Archive for February, 2009

Cyberabad Days – River of Gods short stories

February 25, 2009

It isn’t a secret that I think that Ian McDonald’s River of Gods is a brilliant book. Imagine walking through the streets of crowded India in the Blade Runner universe and you’ve started to understand the setting of River of Gods. As I’ve said earlier, the author doesn’t immerse you, he drowns you. It is hard to describe how fucking awesome this guy’s ability to paint a picture with words is (though if I could write like McDonald does, it might be possible to do so). The difference between this guy and other SF writers is the difference between watching Blade Runner on video cassette and then watching it in HD (and if you haven’t watched the remastered HD Blade Runner, do yourself a favor!). Both show a picture. One of those pictures is a lot clearer.

Cyberabad Days is a set of short stories/novellas (one of which won a Hugo) set in the India of River of Gods. Most of the stories are set around the same time (2047) as when River of Gods takes place, so these stories work almost as an addendum or companion piece to the original rather than as a sequel. ¬†Sort of the way that the books Diamond Dogs/Turquiose Days or Galactic North sit within Alastair Reynold’s Revalation Space universe. Each of the stories leaves you wanting more. Each of the stories looks at the world of 2047 India through a different prism (the way that each of the character perspectives in River of Gods did).

Although this collection of short stories stands alone, you are better of having read River of Gods first. Given how awesome River of Gods is, that isn’t a particularly onerous requirement.

Six Directions of Space: Short and Sweet

February 4, 2009

Six Directions of Space is a limited edition novella written by Alastair Reynolds. There were 1000 copies printed (my signed copy is somewhere in the 400’s), though, like other Reynolds stories that appear in limited edition collections (such as Zima Blue) Six Directions of Space will probably turn up in a later Reynolds compilation (it also appears in the collection Galactic Empires (linked below) with stories by Peter F Hamilton, Ian McDonald and Neal Asher). This alt-history story primarily revolves around a space-faring Mongol culture that was not wiped out during the invasion of Japan in 1274. The empire has found a series of hyperspace conduits, called the Infrastructure, which allow it to build an empire spanning several thousand light years by the equivalent of our 23rd century. The infrastructure was built by a long since extinct race and is starting to decay. This decay causes the mystery that is central to Six Directions of Space which is that the Mongol Empire has charted most of the Milky Way and found no other active intelligent races, yet from time to time ships travelling through infrastructure conduits encounter starships that are both alien and familiar.

What I liked about this novella is the density of complex ideas covered in a very short amount of space. Reynolds manages to build an interesting universe and present an interesting mystery in a very short amount of time. Given that he has gone back to other universes that he’s created in this fashion (House of Suns evolved from a similar shorter fiction effort), I’d be enthusiastic about him returning to the one explored in Six Directions of Space. ¬†

This story has also been reproduced in the collection Galactic Empires with other authors I love like Hamilton and McDonald – so you might prefer to get that collection as a way of picking up this story (if you can find it).