Galactic North, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2006)

Grade: Δˡ — A good read, but only if you like the genre (or subgenre).

In brief:

Galactic North is a collection of short fiction by Alastair Reynolds that chronicles the history of his Revelation Space Universe.  It is a fun anthology of previously published work and a must read by anyone who likes the dark future portrayed in his series, but like any collection of shorts stories, it does not have the scope of his novel length space operas. 


The stories in this book span from the middle-near future to the far far future as we watch the history of the Revelation Space Universe unfold.  It is a Hard Science Fiction setting  where interstellar travel exists, but is limited by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. To that end, space travel takes huge amounts of time, and is only endurable through stasis and time dilation. Technology, particularly nanotechnology, grows from a nascent form to Ultratech levels through the course of the book.

In Depth:

Alastair Reynolds in the ice caves?

Galactic North is a collection of short fiction that chronicles the future history of Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space universe.  Like any short story collection, each story needs to be judged on its own merits, but all of them are good, solid tales.  They are presented in more or less chronological order of the time frame they were supposed to have happened, but I think the book would have been served better if they been placed within some sort of frame story. This might have been easily accomplished since the title piece, Galactic North, spans millennia, including most (though not all) of the time frame cover by the other tales. I would have thought that might have been reasonably easily accomplished.   

Even so, I did enjoy the tales as a whole, particularly those that build upon the Conjoiner story arc followed in the first two stories.  Additionally there are some excellent short stories about the development of the Demarchists, Ultras, Hyperpigs and various other denizens of Reynolds’ dark future.  The final tale, however, was not quite as engaging as I had hoped.  For one thing, it seemed rushed, with a great deal happening very quickly.  I never formed an empathetic connection with the main character (unusual for me in a Reynolds’ tale) and while the ending built upon the ending of Absolution Gap, I still found it somehow unrewarding.  This could, however, have more to do with my feelings about the ending of The Inhibitor Trilogy than it does with Galactic North itself.

Regardless, the book made for a solid read with no real clunker stories and some really good pieces.  I am always reticent to recommend anthologies, but I think most science fiction fans would enjoy this book and it is certainly a must read for any fans of the Revelation Space series.

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
This entry was posted in Anthology/Collection, Chronicle, Conspiracy, Cycle, Hard SciFi, Identity, New Space Opera, Ripping Yarn, Saga, Science Fiction, Serial, Series, Space Exploration, Strong Characters, Thoughtful, Ultratech, Unique or Imaginative World, World and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Galactic North, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2006)

  1. Thanks for the reblog! I’ve been meaning to do a review of some of Reynold’s work. He’s a personal favorite of mine in the realm of sci-fi.

  2. katkasia says:

    It sounds like this could be a good one for me. I thought Alistair Reynolds had some great ideas, but the novel I reviewed somewhat lacked structure. So a short story format might be a much better exhibition of his talents.
    How were his characters? Still rather determined and lacking a sense of humour?
    Thanks for the review and reblog! 🙂

    • Thomas Evans says:

      With less space to develop them, the depth of the characters wwere a tad limited, and no great really humorous moments lept out at me. Still, I quite liked some of them, and reading the Conjoiner storylines gives a bit better strutural understanding to the Inhibitor series.

      Funny you should mention the structure thing, since in a couple of weeks I’m going to review his world as a whole (probably posting it as a page) and yes: the big issue in all of it is that his works lack structure. There is no sense of completion at anypoint, except in the Prefect. That book, was structurally much better than his others. Have you given it a go?

  3. katkasia says:

    No- not yet! But ‘Pushing Ice’ was more like reading the script for a TV series – intro, then cliffhanger, then cliffhanger, then cliffhanger… Even at the end you got the impression that the story could have continued into another episode.
    Look forward to your review! 🙂

    • Thomas Evans says:

      Ha! I have read it (it’s notes are on my backlog) and yes. You are correct. It is one of my least favorite of his books.

      My favorite is the Prefect, which has a good structure and better character depth, as does Chasm City.

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