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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Classics Revisited: Alastair Reynolds' Galactic North: "Dilation Sleep" and "Grafenwalder's Bestiary"

I'm bracing this one with a pair of covers.  I prefer the bottom cover in terms of pictorial drama, but the above has a good quote (the bottom's has a double-edged sword in meaning).

The second half opens with Reynolds' earliest "Dilation Sleep" where the protagonist is awakened from sleep by his programmed wife to act as surgeon to excise the cancer that is his wife's software.  Dramatic but not completely worked out and not resonant.  It may pay off to compare the more successful later stories to this earlier journeyman's work.  It has the loss of his wife's memory going for it.

On the other hand, "Grafenwalder's Bestiary" is an old story made new in a powerful way.  Grafenwalder is an interesting character in whom we simultaneously root for and against, constructing the most complex reader emotions toward any of Reynold's characters in the collection.  Grafenwalder has the most unique collection among the local collectors, but a newcomer, Ursula Goodglass, keeps vying for that title.  He's come up with the upper hand up until Goodglass tursns up with the living dissected parts of humanity's most reviled re-creator of humanity.  Grafenwalder scores a Europan Denizen, which turns out not to be what he thought. The most fascinating aspect of this story is how--no matter what your opinion is of the character's outcome--your own moral feelings are problematic.  As such, it's a wonderful skewering of revenge tales.  This may well be a classic.  My mind keeps wandering back to it.

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