Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Turquoise Days
Alastair Reynolds
Golden Gryphon Press, 84 pages

Turquoise Days
Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds was born in 1966 in Barry, South Wales. He spent his early years in Cornwall, moved back to Wales and on to university in Newcastle, doing Physics and Astronomy. Then it was on to a PhD in St Andrews, Scotland. In 1991, he moved to Holland, where he met his partner Josette, and worked as ESA Research Fellow before his post-doctoral work at Utrecht University. At present he works at ESA as a contractor.

Alastair Reynolds Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Redemption Ark
SF Site Review: Revelation Space
SF Site Review: Chasm City
SF Site Review: Revelation Space

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

Golden Gryphon Press has carved a noteworthy niche for itself by specializing in quality hardcover short story collections (and the occasional novel) of such noteworthies as James Patrick Kelley, Kage Baker, Howard Waldrop, John R. Landsdale, Jeffrey Ford, and Ian Watson, among others. Now, taking a page from PS Publishing, Golden Gryphon has begun a series of limited edition, signed paperback chapbooks, the first of which is Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds.

Set in the same far-future setting of his grand space opera novels (Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark), the novella portrays sibling rivalry and reconciliation in the context of planetary invasion and destruction. It's an interesting, though not essential, sidebar to Reynolds' world-building.

Sisters Naqi and Mini Okpik are researchers on the largely aquatic world of Turquoise, studying a life form that coats the oceans in an algae-like way. (A song lyric by Echo and the Bunnymen apparently inspired the setting.) The life form is a Pattern Juggler, which inhabits other worlds (and figures a bit in the novels), a semi-mystical entity in which humans who immerse themselves in it not only make contact with its hive mind, but embed their own consciousness in it.

The sisters cruise above the water in a hot air balloon in search of Juggler nodes -- "Microscopic creatures... great schools of them daubing galaxies against the profound black of the sea. Spirals, flukes, and arms of luminescence wheeled and coiled as if in thrall to secret music." Their mission is to collect and catalogue data, but to leave direct contact to trained teams of "swimmers" who are subsequently brought in to do just that, literally swim among the Jugglers to engage a sort of telepathic interaction. But there's been a breakdown in communications with their home base, the swimmers can't be alerted and Mini persuades her reluctant sibling that they should take the plunge themselves rather than risk losing the opportunity. Naqui's fears, however, prove justified.

Fast forward two years later. Naqui is now employed at a research center in a position once secretly coveted by Mini. The center is attempting to physically enclose the Jugglers in a sort of floating moat for ongoing study. Although Turquoise is normally isolated from most interstellar traffic, a rare visit from a scientific expedition that studies Juggler worlds arrives. Their interest in Turquoise is that its very detachment from other inhabited systems provides a unique opportunity to study a Juggler world "uncontaminated" by the biases and politics of the human society. Though what they request, and is acceded to for political rather than scientific reasons, contaminates Turquoise's own research processes by starting Naqui's project well before it is ready.

That turns out to be not such a good idea. Moreover, the motivations of the visitors turn out to be something other than scientific. Catastrophic consequences ensue.

The central theme here is misunderstanding and forgiveness, as well as those things that, while they can be understood, can't be forgiven. There's a subtext about the dangers of playing politics with scientific research, as well as some nice imagery about the Jugglers and the human civilization of Turquoise. There's also the flash and burn you'd expect from an author who has made his reputation as a practitioner of the high-octane propelled, techno-jargoned, noirish Flash Gordon oeuvre. The denouement, in which Naqui engages in a polemic that reveals the true motivations of the visitors -- as well as leads to her own philosophical as well as personal transformation -- during transpiring mayhem strikes me as a bit clunky, though this sort of "talking head" scenario is not uncommon to the form.

Golden Gryphon will publish only 500 copies of this novella, making it a "collector's edition" for whatever that might be worth on e-Bay. According to the author's website, there are only about 50 copies remaining, which can only be ordered directly through Golden Gryphon Press. Even so, at $16, the cost of a discounted hardcover, it may be a bit pricey. You do get the nice Bob Eggleton cover and, of course, the autograph, about which I have to comment that someone actually has sloppier handwriting that I do. Don't despair, however, if you don't hurry fast enough to place your order. Gollancz has published a hardcover that combines Turquoise Days with another novella, Diamond Dogs, originally put out by PS Publishing and now out-of-print, though selling on Amazon for $59! Hey, maybe that $16 isn't such a bad deal, after all.

Copyright © 2003 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide