back to article Poseidon's Wake, Naked at the Albert Hall and Farewell Kabul

El Reg bookworm Mark Diston reviews the latest from the literary world with Alastair Reynolds' latest – the final instalment in a sci-fi trilogy. Tracey Thorn delivers an amusing and insightful perspective on the lot of the singer, and journalist Christina Lamb gives a personal account of her life and work in Afghanistan. …

  1. Gordon 10

    Way too harsh on poor Alistair

    I haven't read Wake but have read the first of the trilogy and most of his othes and I don't recognise him as described here. . Agree he's a bit of a journeyman compared to Banks, Stross et al but deserves more credit than given here. . His novels often suffer from inconsistent pacing and sometimes choppy scene shifts but at heart he's a fine writer - well above average.

    1. tony72

      Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

      Of Reynolds' work, I've only read Century Rain and Revelation Space. Century Rain was great, but Revelation Space suffered a lot of the same criticisms that Mark just levelled against Poseidon's Wake; man, was it wordy! Maybe because Century Rain was a stand-alone book, and Reynolds wasn't trying to build a universe to hold an ongoing epic series, it seemed a much tighter story, and didn't get bogged down in detail like Revelation Space. It proves that the guy can tell a good tale if he wants to, anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

        Nowadays print is cheap (very cheap in the case of electronic documents) but good editors come very expensive.

        If you have ever looked at what T S Eliot's The Waste Land looked like before and after Pound edited it, you will know that even the greatest writer can benefit from an editor with a sharp scalpel.

    2. Grifter

      Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

      I binge read revelation space, chasm city, diamond dogs, redemption ark, absolution gap, galactic north, and it was a journey into schizophrenia, the books were inconsistent and shredded your mind, you could actually feel your mind becoming schizo as the 'story' unfolded. It was pretty terrible.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

        the books were inconsistent and shredded your mind, you could actually feel your mind becoming schizo as the 'story' unfolded

        But you don't say whether that is good or bad.

        Galactic North, for one, is worth a read and re-read. Diamond Dogs is not shabby but has several problems, one of which is that Reynolds doesn't know his prime numbers too well, which is actually shocking and like putting "deleted scenes" back into a horror story. I quite liked "Terminal World" and most of "Revelation Space" (it's like a bunch of story goodies from various movies arriving in a big truck) but "Redemption Ark" was a step too far trying to pull bigger and more gothic stuff out of the hat. But then there is "Pushing Ice", which is (nearly) very good.

        1. Gordon 10
          Thumb Up

          Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

          His standalones tend to be better than his series. century Rain was excellent and was the prefect. The revelation space series was patchy with some strange perspective shifts (like just dropping Clade as a narrator mid story) and the unforgivable bait and switch ending of redemption ark where they defeat the inhibitors only for the world to be destroyed by some green stuff,

          However massive kudos for inhibitors and hyper pigs.

        2. Grifter

          Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

          >>But you don't say whether that is good or bad.

          I'm sorry I thought it was implied when I mentioned I could feel myself becoming schizophrenic, I could literally feel myself becoming schizophrenic, this was extremely bad, I have never been this affected by books (or films or whatnot) before, and while you want your read to move you on some level, this was extreme and I stayed in a very dark place for like two weeks after.

          It wasn't that the story was crap, it was that the writing between books was different (it wouldn't surprise me if there were other secret writers involved), and the way the difference was presented, both in the writing and character behaviours was extremely jarring... it was annoying to the point of mental anguish.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

            I could literally feel myself becoming schizophrenic

            Holy damn.

            I do not recommend House of Leaves in that case. While Reynolds' novels are just, well, novels, of variable levels of acceptability, for some reason HoL made me float the idea of visiting a shrink presto. The day after finishing, a pipe accident flooded my appartment with raw sewage. Coincidence? More like Jungian synchronicity. I do not fully trust this level of reality anymore.

            1. Stevie

              Re: I could literally feel myself becoming schizophrenic

              Steer clear of PK Dick's work too, then.

    3. Kristaps

      Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

      Agreed that it's too harsh. I binge read Revelation Space (and all the short stories, novellas, etc, pertaining to that universe) as well and after a year of reading other stuff, I'm rereading it. But I'm not even that interested in the story (which I admit can be a bit slow at times), I just think Reynolds is a master worldbuilder and it's the depth and rigour he goes into when describing his universe, technologies and science therein that fascinates me.

      Interestingly I tried reading Iain M Banks (Culture stuff, in particular Consider Phlebas) afterwards and I could not get into it. The science there was just a stream of buzzwords which made me cringe really hard and I had to put the book down.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Way too harsh on poor Alistair

      Not harsh enough if you ask me. He's constantly being compared to Iain M Banks and Peter F Hamilton and he can't hold a candle to either of them. I will never buy another of his books.

  2. John Gamble


    "Naked at the Albert Hall probably concentrates on singers of her own ilk, i.e. those that can hold a note."

    Hey, isn't this supposed to be a site that celebrates technology? Surely autotune has helped level the playing field between the talented and the untalented.

    (Applause for a sentence that did make me laugh out loud.)

    1. TonyWilk

      Re: Ouch!

      Autotune turned up to 11 and (while I'm moaning) using Beats headphones to listen to it on are not the sort of technologies that deserve any celebration IMHO.

  3. Simon Lyon

    Talking pachyderms ...

    "The basic premise of talking pachyderms in space is not an issue that either science nor Mr Reynolds seems to have mastered yet."

    Howard Tayler's been doing it for a decade and a half:

    With better "hard science fiction" and much hilarity.

  4. Eponymous Cowherd

    Space elephants

    Footfall (Niven and Pournelle) featured space elephants invading Earth.

    1. James Anderson

      Re: Space elephants

      Why go so far. The ones here in Asia are pretty sentient. They understand about 50 words of Thai ( sadly about same as my Thai vocabulary), have a very considered approach to everyday problems, organize themselves into highly functional (mostly) non hierarchical groups. Are good at painting and crap at football ( like most beings outside Europe and South America they struggle with the offside rule).

      You should try and meet one they are pretty good company.

  5. earl grey

    Ah, Sandy Denny

    Remember well a small venue performance of hers. There seemed to be no problems in her that were at all obvious to the audience; she was just marvelous. I'm sad that she's no longer with us.

  6. Stevie


    Well, fair enough, Mark, I've not enjoyed everything I've read by Reynolds myself. But why lead off with the fuck bits unless you were going to use them somewhere else in the review?

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