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.