Short works

Books : reviews

Alastair Reynolds.
Century Rain.
Gollancz. 2004

Alastair Reynolds.
Pushing Ice.
Gollancz. 2005

Alastair Reynolds.
House of Suns.
Gollancz. 2008

Alastair Reynolds.
Zima Blue and other stories: enlarged edn.
Gollancz. 2009


The Real Story. 2002
Beyond the Aquila Rift. 2005
Enola. 1991
Signal to Noise. 2006
Cardiff Afterlife. 2008
Hideaway. 2000
Minla's Flowers. 2007
Merlin's Gun. 2000
Angels of Ashes. 1999
Spirey and the Queen. 1996
Understanding Space and Time. 2005
Digital to Analogue. 1992
Everlasting. 2004
Zima Blue. 2005

Alastair Reynolds.
Terminal World.
Gollancz. 2010

Alastair Reynolds.
Subterranean Press. 2011

In novels such as Chasm City and Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds established himself as an indisputable master of the far-flung intergalactic epic. Reynolds brings that same deceptively effortless mastery to the shorter fictional forms, a fact that Troika, his elegant, compulsively readable new novella, amply demonstrates.

Troika tells the story of men and women confronting an enigma known as the Matryoshka, a vast alien construct whose periodic appearances have generated terror, wonder, and endless debate. During its third “apparition” in a remote comer of the solar system, a trio of Russian cosmonauts approach this enigma and attempt to penetrate its mysteries. What they discover—and what they endure in the process—forms the centerpiece of an enthralling, constantly surprising narrative. Troika is at once a wholly original account of First Contact and a meditation on time, history, and the essentially fluid nature of identity itself.

Alastair Reynolds.
Slow Bullets.
Tachyon. 2015

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 3 March 2019

The survival of civilization depends on one woman—and her archenemy

A vast conflict between hundreds of worlds appears to be finally at an end. But even as the cease-fire takes effect, a conscripted soldier is captured by a renegade war criminal and left for dead.

When Scur revives, she finds herself aboard a prisoner transport vessel where something has gone terribly wrong. The ship’s dying computer is waking its passengers, combatants from both sides of the war forced into hibernation. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to worlds they can’t find and a planet they don’t recognize.

Now Scur must keep the peace. And when an old enemy reappears, the stakes are much higher than just her own life.

Scur is a soldier, captured at the end of a war by a psychopathic enemy who decides to torture her to death. But they are interrupted before he can complete his task. Scur hopes for rescue, but finds herself wakening on a prison ship, full of hibernating war criminals from both sides. She takes charge before a new war breaks out, and the crew and prisoners gradually realise something dreadful has happened to them all. And then Scur discovers her torturer is also on board…

This is an interesting setup, with several real dilemmas about what to do about the situation the shipmates find themselves in, along with interesting ways of tackling them. I don’t think the “twist” at the end adds much.

Alastair Reynolds.
Beyond the Aquila Rift: the best of Alastair Reynolds.
Gollancz. 2016

Alastair Reynolds is one of the best and most beloved writers of science fiction and space opera working today.

A brilliant novelist, he is also one of our best writers of short fiction. His short stories have been nominated for the Hugo, British Fantasy, British Science Fiction, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, Locus, Italia, Seiun, and Sidewise Awards, and have won the Seiun and Sidewise Awards.

The very best of his more than sixty published short stories are gathered here, in a sweeping 250,000 word career retrospective which features the very best stories from the ‘Revelation Space’ universe alongside thrilling hard science fiction stories. Spanning more than fifteen years, the book also collects more recent stories like environmental SF tale ‘The Water Thief’, powerful and moving YA ‘The Old Man and the Martian Sea’ and the brilliant ‘in Babelsberg’.

Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds has something for every reader of science fiction, and easily meets the challenge of delivering stories that are the hardest of hard science fiction and great entertainment.


Great Wall of Mars. 2000
Weather. 2006
Beyond the Aquila Rift. 2005
Minla's Flowers. 2007
Zima Blue. 2005
Fury. 2008
The Star Surgeon's Apprentice. 2008
The Sledge-Maker's Daughter. 2007
Diamond Dogs. 2002
Thousandth Night. 2005
Troika. 2010
Sleepover. 2010
Vainglory. 2012
A rock sculptor works on Triton with a dark secret in their past.
Trauma Pod. 2012
The Last Log of the Lachrimosa. 2014
The Water Thief. 2012
The Old Man and the Martian Sea. 2011
In Babelsberg. 2014
Vincent: interplanetary probe, media superstar.

Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds.
The Medusa Chronicles.
Gollancz. 2016

‘Falcon, this is not a war – it never was – any mere than spring wages war on winter. And we will replace you, as spring replaces winter…’

The 2080s: dirigible pilot Commander Howard Falcon is left crippled by a crash. Experimental cybprg surgery leaves him with superhuman capabilities but isolated from mankind…

The 2090s: Falcon pilots a solo mission into the clouds of Jupiter, where no natural human could follow…

The 2130s: Adam, a prototype Autonomous Deutsch-Turing Algorithmic-Heuristic Machine, mining ice in the outer reaches of the solar system, and faced by the destruction of its fellows, feels the stirring of emotion…

As centuries unfold HoWard Falcon, neither human nor Machine, uniquely lonely, must bridge two orders of creation – and find a way to avert a catastrophic interplanetary war.

Inspired by Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s award-winning novella A Meeting with Medusa, The Medusa Chronicles is a novel of the unfolding rivalry between Mankind and Machine, spanning centuries and the spaces of the solar system – and leading at last to a future neither could have envisaged.

Alastair Reynolds.
Tor. 2019

2080: At a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers, and physicians gathers to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. To make the experiment work, they just need one last recruit: an aging schoolteacher whose late mother was the foremost expert on the mathematics of paradox.

2028: A young woman goes into the hospital for routine brain surgery. In the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head, an unwanted presence that seems to have a will, and a purpose, all its own—one that will disrupt her life entirely. The only choice left to her is a simple one.

Does she resist … or become a collaborator?

Alastair Reynolds.
Gollancz. 2022

A small group of intrepid explorers are in search of a remote and mysterious artefact. It’s a well-funded expedition, well organised, which is lucky as they’re sailing north of Bergen on the schooner Demeter, searching for a narrow inlet which will lead them to a vast uncharted lake – and their goal – until disaster strikes.

Doctor Silas Coade wakes from disturbing dreams, on the steamship Demeter, in pursuit of an extraordinary find almost too incredible and too strange to believe, secreted within a lagoon in the icy inlets of Patagonia. But as they come in sight of their prize he and the crew see they are not the first to get so far: there is a wreck ahead, and whatever ruined it may threaten them as well.

Shaking off his nightmares, Doctor Silas Coade joins his fellow explorers on the deck of the zeppelin Demeter and realises something has already gone dangerously wrong with their mission. If any of them are to survive, then he will have to take the exploration – and their lives – into his own hands…

Alastair Reynolds.
Harvest of Time.
BBC Books. 2013

A forgotten enemy. An old adversary. A terrible alliance.

From a ruined world at the end of time, the vicious Sild make preparations to conquer the past and rewrite history. But to do it they will need to enslave an intellect greater than their own…

On Earth, the Doctor, Jo and UNIT are called in to examine a mysterious incident on a North Sea drilling platform. They’ve hardly begun, though, when something even stranger takes hold: The Brigadier and others are starting to forget about UNIT’s highest-profile prisoner.

As the Sild invasion begins, the Doctor faces a terrible dilemma. To save the universe, he must save his arch-nemesis… The Master.

Alastair Reynolds.
Blue Remembered Earth.
Gollancz. 2012

Earth, the 22nd Century.
    The Mechanism knows everything. It knows where you are. It knows what you are thinking, what you are feeling. There is no crime. You are safe.
    But in a Utopia like this keeping a secret can be a deadly business.

Alastair Reynolds.
On the Steel Breeze.
Gollancz. 2013

Chiku Yellow is earth-bound: living a peaceful life on a changing world, as humanity explores a thousand new ways to experience life.

Chiku Red is space-bound: blasted into deep space to investigate Eunice Akinya’s last journey, and maybe unlock the final secrets of the physics of space travel.

Chiku Green is planet-bound: travelling thousands of light years in a vast Generation ship to the planet Crucible. A new home for humankind; it’s a habitable planet, and it hosts the mandala: a fascinating alien labyrinth.

All three are Chiku Akinya.

All three are pivotal to our future in space.

