Visions of Paradise

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Beyond the Aquila Reef

Another fine story from Gardner Dozois’ 2006 Best Science Fiction of the Year, was Alastair Reynolds’ “Beyond the Aquila Reef.” Reynolds is one of my favorite “new space opera” writers, because his stories are always so rich in sense of wonder and emotional content, whether they are mysteries, thrillers, or horror stories (or a combination, as all three aspects ran through his Galactic North trilogy Revelation Space, Absolution Gap, Redemption Ark). “Reef” is the story of a three-man spaceship which through some unavoidable accident ends up beyond the “bubble” surrounding civilized space and at a place too far to possibly return home. The scenario is highly-charged emotionally, since the captain’s wife has been dead for two hundred years by the time he awakens, and his first officer cannot deal with the trauma of the accident at all, and it is hard to imagine where the story is heading. The scenario does not take too much thinking about, as it seems highly-unlikely that as many spacecrafts would have ended up at that precise location as seems to have happened, nor does the comfortable lifestyle of the survivors seem all that likely. But Reynolds is too smart to push the fabric of believability too far, since he has obviously considered the same flaws in his story logic and uses it to twist the reader’s preconceptions nicely at the end.

"Beyond the Aquia Reef" also appeared in Reynolds’ excellent collection Zima Blue, so I recommend you look for it in at least one of those two sources.


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