Alastair Reynolds has the uncanny ability to write works of epic proportions that resound with depth in short form. I mean, when you have 600+ pages to work with, you can be as epic as you want to be. Yet somehow, Reynolds can, seemingly effortlessly, imbue the same richness of details and depth in a novella, something that makes me shake my head in wonder every time I read some of his short fiction.

As you know, I absolutely loved Chasm City. Prior commitments and my going away overseas for a month precluded me from giving any of Reynolds' novel-length works a shot. But joy of joys, the following day Troika showed up in my mailbox!

Here's the blurb:

In novels such as Chasm City and Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds established himself as an indisputable master of the far-flung intergalactic epic. Reynolds brings that same deceptively effortless mastery to the shorter fictional forms, a fact that Troika, his elegant, compulsively readable new novella, amply demonstrates.

Troika tells the story of men and women confronting an enigma known as the Matryoshka, a vast alien construct whose periodic appearances have generated terror, wonder, and endless debate. During its third “apparition” in a remote corner of the galaxy, a trio of Russian cosmonauts approach this enigma and attempt to penetrate its mysteries. What they discover—and what they endure in the process—forms the centerpiece of an enthralling, constantly surprising narrative. Troika is at once a wholly original account of First Contact and a meditation on time, history, and the essentially fluid nature of identity itself. Suspenseful, erudite, and gracefully written, it is a significant accomplishment in its own right and a welcome addition to a remarkable body of work

As a matter of course, I was amazed by the depth of the worldbuilding, especially given the format of the story. Vast in scope, as are all his novels and previous short fiction works, Troika packs a powerful punch. Slowly, insidiously, the story grabs hold of you and won't let go. So much so that I finished reading this novella in a single sitting.

First Contact stories are a dime a dozen and have been done ad nauseam. Yet by writing this one from the Soviets' point of view, it gives Troika a different flavor altogether. Occurring in a not-so-distant future, it's at once immediate and science fiction.

Though the tale is told from Dimitri Ivanov's point of view, both in the past as the Russian cosmonaut remembers his encounter with the enigmatic alien construct known as the Matryoshka, and in the present as he lives through the aftermath of that encounter, the spaceship becomes a character in its own right, to a certain extent. In a way, it's the revelation of the mysteries of the Matryoshka's secrets that make the entire novella.

But the characterization is extremely well-done. Though the size of a novella doesn't give the author much room to manoeuver, Reynolds did an amazing job with this small cast of protagonists. Again, how he managed to achieve such character development in so few pages, I'll never know. But he did, ending this one in poignant fashion.

Troika is paced close to perfection, with never a dull moments found within. My only complaint is that, once more, this is a story I feel could have worked even better as a novel. Mr. Reynolds, please keep these works of short fiction coming!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and Subpress

0 commentaires: