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Creator / Alastair Reynolds

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Alastair Preston Reynolds (born 13 March 1966) is a Welsh author of a number of science fiction novels and short stories. He's a former physicist and astronomer for ESA, which he worked for during the 1990s and early 2000s, before becoming a full-time writer. Considering his scientific background, these works have the tendency to be as hard as possible to get while still remaining recognizably Space Opera. Of particular note is his near-total avoidance of Faster-Than-Light Travel, despite their interstellar settings, and the extreme cultural and technological divergences shown.

Reynolds is considered one of the main British examples of "The New Space Opera" generation of SF writers, alongside Peter F. Hamilton and several others.

He's a big fan of music and has a healthy sense of humour.

Reynolds' Website

Reynolds' Blog

His works include:

Tropes in Alastair Reynolds' works that don't have their own page:

  • Alternate History:
    • A pseudo-version of this is is used in the novel Century Rain, with Earth-Two, an exact copy of planet Earth in a different part of the Galaxy, on which the only difference is a 1940s-50s level of society and technology and the non-existance of World War II (it started, but the Nazi offensive bogged down in the Ardennes, bringing an early end to the conflict, with far-from-happy consequences). It is later revealed to be one of many 'quantum snapshots' of Earth at different time periods, all done by a mysterious missing alien race.
    • "The Six Directions of Space" is set in a timeline where the Mongol succeeded in invading Japan and subsequently conquered the rest of the world. The story revolves around a structure that allows (uncontrolled) passage between this and other alternate timelines.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Blue Remembered Earth. The weird bit is that the mind reader is an elephant.
  • Brown Note: Comes in song format in the short story Digital to Analogue.
  • City of Canals: The short story "Zima Blue" has a planet with "one hundred and seventy first known duplicate of Venice, and one of only three Venices rendered entirely in white marble."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Tindouf from Revenger. He appears to be an uneducated manchild at first glance with his strange Speech Impediment and mannerisms, but proves to be a ruthless, efficient killer when given a Ghostie blade during the story's climax.
    Tindouf, cheerfully: I'd like to do me some killings, yes. It's been a while since I killeds anyone, and I needs a new notch or two in my pipe,
    Tindouf, after slicing a man's head open: Peoples thinks I's a harmless idiot. They's only half right.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: In the short story Byrd Land Six two members of the antarctic station personnel killed by merging with the landscape.
  • Deus ex Nukina: A final solution to the problem in Byrd Land Six.
  • Diesel Punk: In a Film Noir variation, the quantum "snapshot" Earth in Century Rain.
  • Dreadful Musician: Averted in Century Rain: in an early scene the protagonist is walking into a superior's office while he plays a violin, with her Internal Monologue noting how grating and painful the music is. It is then revealed that she, along with a large portion of the rest of the human race, were infected with a designer-disease called 'amusica', which prevented people from enjoying music, to ruin their side's morale. After all, someone who can't appreciate music can't get patriotic fervor from their anthems, now can they?
  • Earth All Along: The story "Merlin's Gun" contains a variant: it is obvious to the reader that part of the story takes place in our (long-abandoned) solar system, but the characters never realise where they are.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Doubtless whatever it is that exists outside the megastructure in Pushing Ice.
  • Emergency Transformation: In Pushing Ice, near the end, Bella is killed and her brain damaged to the point that it can no longer be reconstructed, until Svetlana tells the alien doctors to fill in the gaps with her own brain patterns. This brings her back, but as a confused amalgam of two people.
    • This is also a major plot point of "Inhibitor Phase" (published 2021)
  • Flashback B-Plot: Beyond the Aquila Rift alternates between Greta familiarizing Thom with the new station and their later attempts to awaken Suzy from her surge tank.
  • Grey Goo: Caused the abandonment of Earth in Century Rain; one type of nanobots in the air to affect weather patterns went rogue, so they made nanobots to combat those, which went rogue, and so on and so forth. The Grey Goo is then weaponized decades later by the descendants of the survivors and used as a weapon of mass destruction.
  • Human All Along: The ruthless enemies from Merlin's Gun turned out to be transhuman cyborgs.
  • Humanity's Wake: The short story Fresco takes place long after extinction of humanity.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: The Waynet in "Merlin's Gun." There is the slight problem that the (human) Waymaker civilisation has been dead for at least tens of thousands of years, and no one knows how to enter the Waynet any more. But Merlin finds a way.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: The plot of Blue Remembered Earth.
  • Mechanical Evolution: Played with in Zima Blue. Zima was originally a pool cleaning robot, who was upgraded over decades by the descendants of his creator. Eventually, he does the upgrades on his own.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: In the short story Beyond the Aquila Rift, ships travel between worlds using an abandoned FTL network. The ships need to carry millions of tiny screens which project "runes" onto the ship's exterior, which the alien portal network interprets as where the ship wants to go.
  • Precursors: Most of his novels are about discovering some Precursor relics, then watching as they do something barely explicable and usually violent.
  • Punny Name: The Rockhopper mining spacecraft from Pushing Ice. Its mascot is the eponymous cute species of penguin and... you know... the ship's routine flights involve "hopping" from one asteroid or comet to the next.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: Lampshaded in Century Rain:
    "We call it a quantum snapshot, but that doesn't mean we have clue one about what was involved in producing it. That's just a name we give it to hide our ignorance."
  • Reality Warper: The Ambiguously Human Ghosties from Revenger have weapons which can do this. When Trusko uses one on Bosa Sennen, it blasts her into space but simultaneously makes it so that Bosa was already outside the ship before the weapon was even fired.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In Century Rain, the transhuman Slasher faction identify themselves by a strange gesture in the air - a diagonal slashing motion followed by a poked dot.
    • There are at least two shout-outs to Book of the New Sun in House of Suns: the Vigilance's methods of immortality, and (Book of the New Sun spoiler) a robot with a human arm.
    • The entirety of House of Suns is constructed out of Alan Parsons Project references. Two antagonists that are featured prominently in the novel are Cadence and Cascade.
    • In his commentary on the short stories in Zima Blue, Reynolds acknowledges that the titles of "Cardiff Afterlife" and "Everlasting" are taken from the names of Manic Street Preachers songs.
  • Space Sector: In Beyond the Aquila Rift known space ("the Local Bubble") is divided into seventy-odd "navigational sectors", including the Schedar sector.
  • Time Dilation: Ubiquitous; especially relevant to Pushing Ice.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: The Absence in House of Suns causes Andromeda to disappear.
  • The Unpronounceable: Slasher names in Century Rain. To speed up communication, they have modified themselves to have a Syrinx, so their names are literally unpronouncable to regular humans, who just don't have the necessary equipment to reproduce those sounds.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Zima in Zima Blue
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The tried and true trope, Recycled IN SPACE! in Revenger. This being Reynolds, Space Is an Ocean is entirely averted - orbital mechanics work as they do in Real Life, 3D space is in full effect, and artificial gravity is wholly absent. At the same time, the ships ("sunjammers") use solar sails, literally sailing on light, the crews working on them are sometimes awfully reminiscent of pirate stereotypes, danger awaits in the unknown, but nonetheless brave souls go out and explore, and generally, the whole thing comes much closer to conveying an Age of Sail feeling than many less realistic Space Opera yarns.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Essentially what kickstarts the plot of Pushing Ice.
    • Also this is a plot of the short story Beyond the Aquila Rift.