REVIEW: Diamond Dogs & Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds

REVIEW SUMMARY: Two first-rate, highly recommended stories

MY RATING: 5/5

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two novellas set in the Revelation Space Universe

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Huge sense of wonder; compelling storytelling.

CONS: I cannot imagine how these stories could have been made better.

BOTTOM LINE: Two highly recommended reads.


Set in the Revelation Space Universe (not that you need to read them to enjoy these, but that sequence is comprised of the novels Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap), this collection of two novellas is a rare find: 230 pages of continuously compelling and imaginative storytelling. I read the stories about a month apart, so I am re-posting the review for Turquoise Days (originally reviewed here) for completeness.

STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION:

  1. Diamond Dogs by Alastair Reynolds [2002 novella] (Rating: ) [Read 05/21/04]

    1. Synopsis: A ragtag group of specialists seek to solve the ever-increasing difficulties of the puzzles presented by a mysterious alien artifact.

    2. Review: Wow. I just could not put this story down. Damn thing kept me up past bedtime, too. But it was worth it. The story’s main attraction is that the characters set about to solve a series of increasingly difficult puzzles as they travel from room to room inside of a huge alien tower of unknown origin that is affectionately named the Blood Spire. If this sounds familiar, it is. This is the same premise used by the SciFi Channel movie Cube. The story even mentions as such to it by way of injecting dreams into the characters during the long voyage out. The people in reefersleep dream scenes from Cube, Indiana Jones and, I think, 2001: A Space Odyssey Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys. But borrowing this idea in no way cheapens it. It still draws you in as you follow the successes and the gruesome failures. Adding to the fun are the characters. Roland Childe is the longtime puzzle-solving adversary of the narrator, Richard Swift. Dr. Trinignant is a bio-mechanical specialist who is shunned by Chasm City for his strange nanotech bio-grafting experiments when his perverse fascination drives him to operate on unsuspecting “patients”. This guy gets creepier and creepier as the story progresses. Also along are two women: an expert Hacker (Hirz) and Swift’s ex-wife Celestine (holy Space Opera, Batman!), who has gained extra mathematical prowess (good for puzzle-solving you might notice) through swims with the Pattern Jugglers. Reynold’s imagination (except for the borrowed plot) is well-exercised in this story and the ride does not disappoint. Excellent job!

  2. Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds [2002 novella] (Rating: ) [Read 04/18/04]

    1. Synopsis: The story is told in three acts:

      1. Two sisters, Naqi and Mina, are on a scientific exploration mission on Turquoise, an ocean-covered planet that is one home of the mysterious alien entities known as the Pattern Jugglers. During a communications blackout, they discover a Juggler node. The Patten Jugglers “invite” them to go swimming, which is how the Jugglers mind-meld with others. The sisters briefly sense an evil alien mind as part on the collective consciousness of the Pattern Jugglers. Only Naqi returns from the swim. Mina is presumed dead; another casualty of the Pattern Jugglers.

      2. Two years later, a spaceship lands on Turquoise, the first to arrive in nearly a century. The crew wishes to study the Pattern Jugglers on Turquoise. Their attention turns to the Moat Project which is designed to isolate a portion of Jugglers and study their behavior. Political pressure forces the Moat Project to immediately “close the moat”, an event that is safely months away. Naqi, now a prominent leader of the Moat Project, receives word that one member of the landing party, Weir, might pose a security risk to the project. Soon, Weir makes an unscheduled trip out to a Juggler node.

      3. Weir starts a chain reaction amongst Juggler nodes in the Moat that causes them to die. Naqi learns the identity of the evil mind absorbed by the Jugglers, the true mission of Weir, and the ulterior motives of the spaceship crew. She swims once more, communicates with Mina and relays to the Jugglers the danger. The Jugglers decide to take matters into their own hands.

    2. Review: Excellent story! It’s set in the Revelation Space universe and was, for me, much a more accessible read. There was a steady dramatic buildup throughout the whole piece with little pockets of drama and mystery interspersed throughout. I remember feeling the same way about Reynolds’ story Spirey and the Queen (reviewed here). There’s great sense of wonder in the airships that are home to the human inhabitants and in the Pattern Jugglers whom are given a much larger treatment here than in Revelation Space. Nicely done!.

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Diamond Dogs & Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds”

  1. Where did you find it? I assume this is an import (from the cover, that is).

    I’d like to see a US collection of his shorter works, either from the Revelation Space universe or not (or both!) come out in the US. Alas, for some reason, other than small press houses, this seems to be an increasing rarity.

  2. Wow, I read Diamond Dogs last night and have been thinking about it all day. I echo John’s 5-star rating of the story. I think what I most enjoyed about it was that the participants had the choice at any time to turn back, yet for various reasons (pride, greed) they kept on, losing more and more of their humanity in their effort to beat the game.

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