01/01/2009. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
pub: Gollancz. 527 page enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-08236-6. 476 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-07717-1.
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk
Alastair Reynolds has grown in stature and ability by a huge amount since I first started reading him. His dense, complicated space operas take into account the speed of light and the dramatic impact its limit may have on galactic civilisation. 2007's 'The Prefect' focused on a single region of his galaxy and timeline, a thrilling book that was amongst my favourites of the year.
'House Of Suns' is just about the opposite of Reynolds' previous book. Rather than focusing on one single region of space, it follows the Gentian line across millions of years in time and thousands of light-years of space. In the process, we explore some fascinating little corners of a galaxy explored by humans for millions of years.
Purslane and Campion are 'shatterlings' of the Gentian Line. Long ago, when the human race was confined to only a small region of space, a number of people, including Abigail Gentian, split their personalities into a thousand separate people, who split up to travel around the galaxy trying to see as much of humanity's expansion into interstellar space as possible.
Every so often, the shatterlings complete a cycle and return to meet each other and exchange the memories of the things they have experienced. This time, however, someone is out to disrupt the Gentian line - permanently!
Purslane and Campion are delayed to the reunion by their meeting with the damaged robot Hesperus, who speaks of a terrible truth he only half remembers, that somehow involves the shatterlings. The heroes arrive late to the site of the reunion to find that someone has attacked it, killing many of the Gentian Line and forcing the rest into fearful hiding.
The rest of the book unfolds the mystery of these events, as well as documenting the struggles of the survivors to recover from the attack. It encompasses a number of thrilling space battles in the slow motion of near light speed, as well as compelling intrigue between the surviving shatterlings and guests with other allegiances.
I enjoyed this book a lot but it took me a while to get into it. The first fifty pages or so are very slow-paced and incidental to the main storyline and failed to suck me in. Persevere, though, for the reward is a thoughtful exposition of a society that lives its life in perpetual stasis travelling amongst the stars. The mystery of who betrayed the Gentian line is intricate and satisfying and leads to a dramatic climax and denouement. 'House Of Suns' is a complicated space opera that demands your full attention. When you give it your all, it rewards you in kind. A solid, thoughtful read.
Tomas L. Martin
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA