Alastair Reynolds' exciting space opera, beginning with 'Revelation Space', introduced a new and engrossing world to fans of science fiction everywhere. Now, with the release of two novellas in a single volume - 'Diamond Dogs, Turqouise Days', Reynolds returns to the universe we saw unveiled in four full length novels.
Unsurprisingly, the books opens with a novella called 'Diamond Dogs'. We're taken to Chasm City before the advent of the Melding Plague, and after the failed immortalization attempt of 'The Eighty'. Richard Swift had publically denounced the Clavain familiy's immortality project after the tragedy, and as a result was excluded from their xenoarchaeological dig to Resurgam (narrated in 'Revelation Space'), despite the fact he's an acknowledged expert on alien theory.
Richard is accosted by his childhood friend, Roland Childe, whom he long presumed dead. Turns out Roland had only faked his death in order to pursue a fascinating discovery - the result of a clandestine project carried out for over a century by his ancestors. This discovery is an enigmatic alien relic on the remote planet of Golgotha, light years away. It's a huge tower, its contents a carefully guarded secret. Lethally guarded, actually. The tower is comprised of a serious of chambers, slowly working higher. Access to each chamber is gained only after a complex puzzle has been answered correctly. Answer wrong and the results are grisly, to say the least. Roland and Richard had never been able to resist challenges, and with a few carefully selected companions, they are determined to conquer the 'Blood Spire', as they've termed it.
Although the idea's been bandied about before, 'Diamond Dogs' is undoubtedly one the best interpretations of the 'fatal puzzle' idea. Reynolds builds some truly interesting characters, and even in the novella's limited length manages to develop them as the story progresses. Some of the puzzles themselves are based on engaging concepts, and there's plenty of evidence that there was some serious speculation behind the writing of this story. Reynolds' trademark flair for highly entertaining plot twists presents itself again, and the result is thoroughly enjoyable.
'Diamond Dogs' fits in nicely with any other book in the series, with the same techno-gothic atmosphere delivered via Reynolds' capable prose. It's an excellent read, and keeps up a brisk pace throughout. The story's peppered with all manners of allusions, which add a nice personal feel to the work. It's fun to catch them when they pop out of the woodwork.
'Turqouise Days' is of course, the second and final novella in the book. Reynolds' turns his attentions to the mysterious Pattern Jugglers, an alien quasi-intelligence acting as a curator of vast repositories of organic intelligence spanning the life of the galaxy. They inhabit ocean worlds, and copy minds of those who swim them, while at the same time imparting transitory neurological alterations.
Naqi is a young researcher on Turqouise, a Juggler ocean world. Isolated from the rest of mankind, Turqouise has nevertheless detected the signature of an incoming Ultra-crewed lighthugger. Visitors are coming, and although they give every sign of being benevolent - the visit of a similar ship a century ago was a damaging experience for Turqouise.
Naqi is intriguied by the new visitors, and cautious as well. She's determined that nothing interferes with her research - but as always, politics influences science in undesirable ways. Soon Naqi learns more about the ominous off-worlders, and gains a deeper insight into the nature of the Patter Jugglers themselves.
'Turqouise Days' moves at a slower pace than the first novella, but has plenty to offer. The scenery is vivid and unusual, and it's exciting to have some more light shed on the mysterious Pattern Jugglers. Characterization suffers some, as Naqi's the only main character, and she never quite elicits the reader's sympathy. Although the plot isn't as fascinating as that of 'Diamond Dogs', there's still an good payoff at the end, as Reynolds closes the story quite nicely.
All in all, 'Diamond Dogs, Turqouise Days' is an appreciated addition to the universe of 'Revelation Space'. Reynolds shows us a broader scope of the world he's created, as well as his talent as a writer. The only significant letdown is the length of the book - at 230 pages in paperback, it still retails for full price. A third novella would have rounded out the volume nicely, and made for an even more entertaining read. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed the full length novels, then you'll love 'Diamond Dogs, Turqouise Days'.