May 17, 2022

‘House of Suns’ by Alastair Reynolds

hosue_of_suns_180OK. You know who you are, you purveyor of science fiction literature hereto unreviewed by me. You are now solely responsible for my little head wandering off to space. With a few exceptions (The Host (12/05/08), I don’t read a lot of sci-fi and I think that’s about to change.

Many, many brilliant minds (not pompously including myself here – just sayin’) write and read sci-fi for the same reasons theologians like Phillip Pullman write fantasy. Things that are inexplicable in our day to day lives may have an explanation that lies outside of the realm of normalcy.

Religion and science have long sought to face these conundrums. Funny they should fight against each other as often as they do because, with a few idiotic closed minded exceptions, they are both have the same goal.*

People want answers. Indeed we all lie awake in bed and ponder existence. Alastair Reynolds has a PhD in Astronomy. He trained as an astrophysicist. Now he tells us what he lay awake in bed thinking about..

Six million years ago a girl named Abigail Gentian wanted more. She wanted to explore and be free. She wanted power and love. We all do, but she had a means at her disposal that we do not. She clones herself. She actually “shatters” herself into one thousand male and female copies.

They explore a world, a universe … what even to call it? Of empires both human and otherwise. Intellectual capabilities are beyond reason. Travel is beyond reason. Virtually anything is possible but the existence of some human qualities we recognize — love, anger, betrayal, sorrow — make it relatable. Its really cool.**

Campion and Purslane are two “shatterlings” who have bonded. There are mysteries afoot. Someone is killing off the Gentian line. Do they know too much or have they missed the point and need to start again? The book can be a little verbose (don’t even…) and I caught my mind wandering, but hang in there. You need to get to page 565 on your own.

The ending is worth it.

The full circle, theological, scientific proposal is truly wonderful.

Really, really wonderful.

*I will restrain myself to saying that the best religions are the open-minded, exploratory, all-encompassing ones. Those that condemn, pigeon hole and exclude infuriate me.

The best way to say something is neat-o, awesome, or swell. The phrase “cool” is very relaxed, never goes out of style, and people will never laugh at you for using it, very convenient for people like me who don’t care about what’s “in.”
Homestar is cool. The Red Sox are cool. Twinkies are cool.


  1. James Moser says

    Alastair Reynolds is an excellent science fiction (or speculative fiction) writer. I have always been a science fiction reader, although I enjoy other genres as well. If you’re going to try Alastair Reynolds, you could also try “the Prefect,” or “Century Rain.” He’s most well-known for “Revelation Space,” and “Redemption Gap,” but those are for devoted readers of science fiction. As a fan, my recommendation is “Century Rain.” It combines elements of a mystery or whodunit with science fiction, and largely takes place in mid-twentieth century Paris. Hard to imagine? Great to read.

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