At first glance it seems that the editors of this book favored the British flavor of science fiction. It seems like two of every three authors are British. I found this frustrating at first – not because I wanted American authors but because it seemed like there should be more variety available. Then I started to think about it a little bit and I realized that, with a few small exceptions, the American authors in this book were the ones that I cared for the least and, frankly I couldn’t think of any authors that I knew of that were from countries other than the USA or Great Britain – not any contemporary ones at any rate and most of the names I came up with were in this book. So I guess I have nothing to complain about except my own lack of personal education when it comes to a larger variety of authors.
All this is to say that Alastair Reynolds is another British science fiction author – a tremendously successful one. He’s been writing and publishing stories since he was in grad school which makes me think that either his grad school was significantly easier than mine or he’s just that much more awesome than I am – or a lot smarter, which is well within the realm of plausibility. His fiction is mostly considered hard science fiction with the adjective applied to the science, not the fiction. I’m of mixed feelings about this kind of fiction. I absolutely hate it when the science is horrible horrible horrible in movies (and books) but I really love the Star Wars style dogfights that absolutely cannot happen in space (I’ve resolved this by saying ‘oh, it’s a Star Wars type of story’ and just going with it – sometimes – some things just cannot be).
Mr. Reynolds has published extensively and you can look up his bibliography if you are even remotely familiar with Internet search engines so I don’t have much more to say about him.
“Spirey and the Queen” is a story about robot cockroaches taking over the universe. Insects are sufficiently creepy that they show up in just about every science fiction and fantasy series out there. With good reason – instilling fear of insects in our younger generation is a noble cause. This one is about two civilizations that decided to build semi-intelligent robot cockroaches to fight their war so that people didn’t have to die. What they didn’t realize was that the cockroaches formed a network and started thinking for themselves. The story has nothing innovative or unique but it does stay well within the bounds of modern science and keeps things moving in such a way that it clips along at a good rate. It also features the best slow motion chase scene that I’ve ever come across.