a possible sequel. Your mileage may vary.

Despite having grumbled over its flaws, I recommend the book to my fellow SF fans as enjoyable and thought-provoking. After reading it I continue to regard Alastair Reynolds as one of my favorite SF authors. Pick up this book and enjoy the long journey he has mapped out for us.
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on December 21, 2010
I really enjoyed this book. It is the kind of hard science fiction I like without weird fantasy mixed in. I love how he conveys the vastness of space and time combined with slower than light travel, the vastness of their space craft. Five million year old humans do seem a bit naive and impulsive though. The main issues I see with it are that several plots are built up never to be used and you wonder why but I suppose the sequels may get to them somehow. Despite this, it is an excellent read and you only discover at the end that some of the interesting side stories do not have a lot of purpose but you are still happy to have read them.
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on December 29, 2010
I've read all his novels minus one or two, and this is probably my favorite. This is adult Sci-Fi, deep and far-reaching, spanning enormous lengths of time and space. Can't say I cared about the characters so much, but the pace and universe make this a must read for all serious sci-fi addicts.
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on January 28, 2009
Alastair Reynolds is a sci-fi writer I really enjoy but who suffers from inconsistency. Some of his stories seemingly lack just about everything to make them interesting, while others grab you and are relentless chases through known and unknown space. House of Suns ranks up there with Pushing Ice and the Revelation Space trilogy (which has its weaknesses), and you don't need to be familiar with any of the Reynolds universes to be absorbed by and thoroughly enjoy the story. Here, Reynolds fully lays out his storytelling talents, lets his inventive self go crazy with ideas, all to my delight. Don't hesitate to buy it, and enjoy the ride.
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on January 16, 2016
Slower than light. Excellent.
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