All three are in danger…

Alastair Reynolds.
Poseidon's Wake.
Gollancz. 2015

Alastair Reynolds.
Revelation Space.
Millennium. 2000

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 30 August 2004

It's about 500 years in the future. Humanity has spread to the stars, but still only at the speed of light, although there are rumours of hidden alien FTL drives. People live for hundreds of years, with complex computer implants, and have sub-divided into almost separate species dependent on their upgrades. But the Melding Plague and constant wars mean life is nowhere perfect. Against this backdrop, Dan Sylveste wants to understand what wiped out the alien Amarantin nearly 100,000 years ago. Several factions are trying to help or hinder his progress, and there's more at stake that any can know.

This is a great gritty space opera. The grime and slime, the mysterious alien races, both dead and in the background, the faulty tech, the frozen Captain, the really big guns, the grand and ever-increasing scope of the plot, and the constant revelations and plot twists, make this a great read. One of the back-cover blurbs describes this as "gonzo cybergoth space opera" -- I'm not precisely sure what that means, but I don't think it gives the right impression. This is actually a great example of what Clute calls the "dirty" future of nanotech/biotech, distinguishing it from the previous "clean cut" futuristic worlds (I think "messy" might be a better term, or even "grungy"); the future is more advanced, but the problems, perils and dangers are more advanced, too.

Reynolds gives us a glorious messy background galaxy, and weaves a complex page-turner of a plot across it. Wonderful.

Alastair Reynolds.
Chasm City.
Millennium. 2001

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 17 September 2004

This is set in the same universe as Revelation Space, a few years earlier. (It actually finishes roughly where the former begins, but that doesn't mean they should be read in the other order.)

Mirabel Tanner is a bodyguard with a mission: to kill the man who killed his employer's wife on Sky's Edge. To start with, this seems relatively simple, but the chase leads him to Chasm City on Yellowstone, a few years after the Melding Plague hit. There he finds his mind unravelling under the influence of a cultist virus, and several people who are not what they initially seem. As he gets closer to his target, he begins to doubt his mission, his memories, and himself.

This is excellent -- equally as good as its predecessor. The scope is not quite so large in one sense, being mainly confined to a single city, but may be even larger in some of the backstory it reveals. The details of the future society -- magically high tech mingling with grungy squalor -- are beautifully drawn, and the complex intertwined plot strands excellently brought together. Marvellous.

Alastair Reynolds.
Redemption Ark.
Gollancz. 2002

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 22 April 2005

We are a few decades after the events of Revelation Space. Sylveste's activities there have drawn the attention of the Inhibitors, with potentially devastating consequences for the whole of humanity. Various factions are trying to prevent, or flee from, these consequences, and all converge on the spaceship Nostalgia for Infinity, and its super-weapons.

This is a stunningly good continuation of the series, with ever more momentous events unfolding, or being foreshadowed, and more in-depth views on the various cultures, from the mysterious hive-mind Conjoiners, to the uplifted pig society in Chasm City, from the Captain plague-melded to his ship, to weapons with attitude. Just as gritty, just as complex and grungy, just as fascinating, and just as satisfying as the previous books, and there's still another one to come!

Alastair Reynolds.
Absolution Gap.
Gollancz. 2003

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 14 January 2006

It's about 20 years after the events of Redemption Ark (although, because we are following several threads, set at quite different times because of speed of light effects, it's not really as simple as that). We pick up the story of Conjoiner Clavain, pig Scorpio, and spaceship Nostalgia for Infinity, and another "parallel" story of mobile cathedrals trundling across Hela, a moon orbiting a planet that occasionally vanishes for a split second. Everyone's stories come together in a final desperate fight against the Inhibitors -- maybe. This is the fourth and final instalment in the Inhibitors saga (the "fifth" book, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, is an infilling of short stories) -- so, of course, all the loose ends are tied up, and all the mysteries explained, aren't they?

Well, no they're not. And that in fact is one of the strengths of the book. Yes, we learn more about the Inhibitors, and what happens in their fight against humanity. But we also learn about a whole bunch of new people, races, galaxies, even universes, some of which may be even worse than the wolves! This conclusion of the large plot, but opening out of the even larger, which has been a feature of the whole series, gives a feeling of reality (for certain idiosyncratic values of "reality", of course). It makes the reader feel they are part of the whole unfolding history, which doesn't come in neatly packaged chuncks with "happy ever afters", and certainly doesn't end (we hope!)

