Galactic North is a group of short stories set in the Revelation Space universe starting at it’s very beginning and stretching right to it’s end.
Great Wall of Mars
I reread the Great Wall of Mars after the Inhibitor Phase to remind me of some of Warren Clavian’s back story. It didn’t disappoint. I should have read Great Wall of Mars again before Inhibitor Phase, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. At least I’ve remembered why Nevile hated his brother and how he was betrayed by him, why Nevile defected to the conjoiners and how Felka fits in. One small story explains so much of why things happened in several of the other stories including Absolution Gap.
Glacial adds little to the overall story, but does help to explain how the relationship between Clavian, Galiana and Felka developers and how it becomes so strong. Glacial is really an opportunity for Alastair Reynolds to explore the concept of a thinking, possible sentient planet. He does this, as always, by hinting throughout at the bigger picture and keeping you reading.
A Spy in Europa
Not sure what I think of this one. Seemed a bit pointless. Not very nice characters who all stabbed each other in the back. Some interesting science tho and provided a backdrop and context for Grafenwalder's Bestiary.
What a fantastic standalone story this is with some great characters who demonstrate that not all Ultras are cut-throat. There’s lots more detail about conjoiners here and the secret of how C-drives are managed is revealed, but that’s not the darkest secret.
I was disappointed in this story until I read the notes at the end and realised it was the first story written in the revelation space universe and that it introduced some key aspects, such as Chasm City. It doesn’t really add anything to the overall story, but has some interesting insights into refersleep.
Some of the best stories are those which are difficult to read due to the behaviour of some of the characters. When they do things you can’t understand the motivation for and could not imagine doing yourself. In this story it’s cruelty, deception and revenge and I loved it.
I do wonder how Alastair Reynolds thinks up these horrors, but they are glorious. This story is particularly horrible at the end. The evil computer was far worse than anything in the Resident Evil series, with undertones of Hal 9000. There’s exploration in the story, battle, weapons and the sort of intrigue which makes it difficult to put down.
This should be expanded to a novel, or at least a novella. There’s scope for so much evolution, especially with the greenfly and how they come to take over. I couldn’t put this down, and wouldn’t have done it if my Kindle hadn’t died a few pages before the end!
In some ways it’s a shame that Alastair Reynolds has put a hard limit on the timeline of Revelation Space, but I loved it! I reread Galactic North to understand the comments at the end of Inhibitor Phase and the Nest Builders. I should have read it first. And I should have a Revelation Space timeline on my wall.