Deep Navigation


Alastair Reynolds


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

March 3, 2012

his is a collection of the short fiction of Alastair Reynolds. Reynolds is a terrific science fiction author, his novels are impressive combinations of epic-scale adventure and plausible-sounding advanced physics. I really loved House of Suns, Pushing Ice and Revelation Space.

Nunivak Snowflakes - not a strong story to start the collection - apparently this is the first story Reynolds ever published, which is perhaps the only possible reason for reprinting it here, so you can see how much he has improved. The story is a mostly incomprehensible story about fish from the future raining down on an Alaskan landscape, with messages from the future written onto the fish. Well, it is a neat idea, but fails completely as a story.

Monkey Suit - this story set in Reynold's Revelation Space universe. Monkey Suit is about a Raoul, who must take over the role of repairing the exterior of Formentera Lady, a spaceship fleeing the Yellowstone ring which has been infected with the fearsome Melding Plague. Branco, the original mechanic who worked on the exterior of the Formentera Lady, recently died when working outside, and if Raoul is going to takeover the job, then he must put on when the custom spacesuit Branco was wearing when he was killed. This was an interesting story.

The Fixation - Rana is working on a Mechanism in the Museum of Greater Antiquities in Greater Persia. Safa works on a project in a parallel universe that steals tiny bits across multi-verses to reconstruct an original artifact. For example, if an old artifact exists in our universe, then it must also exist in an infinite number of parallel universes. Suppose you could repair that ancient artifact by swiping a few molecules of the same artifact from other universes? What could possibly go wrong?

Fury - is a story about an Mercurio, an immortal cyborg who guards an equally ancient emperor. The emperor benevolently rules the thousands of worlds of his empire- but an assassin has just murdered him! Of course a new body will be grown for the emperor, but why did the assassin make the attempt at all, knowing that even if he succeeded, the emperor would be back on his throne in a new body in a few days? It turns out that the killing bullet carried a message - "am I my brother's keeper?" This enigmatic remark sets Mercurio on a trail that to lead back to ancient Mars. In my opinion, this is one of the best stories in the book.

Stroboscopic - is a story about an advanced game player who wins a lot, but often he has extra help. He is a cheater! Now comes an offer he can't refuse, even though he knows it is a set up - he is offered to play a game of life or death with weird aliens from a neutron star that only advance when star flashes. The ecology of a planet around a neutron story sounded cool, but overall I thought this story seemed overly contrived.

The Receivers was a story set in an alternate universe, where World War I continued longer, and now the British are developing radar. I didn't like this story either.

Byrd Land Six is a story set in an Antarctic facility. Weird things seem to be happening to the basic laws of physics. Someone is studying the nature of the Franson Link - which is the phenomena of quantum mechanics which seems to allow actions at a distance, even if the paired particles have no connection. This story was rather weak - it is one of those "nice ideas, but not a real story" that pop up so often in science fiction.

Star Surgeons Apprentice - this may be the best story of the book - it is a violent, dark story about pirates in space. It has a gruesome grittiness that would translate well to make a good movie. It involves an apprentice who joins a freighter, desperate to escape the planet he is on. But his new assignment on the freighter has him working as an apprentice to the cyborg repairman/surgeon - altering bodies, repairing bionics - lots of nasty stuff. But there is something strange about this freighter...

On the Oodnadtta - another gruesome story, but this one is so strange and surreal that I can't imagine it on the movie screen. It is a story about people who had themselves frozen before they died, hoping that in the future they would be revived and cured. But what happens to their bodies when the company that froze them goes bankrupt?

Viper - here is another "good idea" story, but the execution is better. The good idea is this - what would happen if you had a great simulator, so good a person inside could not distinguish it from reality. Suppose you put a criminal into the simulator, and let him think that he was actually free in the real world - you could then monitor his deeds - does he go back to commiting crime, or is he truly reformed?

Soiree - a weaker story about the last surviving humans who crossed interstellar space in a frozen ark, fleeing from an Earth that had fallen to out-of-control artificial intelligences. But to their surprise, upon arriving at the new planet, they are greeted by other humans who survived the singularity after all!

Sledge Maker's Daughter - is a seemingly simple story on a low-tech world about Kathrin visiting a local witch. The witch tells Kathrin a fantastic story and gives her an artifact - Kathrin gets a glimpse of a different world where battles in space between advanced civilizations occur in the skies above them. A thaw is coming to the long winter of Kathrin's world, which indicates something must changing between the warring civilizations, but what is that change? This story hints at a much broader canvas, I hope Reynolds expands this into a novel.

Tiger Burning - a detective investigates the Pegasus project, a singularity into the KR-L civilization, and furthers reaches of the +/- 15,000 branes (parallel universes) that humanity as crossed. The KR-L civilization built epic scale machines that are incomprehensible. What happened the KR-L society? Where are the other civilizations in the alternate universes? If Reynolds made a novel based on this universe, it would be welcomed too!