Alastair Reynolds. Deep Navigation. (NESFA Press, 2010).

In addition to his growing oeuvre of hefty novels, Alastair Reynolds has two decades’ worth of short stories behind him. He’s had some of these stories published in collections before, namely ‘Zima Blue and Other Stories’ and ‘Galactic North’ (which brings together stories from his ‘Revelation Space’ sequence.

This collection provides a useful guide to his development over 20 years, which stories ranging from some of his earliest, to ones in recent years that were collected in various of the Year’s Best anthologies. I’ve listed the stories below, highlighting reviews of those previously read. At some point in the future I’ll go through the volume and read everything.

Nunivak Snowflakes
Originally in : Interzone 36, June 1990

Monkey Suit
Originally in : Death Ray, 2009

The Fixation
Originally in : The Solaris Book of Science Fiction #3, 2009

When I read it previously I wrote:

    ..steps up the quality. A young researcher in an Earth just slightly different from ours – a Persian dominated world. She is working on an ancient artefact, a somewhat anomalous geared mechanism. There is a bigger project afoot elsewhere, where the artefact will be put into some hi-tech kit than can use ‘entropy exchange’ to link with other instances of the artefact in other quantum Earth’s. By in effect pinching a few atoms from each other instance, the artefact can be brought to a more complete state.

    However, there are dangers inherent in this, and the true cost of trying to pinch from another reality are brought home.

Feeling Rejected
Originally in : Nature, 2005

Fury
Originally in : Eclipse 2, 2008
Picked up in Hartwell and Cramer’s 2009 anthology, where I noted :

    Far future, in which the assassination of the Emperor leads his head of security on a search for the person behind the assassination.

    The story turns on sibling rivalry on Mars many centuries in the past (something Reynolds has touched on before), and the moral question to be answered revolves around whether one act of murder can be counterbalanced by future good.

    And having seen a pony being used recently by Reynolds as a lever to punish an otherwise impregnable person, this time the koi get it.

Stroboscopic
Originally in : Interzone 134, August 1998

The Receivers
Originally in : Other Earths, April 2009

Byrd Land Six
Originally in : Interzone, June 1995

The Star Surgeon’s Apprentice
Originally in : The Starry Rift, 2008

In the YA anthology I wrote:

    Reynolds has been at the forefront in keeping the boundaries of SF pushed to the galactic limits, so no surprise that his story will appeal to those looking for Big Fuck Off spaceships, space pirates, damsels to be saved, and a youthful hero who has to overcome the odds. It’s more the kind of SF familiar to youngsters brought up on Alien, Predator, Alien v Predator, Star Trek and so forth.

On the Oodnatta
Originally in : Interzone 128, February 1998

Fresco
Originally in : UNESCO Courier, May 2001

Viper
Originally in : Asimov’s, December 1999

Soiree
Originally in : Celebrations, 2008

When reading it a couple of years ago I wrote:

    Awoken after centuries in hypersleep, the crew of the first interstellar spaceship to have left Earth are welcomed by those who left after them, but arrived earlier due to better technology and faster journeys. However, all is not quite as it seems, as is gradually, and chillingly revealed.

The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter
Originally in : Interzone 209, April 2007

When I read it previously I wrote:

    A more traditional narrative, in which Reynolds takes a more down to Earth approach than is his usual wont, and to good effect.

    The setting is the River Tyne in the North East of England, a few centuries hence, when many years of cold weather is gradually being replaced by a warmer weather. This is bad for the sledge-maker, as we follow his young daughter as she makes a long journey on foot along the river to deliver two hogs’ heads to an old woman reputed to be a witch. Reynolds tips several winks to the read in the mention of the folklore of times past, which hark back to our times – a lot of readers will doubtless miss many of them, and be bemused at references to ’sickly sausage rolls’ : but I’m of the same age as Reynolds, and am from that part of England, so I spotted them all :-)

    As the story progresses, rather than being a Catherine Cookson story, the SF background is gradually, and enticingly revealed, providing an intriguing backdrop which could be explored at greater depth.

Tiger, Burning
Originally in : Forbidden Planets, 2006

When I read it originally :

    ..doesn’t attempt the dangerous planet principle of the collection, but neatly ties in with both the movie Forbidden Planet, and Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ with a far-future brain-boggling billion brane-al setting. Travel between branes, in which each alternate universe has fractionally different physics, is possible, and Adam Fernando is a long way from home, investigating potential leaks from a sensitive research experiment.

    The story is relatively minimal, with Fernando investigating both the leak and the death of the main scientist. He gets a look at the very alien, very large scale tech which is available in this brane (as happens in the movie, with a nod to the aliens in the movie in the name given to these aliens), and comes to the conclusion that there have indeed been messages sent back across branes and across time, inspiring the likes of Shakespeare. Furthermore, he is convinced that the brane structure is in fact a circular one, and the alien ones who were spooked by what they saw billions of branes away were in fact spooked by their own images, from the rear, and he has to ensure that humanity doesn’t make the same mistake.

    The story opens up some clever ideas, and is tantalisingly short. His recent novel ‘Pushing Ice’ similarly puts humanity under the microscope, seeing us as an infintesimal part of an immense galactic backdrop of time and space, as does his recent novella ‘Understanding Time and Space’

From the volume you can see the importance of Interzone in his development as a writer, and trace him from that semi-prozine source through to Asimovs, and then onto anthologies where his name is sought for the cover. It’s a collection for any Reynolds’ fan – amazon.com for people in the USA, and I bought my copy quite painlessly direct from NESFA

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