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Diamond Dogs
Alastair Reynolds
PS Publishing, 111 pages

Diamond Dogs
Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds was born in 1966 in Barry, South Wales. He spent his early years in Cornwall, moved back to Wales and on to university in Newcastle, doing Physics and Astronomy. Then it was on to a PhD in St Andrews, Scotland. In 1991, he moved to Holland, where he met his partner Josette, and worked as ESA Research Fellow before his post-doctoral work at Utrecht University. At present he works at ESA as a contractor.

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A review by Rodger Turner

The Childe family has spent 250 years in deep space exploration looking for signs of alien life or remnants of their civilization. In a far off corner, something is found on a planet called Golgotha. A ship making repairs has found a building shaped like a cathedral spire with a bulb seemingly spiked on the top. Its purpose and its contents remain a mystery, for the spire's defenses repel with deadly force all those who enter -- unless they can solve the puzzles which control access to its rooms.

Roland Childe has brought together a group to crack the mystery of an alien artifact on this faraway planet. There is Hirz, a mercenary who prefers to be thought of as a hacker, and Celestine, a Pattern Matcher who may have had her mind reshaped during her period spent with aliens. Then there is Dr. Trintignant, who is trying to stay below the authorities' radar because of his unnatural predisposition to replace human body parts with mechanical ones, both for himself and others, regardless of their willingness. Richard Swift is the other member of the group and the narrator of Diamond Dogs.

The alien artifact on a recently discovered planet is an SF trope that has fascinated writers for about as long as there has been science fiction. The possibility of new technology, benign or not, has its roots in our desire to figure out how another civilization evolved to the state where it matches or surpasses our own. Is there something there that can offer humanity a leap ahead without having to do the empirical grunt work? If so, we can push our ever-expanding collective need for progress and expansion. Mankind isn't mean, it's just hungry for change.

The story that Alastair Reynolds gives us in Diamond Dogs brings new insights to this comfortable plot device. We learn that sometimes desire isn't enough to solve a mystery. We discover that humanity isn't necessarily defined by what we look like. We realize that bad things can happen to innocent bystanders despite our preference that consequences should occur. We find that promises are hard to keep and truth is a relative concept. We conclude that sometimes there is a limit that we are not ready to exceed. All of this is intentionally enigmatic, much like the story Richard Swift relates in this long novella.

Alastair Reynolds has written a startling and ambitious story that anyone who was drawn to the questions raised by Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? will enjoy. Once again, PS Publishing has brought us a tantalizing treat with another dazzler; one more in their distinguished novella line which already includes titles by Graham Joyce, Michael Marshall Smith, Stephen Baxter, Peter F. Hamilton, Paul J. McAuley and Ian McDonald.

Copyright © 2002 Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time."

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