Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still 'Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
King Lear, Act 3, scene 4
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days is a pair of novellas set in Alastair Reynolds' "Revelation Space" universe. I have lately began to believe that, in fact, the novella might be the perfect size in which to tell a science fiction story. If there were any doubt, Reynolds lays it to rest in the brilliant "Diamond Dogs.
Diamond Dogs is the story of a group of specialists put together by the enigmatic Roland Childe in order to solve the many puzzles of the "Blood Spire", a tower that appears to be sentient. Each room of the tower must be accessed by solving increasingly intricate mathematical puzzles. Solving the puzzle grants one access to the next room, failing to solve the puzzle leads to gruesome and painful consequences. The story is filled with oppressive atmosphere and edge of the seat worry.
Diamond dogs is one of the best science fiction stories I have read in some time. I am glad it was kept as the novella length which is, in my opinion, the best length for it. Dark and atmospheric, Diamond Dogs did not disappoint. I give it 5 stars.
Turquoise Days is the second novella in this book. I was not as taken with it as I was with its predecessor. Not that it is bad by any means.
Turquoise Days takes place on the planet Turquoise. This planet is a Pattern Juggler world which also contains a human colony. The Pattern Jugglers are being studied by the humans, which is the reason for the colony. For those not familiar with Reynolds's work, Pattern jugglers are sort of a marine hive mind type organism which acts as a kind of a giant hard drive, recording the consciousness of those who swim in the oceans where they exist. Often the Pattern Jugglers will impart some kind of (normally) temporary ability to the swimmer, often in mathematics. Upon occasion, a person will be assimilated by the Pattern Jugglers and will not return from their swim.
In Turquoise Days, the protagonist, Naqi, and her sister both take an unauthorized swim in the ocean; a swim from which the sister never returns. A few years later, Naqi is still working on research of the Pattern Jugglers when another group of scientists arrive on a starship. What the foreign scientists are up to is anyone's guess. There is in this story a hint at what may have been in the top room of the Blood Spire.
This story alternated between parts that were utterly fascinating and parts that bored the living crap out of me. The great parts made up for the boring parts to some degree, making this a worthy read. Not nearly the quality of Diamond Dogs but an average to above-average story. I give it 3 to 3.5 stars.
If I were to advise someone reading this for the first time I might advise them to read Turquoise Days fisr as it was, for me, so clearly outclassed by Diamond Dogs that I think I was unduly disappointed by it. This is a worth book and an easy 4 stars.