Monday, June 25, 2007

People I'm insanely jealous of, Part I - Alastair Reynolds

I could just about kill this guy.

Leave aside that Pushing Ice, Reynolds' most recent novel in paperback, has taken control of 87.3% of my brain, meaning that when I should be thinking about other things, I am mentally stranded halfway to the Kuiper Belt being dragged along at 5G's acceleration behind a mysterious starship from the Alpha Virginis system, formerly known as Saturn's moon Janus.

Just consider the fact that sometime along the way to getting a PHD in astronomy and working as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency, he learned to plot suspense as tight as James Patterson.

It takes another level of writing to create genuine conflict in circumstances where every character's action is justifiable from his or her own point of view. The conflict between Bella, the captain of the Rockhopper, and Svetlana, head of flight operations, about whether to turn the ship around or to follow The Object Formerly Known as Janus is completely engaging because you sympathise with both of them. It's true, Reynolds resorts to more traditional villains in the case of Craig Schrope, the company spy, and Powell Cagan, the evil CEO that decieves them. But even Schrope may or may not be genuinely bad, and Cagan is not really a character in the story, just an external force.

It's true there are a few places where I can hear Reynolds' plot wheels turning, setting up things that you know he's going to use later. Specifically a scene where the captain has an inconclusive talk with a "taphead" who can control robots with an implant in his head. Since this taphead character has no other interactions with anyone else in the book, I get a feeling that he's just there because Reynolds needs him down the road somewhere. But that's a quibble; right now, I just can't put the damn book down.

PS - as you may have noticed, this isn't a review, since I haven't even finished the thing. I am not usually going to do "reviews" in the usual sense on this page. That's because since I don't get advance copies, I am not going to be able to get them out before twenty or thirty other people do, and also because I'm more interested in addressing the themes and ideas that are being addressed in the science fiction world now.

1 comment:

Denni said...


Oh bugger, I have people in my WIP who communicate with AIs via implants. At first I called them Wireheads, but that's a Niven term. They are central to the plot (AI/human conflict features, but nobody can really fathom the AIs—not even them. I hate touchy-feely AIs, there's no logical reason for them.).

Must get hold of the new Reynolds novel! But on the other hand, I don't want to read it now: it scares me away from the process of working on my own (which has already taken 2 years on-and-off).