Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Alastair Reynolds - House of Suns
Alastair Reynolds continues to go from strength to strength, though quite how he churns out such large volumes, quite so regularly is a mystery to me. This latest novel, is as galactic spanning as his others, though this one feels tighter and more compact than some.
In this story, Reynolds grapples with two aspects of his vision of the future universe. The first is the immense time required by civilisations that would seek to create interplanetary societies. Probably because of his scientific background, Reynolds tends to avoid things like faster than light travel. In this case, light speed is a limiting factor, but Reynolds has introduced the ability to slow down - characters can reduce their personal perception of time to travel great distances. This coupled with an ability to live longer gives us humans who can live for immense periods of time.
The second aspect to this book, is the idea that human civilisations, however successful, eventually fail - through internal conflict or external threat. The only exceptions to this are the "Lines". Groups of humans who gather for self serving interests and attempt to remain above such restricting things like civilisations. The "Lines" find that the most precious commodity they can have is information - one the galaxy, on its inhabitants and its history.
We meet the Gentian Line's two most cavalier and bohemian characters. Despite having existed for almost Six million years, the Gentian Line's members have managed to avoid falling in love with each other. Campion and Purslane haven't and this makes them late for the irregular Line meet-up. Arrival and the rendezvous finds most of the comrades dead and a struggle to find out what has happened marks the rest of the book. Needless to say Reynolds can't break from his galaxy spanning background and we are taking on the longest (in terms of time and space) car chase across the universe you can imagine.
If this all sounds a bit bonkers to you, then don't worry. Science Fiction usually does contain insanity, but House of Suns and Alastair Reynolds do bonkers particularly well and this reader was kept guessing right till the end. Well worth the very late night it took to finish!
Reynolds - Galactic North
Reynolds - Pushing Ice
Reynolds - Redemption Ark
Reynolds - Century Rain