by Gavin GrantFebruary, 2005
Two for one
Alastair Reynolds is one of the stars of the new wave of British space opera. Originally published as limited edition chapbooks, the two novellas that comprise Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days are thoughtful, ambitious and inventive. In Diamond Dogs, Richard Swift is talked into accompanying an exploratory crew to one of the first true alien finds, the Blood Spire. One group has already died trying to investigate the Spire, so Swift's group undergoes mental and physical modifications to help them beat the apparently living structure. In an atmosphere reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe, Reynolds cranks up the tension to an inevitable yet inescapably human ending. The second novella, Turquoise Days, involves contact with a living alien culture, the Pattern Jugglers. The surface of the planet Turquoise is mostly water deeply infused with the Pattern Jugglers, a strange, possibly conscious, moss-like substance that replicates the consciousness of anyone who swims in the sea. For some people, however, swimming in the sea is fatal. When a spaceship is spotted two years out from Turquoise, Naqi and her sister Mina take advantage of the turmoil to go swimming. Naqi, always slightly jealous of her more competent sister, can't resist the challenge, but Mina disappears and Naqi is left with a guilt she can't shuck. When the spaceship arrives, it brings not the expected visitors and traders, but rather a religious sect intent on using the Pattern Jugglers for their own needs. For readers, these two novellas will be either a fascinating introduction to Reynolds' work or a welcome expansion of his Revelation Space trilogy. Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.