A quartet of reviews featuring Alastair Reynolds, Hannu Rajaniemi, Daryl Gregory, and Peter V. Brett
Four reviews of Tachyon books from around the globe.
Photo: Barbera Bella (Alastair Reynolds)/(Hannu Rajaniemi)/(Daryl Gregory)/Karsten Moran (Peter V. Brett)
It’s all very pacy, with much of the actual process behind these fledgling democracies glossed over in a matter of sentences. It’s a revelation-on-every-page sort of book. Fans of Alastair Reynolds looking for his characteristic descriptive depth and attention to technological detail might find themselves disappointed, but for what it’s worth I enjoyed this change of tempo, which, if anything, demonstrates Reynolds’s versatility as a stylist.
In fact, Slow Bullets has a lot of very nice stylistic touches. It’s peppered with expressive little descriptions, such as this one about a book whose pages “detached too easily, the way wings come off an insect” (p. 13). I was also struck by the way that biological imagery is used to describe technology: slow bullets move by “contracting and extending like a mechanical maggot” (p. 16), hibernation capsules enclose “like an egg” (p. 21), and an automated surgeon-machine reminds Scur of “the hinged mouthparts of a flytrap” (p. 74). All of which sinister language reflects the relationship the crew have with the failing tech that surrounds them: dependency mixed with danger. The only complaint I have about style is that there are a few too many infodumps, which have the potential to interrupt the otherwise swift flow of Reynolds’s prose.
Slow Bullets is a huge leap forward for Alastair Reynolds; the culmination of a long-term interest in how memory affects society. It begins as that most strikingly individualistic of genres, the revenge narrative, and escalates until it’s questioning not just the individual’s place in society, but how societies are formed and function, and how they record themselves. There’s a profound sadness that underlines all of this, however, because the ultimate concern of Slow Bullets isn’t memory or text or society: it’s how time wears all of these things away.
To read Hannu Rajaniemi’s Collected Fiction is to get thrown immediately into the deep end. There are no warmup stories here, no simpler pieces to ease the reader into Rajaniemi’s voice and style. Instead, the very first story bombards the reader with the technical language of a highly wired, gloriously convoluted future. It’s sink or swim; either you’re along for the ride or you’re hopelessly lost.
Yet all of this hypertechnical virtuosity is couched in the language of purest mythology. Switching effortlessly between science fiction and fantasy, Rajaniemi swaps stories of a “god plague” that grants its victims incredible powers for a tale of a man (a tech geek, of course) who finds himself betrothed to a goddess, and who must rely on his knowledge of the old ways to free himself. Artificial intelligences who are also explorers grapple with dragons who are also viruses; returns to family turn into encounters with gods of the soil and underworld. There’s no barrier between the magical and the technological. For all intents and purposes, in these stories they are the same.
Every story in the collection is a gem, one that delights in playing with expectations before simultaneously dodging and exceeding them. To read Collected Fiction is to be shown something new and wonderful at every turn. The only possible complaint a willing reader could have of it is that it ends far too soon.
Beyond all these considerations, we must speak of the reading feeling. I could go on to mention the miles references that appeared to me over the words, expand on the name dropping, talk about Lovecraft, of King of Carpenter, citing movie titles or continue to boast all the intelligence of its author to revisit and question the codes of horror that justifies the multiple nominations this book (Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy Award …), launch the ultimate argument to attract shoppers that Wes Craven * working on his adaptation .. . But there is above all the story that takes us from the beginning, where it is immersed in the psyche of the characters. We see them struggling with their demon. We seek in their unsaid what they conceal. We feel a real empathy for them. We understand their disorder. We accompany them through the pages in following their nightmare.
The only frustration that we could experience the last page is that we would have liked that the book does not end. After all, we follow a story that attempts to deal with what happens after the horror works. Insatiable so one would like to know more and more, go further as the Fates continue to unwind the thread of their destiny in the struggle against their demon.
(Translated from French by Google)
I enjoyed Brayan’s Gold the best of the stories in this collection, and thought it a good representation of the longer series. Arlen is reckless and refuses to be cowed by the demons that rise from the Core at dusk every evening, searching for prey to tear to shreds. I love the concept of this series: being outside after dark is almost a certain death sentence, unless you are protected by magic wards. Arlen is a gifted warder, and he won’t live locked behind walls when there’s a whole wide world to see and try to take back from the corelings. Brayan’s Gold showcases his ability to think on his feet and not be ruled by his fears, though this almost costs him his life on several occasions.
The rest of the content, while entertaining, didn’t entrance me like Brayan’s Gold. If you haven’t started reading the Demon Cycle, this novella collection is a great place to start. You’ll get an introduction to Arlen, as well as another major character in the series.
Grade: B / B-
For more info about SLOW BULLETS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Thomas Canty
Design by Elizabeth Story
For more info on HANNU RAJANIEMI: COLLECTED FICTION, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Lius Lasahido
Design by Elizabeth Story
For information on WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story
For more info about THE GREAT BAZAAR & BRAYAN’S GOLD, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story