- Publication year:
A short story (and novella-length) anthology from Alastair Reynolds.
The Real Story is about a journalist's quest to unravel the real story behind the first Mars landing.
Beyond the Aquila Rift is about what it means to be lost. Really lost.
Enola is about a little nomad girl's affinity for a machine (and mutatis mutandis for the machine), and what that implies.
Signal to Noise and Cardiff Afterlife are two connected stories about what happens when you make contact with parallel universes.
The next three stories, Hideaway, Minla's Flowers, and Merlin's Gun, are the longest in the anthology and form a chronological trilogy (despite being written out of order). The first one is about a so-called swallowship (huge spaceship) on the run from an alien enemy known as the Huskers. The other two are a continuation of the first, but I won't say anything about them except that all three concern the same protagonist, Merlin, and his quest for his Gun.
Angels of Ashes is a weird piece about religion and statistics (ehr, more or less)
Spirey and the Queen is about a faux war over a planetary accretion disk.
Understanding Space and Time is about one man's quest to, well, understand space and time.
Digital to Analogue is a conspiracy/thriller tale set on Earth in the nineties, and is the least science fictional (not to mention the least space operatic) one in the collection, and is about a memetic virus spreading through the club scene.
Everlasting is about the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics. Specifically, one man's (pretty weird) take on it.
And finally, the eponymous Zima Blue is about a pretty eccentric and long-lived artist's quest to connect with his roots.
I enjoyed almost all the stories in this collection, and before I praise this collection any further, I have to get it out of the way: Angels of Ashes and Digital to Analogue fell entirely flat for me! The ones that stood out, however, more than made up for it. In particular I immensely enjoyed the Merlin trilogy (Hideaway, Minla's Flowers, and Merlin's Gun). They are truly epic in scale, and brilliantly captures the sense of the lone ranger on a quest. Understanding Space and Time, another wonderful story, is also epic, but in its own way. I hope I'm not spoiling anything by saying that it reminded me of Asimov's The Last Question, both in form and content. (Read them both and you'll understand.) The last two items, Everlasting and Zima Blue, also had me hooked, the former for its weird speculations (and the experimental testing of said speculation...), the latter for its musings on time and memory, and the sympathy you get for the protagonist, the eccentric artist Zima.
All in all, if you enjoy pointed SF vignettes or space opera novellas, go buy this book!
- Table of Contents:
- Introduction by Paul J. McAuley
- The Real Story
- Beyond the Aquila Rift
- Signal to Noise
- Cardiff Afterlife
- Minla's Flowers
- Merlin's Gun
- Angels of Ashes
- Spirey and the Queen
- Understanding Space and Time
- Digital to Analogue
- Zima Blue