Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days: Two novellas by Alastair Reynolds

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDiamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair ReynoldsDiamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds

For years I’ve been planning to read Alastair Reynolds’ REVELATION SPACE series; I even own all the books in audio format. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But when I got an audio copy of Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, a collection of two stand-alone novellas set in Reynolds’ world, it seemed like the right time and place to jump in.

Diamond Dogs is an exciting horror adventure that was, honestly, just a touch too gruesome for me, even though I loved the plot and scenery. The story starts in Chasm City, a place I can’t wait to explore in Reynolds’ novel called Chasm City. A wealthy eccentric man has assembled a team of adventurers that he takes to the mysterious Blood Spire on the planet Golgotha. (Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?) This black metallic tower contains a series of difficult mathematical puzzles that the team must solve to keep progressing up the spire. They have no idea what’s at the top. The problem is that the consequences for wrong solutions are deadly. And, did I mention gruesome? Really gruesome! Diamond Dogs, with its eccentric characters and gothic-inspired setting, would make a great horror movie or graphic novel.

Turquoise Days takes place on a water-covered planet called Turquoise. This is the home of the Pattern Jugglers, a race of possibly-sentient marine organisms that was mentioned in Diamond Dogs. When humans swim with the Pattern Jugglers, if they survive the experience, their brains are changed in a way that (at least in the case of one of the Diamond Dogs characters) allows them to perceive complex spatial and mathematical patterns. Researchers suspect that the consciousness of humans who don’t survive may be incorporated into the collective consciousness of the Jugglers. In Turquoise Days we meet a pair of human sisters who study this alien species. Their current project is interrupted when a mysterious spaceship lands on the planet.

These two novellas are quite different in tone, though both are pervaded by an ominous suspensefulness. Diamond Dogs was so perverse and grisly that it reminded me of Peter Straub’s The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine. I can’t say that I cared for or connected with any of Reynolds’ characters, which disappointed me, but I admired the character development I witnessed in both stories. I also loved the imaginative science fiction elements in both stories — unique alien species, genetic engineering, neural prosthetics, collective consciousness, memory manipulation, cloning, biological data storage — and the emphasis on mathematics in the first story:

I had never understood mathematics with any great agility, but now I sensed it as a hard grid of truth underlying everything: bones shining through the thin flesh of the world.

I was also very much intrigued by the glimpse I got of Reynolds’ world. It truly feels like it’s set in a strange and exciting future. I can’t wait to explore it some more, and hope that Reynolds’ other novels will feature characters that I like better.

Tantor Audio released the 7-hour long audiobook version of Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, with John Lee narrating. Lee tends to get overly dramatic on occasion, but I liked the voices he used for the characters and thought he did a great job with the pace and rhythm. I would certainly recommend these stories in audio format for any Reynolds fan.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. David H. /

    Hey! I read this a month ago or so. (I’ve been working through all of Reynolds’ oeuvre in preparation for his appearance at Capclave this year.)

    I can’t say based on this how much you’ll like the Revelation Space series, especially if you prefer character development more than anything–I feel like he’s kinda hit or miss sometimes on that.

    I think I liked DD better than TD in any case in this collection.

    • Character development isn’t necessarily the most important thing to me, but I certainly appreciate it when I like the characters.

      Reynolds reminded me of Iain M. Banks. Would you say that’s a good comparison?

      • David H. /

        I’ve never read Banks, sorry! :-)

        I do like a lot of the characters Reynolds has, though, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes he leaves me feeling a little cold on the story front as opposed to the SF front.

  2. If I had been a character in Diamond Dogs, I think “Blood Spire” and “Golgotha” would have been two hints for me to stay home!

    These both sound intriguing, though, and this is a writer who in on my list to start reading, at least, in 2015.

  3. Jim Phillips /

    I’ll be checking these out. I suggest House of Suns as a good intro to Reynolds. It’s a stand-alone novel that is not part of his Revelation Space series, and I really loved that book. Chasm City is a good one also. You are correct that it does get a bit difficult to get behind some of his characters, but Reynolds’ imagination is on a completely different level than that of other writers.

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