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Diamond Dogs

Alastair Reynolds

PS Publishing

UK Hardcover First (signed)

ISBN 1-902880-27-7

111 Pages ; £25/$40

Date Reviewed: 04-30-02

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel



Science Fiction, Horror

03-21-02, 04-15-02, 07-02-02, 07-30-02, 09-20-02, 10-03-02, 10-08-02, 12-13-02, 01-07-03, 01-27-03, 02-25-03, 05-15-03, 06-14-04

Character counts. A writer can deploy fantastic ideas, wild imagination, authoritative science, but in the end, the reader will make a decision to read a book based largely on whether or not they want to spend time with the characters in that book. Alastair Reynolds, author of 'Revelation Space' and 'Chasm City' certainly has the fantastic ideas, the wild imagination and the authoritative science down. But it's the compelling characters that count, and his PS Publishing novella is no exception. Set in the same universe as his two novels, 'Diamond Dogs' is a fascinating exploration of how low you can go to pursue a goal. It doesn't matter that in this novella, the physical direction of travel is upwards.

'Diamond Dogs' mines the old 'exploring an alien artifact' plot. Richard Swift and Roland Childe misspent their youth trying to outdo one another. Swift is a disgraced scientist, and Childe an eccentric rich man whose family has discovered an artifact on a distant moon. Others have tried to enter it to wrest its secrets. Their remains surround the tower. Childe proposes an expedition, equipped to solve the riddle.

So far, so good. But don't expect Reynolds to lay it out quite so dryly. From the get-go, there are a lot of issues between all the people who comprise the expedition. Swift does not recognize his own wife -- he had most of his memories of her erased. Also along is one Doctor Trintignant, a specialist in human modifications. Reynolds takes his time to lay out the relationships, the little tension, the hints as to who has done what to whom and why. Jettison the carefully extrapolated science, the exotic setting with its long history, and you still have a human drama that's significant and compelling. Together, it's a novel's worth of character work.

Arriving at Golgotha, the Blood Spire presents a less complex challenge than the universe that Reynolds has created. Anyone who has seen 'Cube' will recognize the setup of traps and triggers, of puzzles and hazards that confront the characters. They're much more clever to be certain, but it's in the maze that the real character work begins. For Doctor Trintignant is not along to explore -- he's support personnel, someone there to help repair the wounds that the Blood Spire inflicts. Driven by curiosity, by greed, by desire -- the characters peel away their layers and motives slowly, room by room, trap by trap.

'Diamond Dogs' characters will pull the reader through scenes of exquisite torment, through revelations of self mutilation and more. Reynolds' narrative is deceptively easy to read and unexpectedly poignant and disturbing. Swallow a barbed wire sandwich, cry over the loss of a loved one. Read 'Diamond Dogs' and leave the light on.