To my everlasting shame, though I own many of Alastair Reynolds' novels, I have yet to give any of his novel-length works a shot. I enjoyed The Six Directions of Space last year, and I was eager to sink my teeth into the upcoming Subterranean Press double-feature comprised of the novellas Thousandth Night and Minla's Flowers. Once again, I was shocked to discover that Reynolds can write works of epic proportions that resound with depth in short form, more so than most authors manage to do in long form.
It is evident that I'll have to move at least one Reynolds book up in my rotation, so that I can finally sit down and see what the buzz is all about early in 2010. Since Thousandth Night is to all ends and purposes the genesis the novel House of Suns, I'll probably put this one on top of the pile. Although I'll have to ask around whether or not I'm better off reading an earlier book in the sequence. . .
Here are the novellas' blurbs:
Thousandth Night, the genesis for the epic novel House of Suns, is quintessential Reynolds. A visionary account of intrigue, ambition, and technological marvels set within a beautifully realized far-future milieu, it combines world-class storytelling with a provocative meditation on the mystery, grandeur, and inconceivable immensity of the universe.
The masterful novella Minla’s Flowers features Merlin, a familiar figure to Reynolds’s readers. Diverted by technical difficulties to a planet known as Lecythus, Merlin finds himself forced to play a part in the moral and military dilemmas of a world on the verge of extinction.
Once more, I was incredibly impressed with the worldbuilding found in both novellas. I don't know how he does it, but Alastair Reynolds works wonders in short form. Vast in scope and filled with cosmological themes, I didn't think one could pull this off seemingly so effortlessly in the short fiction format. Especially since Reynolds is not known for writing slender novels. And yet, grand ideas are the norm in both Thousandth Night and Minla's Flowers. This is especially true in the former, with the Gentian Line, immortal human clones whose DNA derived from a single individual, traveling around the galaxy and meeting up every 200,000 years to share their experiences and update their collective memory.
In a format that doesn't give you much room to work with in terms of character development, I was impressed with Reynolds' characterization. Especially in Minla's Flowers, where the interaction between Merlin and Minla's at various stages of her life was truly memorable.
Both novellas are paced adroitely and there's never a dull moment. I went through this Subpress double-feature in no time, grumbling in frustration when I realized that it was all over. This scifi combo is definitely one of my favorite reads of 2009!
Minla's Flowers was first released in The New Space Opera anthology (Canada, USA, Europe), while Thousandth Night was first published in One Million A. D. (USA).
For those of you new to Alastair Reynolds' body of work, Thousandth Night & Minla's Flowers should entice you the same way it did me, thus encouraging you to discover more about this author.
Thought-provoking and hard to put down!
The final verdict: 8.25/10