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Friday, March 29, 2013

Classics Revisited: Alastair Reynolds' Galactic North: "A Spy in Europa" and "Weather"

Just as the first two stories of the collection, Galactic North, have sweep, scope and grand sense of wonder, "A Spy in Europa" and "Weather" continue the trend--a fantastic idea to stack your best stuff up front:  It persuades the reader to read everything the guy wrote.  

As  a short story, "A Spy in Europa," which originally appeared in Interzone, is emblematic of Alastair Reynolds' abilities and possibly the toe with which the tepid reader tests the waters.  Marius Vargovic, agent of Gilgamesh Isis, has been living on Mars and penetrates Europa to receive surgery to enable him to swim Europa's ocean and retrieve new technology.  While Marius has little choice, he appears to take to the job, swimmingly.  When he has what he wants from Dr. Cholok, he kills her.  Her murder is discovered and three agents pursue him through the ocean.  Somehow his extraction point is learned, so Marius goes to another extraction point, not before he has to confront the agents behind him and the mysterious if hideous creatures of myth ahead.  

This is a grand exploration of what makes life possible, particularly at its extremes--not to mention what makes life worth living.

In "Weather" (a misnomer of sorts*), Inigo, the shipmaster of the Petronel, tries to elude pirates pursuing his ship, but adjusting the C-engine controls and ejecting mass only puts off the inevitable.  Whoever the pirates have as shipmaster is better.  When the pirates catch them, their shield has been exposed and a fluke event renders them disabled.  Despite the captain's protests Inigo brings aboard a Conjoined, whom Inigo hopes to return to her people for a reward.  She, however, not only doesn't want to leave the destroyed pirate ship, but she also doesn't want to join her people.  Inigo calls her "Weather."  When their ship cannot elude new pirates, as one of the Conjoiners with knowledge of the mysterious engines, she might be able to help in fixing the engine.  

* It is a misnomer for the character's name, but not for the story which begins as one type, slides to another, then saddles between the two.

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