Just After Thursday Book

Zima Blue - Alastair Reynolds

I've written previously that I think Alistair Reynolds is currently doing his best work outside of the Revelation Space continuity that made his name. This book is a collection of just such stories, spanning throughout his career. As such it's probably a bit of a mixed bag, but it also supports my assertion, in that it contains several stories that I found substantially more powerful than anything in the opposing collection, Galactic North.

Chief among them are Enola, a simply beautiful story about an intelligent weapon of mass destruction - that can't be discussed without spoiling its surprising intensity; and Beyond the Aquila Rift, a typically Reynoldsian story of astronauts blasted into baffling depths of space and time. Spirey and the Queen lays out a deliciously dark and gritty civilisation that nevertheless brims with winning personality (even if it become less punchy as it goes on). And a trio of stories about a man fleeing genocide across the Galaxy manages to put a new spin on themes you might have thought Reynolds had done to death elsewhere (unfortunately these stories were written out of chronological order, and I felt the climax turned out a lot weaker than the build-up).

Then there's a couple of stories revolving around an interplanetary reporter which are fine enough, but not quite my thing. The rest of the stories are set much closer to home - 'near future' stories of a type not usually associated with this author (although he writes that he wishes he could shake this assumption). These stories did win me over eventually, but I honestly think Reynolds is simply better at fantastic world-building than he is at producing an interesting twist on our own present day society.

Still, mixed bag or not, this is an essential buy for any Reynolds fan.

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