Locus Magazine Review

No less the colony world featured in Reynolds's new novella, Turquoise Days, first in a series of chapbooks from Golden Gryphon Press. Located in an isolated quarter of the Inhibitor universe, a relatively harmonious bucolic paradise of floating cities and attempted communion with the mysterious Pattern Jugglers, Turquoise is, paradoxically, primed for collapse. Wherever aliens are to be found in this future history, a further clue to fathoming the sequence's overarching mystery — the disappearance of virtually all other sentient life from the Milky Way — necessarily waits to be uncovered. Why have the Inhibitors spared the Pattern Jugglers? It could be their patient receptivity — they merely absorb memories and personality structures from whatever visitors swim in their waters, and this placidity is unlikely to arouse the Inhibitors' ire. Alternatively, they may be actively useful to the Inhibitors as a galactic recording system — or may even intimidate them on some level, as the Epilogue to Redemption Ark seems to imply. Whatever the case, Turquoise Days contrasts the vast impersonal patience of the Jugglers with the vulgar squabbling myopia of human beings, and although the Inhibitors are not mentioned once in the novella, it is amply clear why our species is slated for extinction. Days anatomizes quite savagely the fundamental inadequacy of humankind even in the most favorable conditions, and the wider prognosis is gloomy.

Purely on its own, Turquoise Days is one of the year's major SF novellas; and seen in series and genre context, it is a superb example of Hard SF stringently interrogating the scientific method even as it ultimately validates it. Naqi Okpik, one of Turquoise's leading experts on the Jugglers, has lost a sister to the great alien gestalt, and her resulting mixture of curiosity and suspicion epitomizes the ambivalence that will sunder the colony and its enterprise of research. When untrustworthy visitors arrive aboard the first starship to pass by in decades, the prevailing attitude toward the Jugglers is further tinged with an agenda of brutal exploitation; and as this expresses itself, the Juggler reaction is apocalyptic. The disintegration of Turquoise is brilliantly portrayed by Reynolds, a loss of Eden adding deep meaning to an already entrancing and disillusioning narrative; clearly, the millennium-long arc of redemption the Inhibitor cycle is describing — if redemptive it is — will have to be one of quite radical purgation. The delineation of his surviving humans' redeeming nature will surely be the greatest of the many speculative gifts Alastair Reynolds is bestowing upon SF.

— Nick Gevers, Locus, September 2002


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