Friday, January 12, 2007

Book-A-Day #179 (1/11): Zima Blue and Other Stories by Alastair Reynolds

Would it be terribly bad form if I namedropped just a little bit? Oh, well: I'll do it anyway. Michael Dirda asked me the other day who I liked in SF these days (he was part of the Secret Cabal I mentioned in my last post), and I of course said "Al Reynolds."

That was partly because I was in the middle of reading this book -- I finished it the day afterward -- but also because Reynolds writes solid stories, with actual science integrated nicely into them, that are only depressing some of the time (for these days, and for a writer who came from the UK, that's a big deal). Oh, and he knows both how plots work and how human beings actually talk to each other and react to common situations (this has been historically lacking in writers who understand real science, as if a mind can only hold one or the other at a time). In other words, he writes Real SF (often With the Net Up, if that matters to you) and Real Stories at the same time.

This is one of two Reynolds short story collections published nearly simultaneously. (So one of them is his first collection; I think this one was a few days earlier than Galactic North.) The other one -- which I might get to later this month, if time allows -- has the short fiction related to his first four novels and set in the Inhibitors universe, while this book collects the miscellaneous stories.

I had both of the Reynolds collections on my shelf, and I think I picked this one up first because it looked shorter. (That's probably not true; the gutters are pretty narrow, so there are a lot of words on the pages here.) And, of course, also because this one is published by Night Shade Books, and I both like those guys and the books they do. (Grey, which I read earlier in the week, was another one of theirs, and I read it almost entirely because they published it.)

I don't feel like running through all of the stories here -- there are nine of them, including "Beyond the Aquila Rift" (which was robbed at the Hugo nominations last year, robbed I tell you) and "Zima Blue" and a new near-future on-earth (something unusual for Reynolds) novella, "Signal to Noise" -- so I won't. They're not all equally good -- some are from quite early in his writing career, and it shows -- but they're all decent, and the best ones are up there with anybody's stories.

To sum up: Well-written stories. Space Adventure. Good Science. What else is there to want from SF?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this just this week. I noticed something that I would officially have to call a Reynolds-ian trope at this point: when an intelligent race has existed for enough umpteens of years, they will become either single-mindedly malevolent and destructive, or single-mindedly benevolent and helpful.

(Well, except for the exceptions. But they don't count. And I *am* a huge Reynolds fan, so don't take the above as a negative criticism.)

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