Alastair Reynolds.
Inhibitor Phase.
Gollancz. 2021

Miguel de Ruyter is a man with a past.

Fleeing the ‘wolves’ – the xenocidal alien machines known as Inhibitors – he has protected his family and community from attack for forty years, sheltering in the caves of an airless, battered world. The slightest hint of human activity could draw the wolves to their home, to destroy everything… utterly. Which is how Miguel finds himself on a one-way mission with his own destructive mandate: to eliminate a passing ship, before it can bring unwanted attention down on them.

Only something goes wrong.

There's a lone survivor.

And she knows far more about Miguel than she's letting on…

Alastair Reynolds.
The Prefect (== Aurora Rising) .
Gollancz. 2007

Alastair Reynolds.
Elysium Fire.
Gollancz. 2018

The Glitter Band is under threat.

Across the ten thousand habitats and micro-worlds orbiting the planet Yellowstone, civilians are dying. There’s no warning. There seems to be no connection between the victims. Yet their implants are suddenly heating up, melting to slag.

It’s not a malfunction. No one has issued any demands. But the rate of deaths is increasing…

Prefect Tom Dreyfus – veteran operative of the security organisation Panoply – is investigating what few leads there are. Even his attention is divided, as alongside the Wildfire investigation his eye has been caught by a charismatic revolutionary sowing social dissent. As the two investigations become more closely linked, straining Ponoply’s resources to the limit, it’s difficult to tell which will prove more destructive…

Alastair Reynolds.
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days.
Gollancz. 2003

Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days: two novellas

In his best-selling novels Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, Reynolds portrays a noirish universe of five centuries hence, where warring human factions are stalked by even more vicious extraterrestrial predators; where the wilder fringes of human culture are at least as strange as the real aliens.

And there are always those who are up for a challenge: like Richard Swift, the listless adventurer of Diamond Dogs. When an old friend offers Swift the chance to help him explore Blood Spire, an enigmatic structure surrounded by the bones of those who have already tried, Swift can’t say no. But if he wishes to understand it, he must pay Blood Spire's toll…

And there are the heroes: those prepared to stand up for an idea, like Naqi, the young researcher in Turquoise Days. Naqi has dedicated her life to the study of the Pattern Jugglers, the amorphous, aquatic organisms with the capacity to preserve and reshape human memory. When newcomers arrive around her world, she hopes that she will at last be able to escape her past – but the past has other ideas…


Diamond Dogs. 2002
Turquoise Days. 2002

Alastair Reynolds.
Galactic North.
Gollancz. 2006


Great Wall of Mars. 2000
Glacial. 2006
A Spy in Europa. 2006
Weather. 2006
Dilation Sleep. 2006
Grafenwalder's Bestiary. 2006
Nightingale. 2006
Galactic North. 2006

Alastair Reynolds.
Gollancz. 2016

From the dark, distant future, and the rubble of our solar system comes a tale of space pirates, buried treasure and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism…

And of vengeance…

Captain Rackamore and his crew rnake it their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technolagies inside.

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.

Alastair Reynolds.
Shadow Captain.
Gollancz. 2019

Bosa Sennen was a scourge of merchants and traders alike. A pirate who struck from the darkness, showed no mercy, and vanished without a trace … and whose career was ended by the Ness sisters. They took her crew, her ship and ultimately also her life.

Unfortunately for them, they have also taken on Bosa’s fearsome reputation.

They had planned to live quiet, semi-respectable lives, breaking into hidden caches of treasure on asteroids and forgotten habitats and trading their loot … with, perhaps, a little light piracy on the side. But with an armada forming to hunt them down, it’s about to become a dangerous game of hide and seek in which finding a refuge could prove as lethal as being caught …

Alastair Reynolds.
Bone Silence.
Gollancz. 2020

Quoins are accepted currency throughout the thousands of worlds of the Congregation. People have traded with them, fought for them, and stolen quoin hordes from booby-trapped caches at risk to life and limb throughout the Thirteen Occupations. Only now it’s becoming clear they have another purpose…

Those Thirteen Occupations are another puzzle. The rise and fall of civilisation maybe unevenly spaced across history, but there is also a pattern. Could something be sparking the Occupations – or ending them?

The Ness sisters are being hunted for crimes they didn’t commit by a fleet whose crimes are worse than their own. If they’re to survive, and stay one step ahead of their pursuers, they’re going to need every dirty, piratical trick in the book…