SciFi Month Wrap Up

What a busy SciFi Month that was! Not that you’d know it looking at this blog of course, seeing as all I committed to was posting for the daily prompts on Twitter and a small TBR pile, but I kept up with what some of my fellow bloggers were up to over November and my wishlist has grown accordingly. In a shocking turn of events, however, I find myself setting some time aside to write this post, where I look at the books I read over SciFi Month and name my favourite. Read on to find out my thoughts on some usual suspects and one author who’s new to me.

The first book I tackled off the SciFI Month TBR was Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds (gasp), the third main entry in the Revelation Space sequence. With the threat of the inhibitors graver than ever, a small band of refugees find themselves in the unenviable position of possibly having to trust something even more menacing than their traditional enemies. Meanwhile, on a freezing moon, giant wheeled cathedrals trundle ponderously through the ice in the hopes of witnessing a celestial miracle. With his typical ability to weave multiple timelines together, as well as his usual flair for high concept science fiction, this was another winner from Reynolds for me. The steampunk feel to the cathedrals was also a welcome tonal shift too. Things did feel a little fragmented at times, particularly around the middle of the book where there’s a little treading water in terms of the pace, but this was another hugely enjoyable sci-fi epic.

Next, I decided to give Ten Low by Stark Holborn a go. I’d never read any Stark Holborn before, and liked the mysterious opening to this when I gave it a look. For those who don’t know, the titular Ten Low survives – just about – on a desert planet populated by convicts on the losing side of a war between two factions of humanity. When a high ranking member of the military crash lands, Ten finds herself responsible for what she initially takes to be a kid. This is a notion that doesn’t last too long though – her charge is none other than Major Gabriella Ortiz, engineered to be the perfect soldier, and none too happy to find herself in the hands of a filthy convict. I felt like the mysteries of Ten Low never really got resolved in a particularly satisfying way, as well as finding it a little more style over substance than I hoped it would be. Very much a sci-fi Western, this might be a good pick for fellow Firefly fans, but it left me a little unfulfilled.

My next choice was Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky. For those who have read it already, the phrase “My name is Rex. I am a good dog,” might well tug on the heartstrings. Rex is a bioform, a walking bioengineered weapon derived from man’s best friend, with a subsonic, bowel-loosening voice and a pair of shoulder-mounted high-calibre guns on his shoulders. Along with Bees, Dragon and Honey (a bear, originally), he prosecutes the enemies of his master with extreme prejudice. But when Rex’s master falls foul of the law, some serious existential questioning seems called for, and Rex finds himself mulling over what it means to be good, as well as whether an old dog can learn new tricks. I adored Dogs of War, Rex’s narrative voice utterly charming despite the frequently awful scenes he’s describing, his eagerness to please perfectly capturing everyone’s idea of what goes through a faithful dog’s mind. The directions Tchaikovsky takes the story in are also entertaining and feel logical without being predictable. Its sequel, Bear Head, has gone straight to the top of my wishlist.

My final read off the SciFi Month TBR was another Alastair Reynolds book, Aurora Rising (originally published as The Prefect). In it, we finally get to see a fully functional version of the Glitter Band – the ten thousand habitats orbiting the planet Yellowstone, all of them distinct from one another in their governance, societal makeup and more besides – prior to it becoming the Rust Belt. Field Prefect Tom Dreyfus is a member of Panoply, the force policing this ever-changing frontier of human development, ensuring that its system of “demarchy” (democratic anarchy) is upheld at all costs. But the Glitter Band is under threat from a mysterious entity, a mass murder the first warning that something has its eye on this shining jewel of human achievement. Aurora Rising is essentially Reynolds going back to those things which he’s mentioned in passing elsewhere in the Revelation Space universe and fleshing them out extensively; anyone who might have thought he didn’t have a plan for explaining how the demarchist governance model worked or demonstrating just how varied the Glitter Band must be is proven wrong here. In actual fact, it seems more like they were only referred to in passing previously because to go into more detail would have required another entire book. Et voila. I loved seeing the Belle Epoque at the height of its power, and was surprised that I didn’t particularly miss the century-spanning timeframes that Reynolds typically employs. Aurora Rising was not only a satisfying mystery, it also tied into the wider setting and continuity perfectly and had a well judged elevation of tension and excitement as it progressed. I can’t wait to get to Elysium Fire, and the recent news that there’s a third Prefect Dreyfus Emergency on the way makes me very happy.

Wow it’s difficult to pick a favourite out of these. I think I’m going to go with Dogs of War though – it got its emotional hooks into me straight away, and managed to feel refreshingly modern with its subject matter and stylish action, yet classic in its exploration of ethics and selfhood.

Thanks to you for reading, but most of all thanks to imyril at There’s Always Room For One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for organising my favourite reading event of the calendar. I’m off to suit up and prepare for reentry – so long, until our orbits cross again!


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