Diamond Dogs / Turquoise Days – Alastair Reynolds (2003)
‘In his best selling novels Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, Reynolds portrays a noirish universe of five centuries hence, where warring human factions are stalked by even more vicious extraterrestrial predators; where the wider fringes of human culture are at least as strange as the real aliens.
And there are always those who are up for a challenge: like Richard Swift, the listless adventurer of Diamond Dogs. When an old friend offers Swift the chance to help him explore Blood Spire, an enigmatic structure surrounded by the bones of those who have already tied, Swift can’t say no. But if he wishes to understand it, he must pay Blood Spire’s toll…
And there are the heroes: those prepared to stand up for an idea, like Naqi, the young researcher in Turquoise Days. Naqi has dedicated her life to the study of the Pattern Jugglers, the amorphous aquatic organisms with the capacity to preserve and reshape human memory. When newcomers arrive around her world she hopes that she will at last be able to escape her past – but the past has other ideas…’
Blurb from the 2003 Gollancz paperback edition
This brings together two novellas set in Reynolds’ Industrial Gothic ‘Inhibitors’ Universe, both of which have titles inspired by popular music, something of a motif for Reynolds; the seminal Bowie album provides the title for the first piece while ‘Turquoise Days’ comes from an Echo & The Bunnymen lyric.
In ‘Diamond Dogs’ Rolande Childe – believed to have been one of the eighty victims of Dan Sylveste’s personality transfer experiments – turns out to be very much alive. He is recruiting a team to investigate an alien artefact on the barren world of Golgotha. The artefact is a towering structure, christened the Bloodspire. It consists of a series of rooms, and one has to solve a puzzle in order to gain entry to the next room in the sequence. Failure to provide the correct answer can have fatal results. As the team progresses, they discover that as the puzzles get more difficult, the doorways get smaller, forcing the aspirants to surgically alter their bodies and minds in order to progress.
‘Turquoise Days’ is set on one of the worlds of the Pattern Jugglers; enigmatic Solaris-like ocean-based entities which read the personalities of some of those who swim in their oceans, in some cases destroying their bodies in the process.
When a shipful of the cyborg Ultras arrive to exchange scientific data on the Jugglers, one of the local researchers discovers that they are really there to reclaim the consciousness of a ruthless dictator who was absorbed by the Jugglers decades before.
As possibly a tenuous link with the preceding title, one of the Ultras wishes to stop the tyrant being reborn and has brought with him an alien-designed virus, which will kill the ocean-dwelling intelligence. He claims it was found in the top room of an alien tower, but gives no other details.
Both tales deal in their own way with Reynolds’ favourite themes of identity and transformation, although ‘Diamond Dogs’ is by far the stronger and more powerful piece.