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Galactic North
Alastair Reynolds
Gollancz, 392 pages

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.

Alastair Reynolds Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Prefect
SF Site Review: Zima Blue and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Pushing Ice
SF Site Review: Pushing Ice
SF Site Review: Century Rain
SF Site Review: Century Rain
SF Site Review: Absolution Gap
SF Site Review: Turquoise Days
SF Site Review: Redemption Ark
SF Site Review: Revelation Space
SF Site Review: Chasm City
SF Site Review: Revelation Space

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Galactic North Alastair Reynolds's reputation as a first-rate writer of hard science fiction rests mainly on the series of novels beginning with Revelation Space that are sometimes referred to as the Inhibitor series. The novels in the series shared several characteristics. Even though they were set in and near several different star systems, they conformed to the requirements of relativity and other aspects of modern physics, and stylistically they presented an almost gothic view of life in a space-faring future civilization. The characters in the Inhibitor novels were always complex, often dark and disturbing in their actions, and sometimes so changed by their experiences and the world they lived in as to seem barely human.

It may sound a bit grim and gloomy, but one of Reynolds's gifts as a writer is to take these characters and make them sympathetic, often by putting them through such hardships that you eventually can't help but feel for them, even after knowing the things that they themselves have done. The stories collected in Galactic North, some of them written and published before Revelation Space, show us even more about the future Reynolds has envisioned, and often give us details of characters lives and events that are alluded to in the novels. At the same time, they prove that Reynolds' writing can be just as dark and intense at shorter lengths as it is in novels like Chasm City and Absolution Gap.

Take, for example "Great Wall of Mars," which fills us in on the early history of Galiana, Nevil Clavain, and the Cojoiners. Or "Weather," a story of life onboard a starship as an Ultra, the cyborg-like humans who have adapted themselves to the rigors of life in space. Both these stories help to make the characters and the life they represent a little less mysterious and a little more understandable. At the same time, they work well on their own as stories of turmoil, desperation, and the struggle of people to understand each other and themselves.

In an afterword to Galactic North, Alastair Reynolds professes his love for future histories, those vast, sprawling creations that often cover thousands of years or more worth of history and are comprised of many stories set against a common background. His own work, the Inhibitor novels and the stories contained in Galactic North fit right into this tradition, and help to establish Reynolds' own future history as a creation equal to any of those of the past. In particular, he singles out Larry Niven's Known Space series as an influence, and that influence is readily apparent in the title story, which recalls Niven's own "The Ethics of Madness" in its depiction of a chase leading through immense reaches of space and time. Reynolds puts his own twist on the situation, one that confirms his place as a writer who is both working within a tradition, and who has created his own special place in it.

Copyright © 2008 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson admits to being captivated by a universe inhabited by Cojoiners, Ultras, Demarchists and hyper-pigs. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.

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