House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,767
Location
Scottish Highlands
If you like your space opera set on a truly epic scale then this is for you! The book spans some six million years, though only focuses on the beginning and end of that period. The main characters have all been around for all of that period but, having spent much of it at relativistic speeds and in ‘abeyance’ (stasis), this is only their objective age, nevertheless their subjective age is still in the order of at least tens or hundreds of thousands of years. I never quite figured out just how many but in any case they are, barring accidents or violence, effectively immortal. During this time they have all been making solo circuits of the galaxy, each taking in the order of two hundred thousand years, gathering and disseminating data on and to the many human civilisations as they rise and fall, and at the end of each circuit holding century long reunions where they can exchange all they have found. Though also human these ‘Lines’ are almost godlike in their power, knowledge and technology but all is not well in their Olympian existence…

This is Reynolds at his space operatic best, in my view exceeding his other epic space operas, including the Revelation Space series. The scale is breath-taking and yet the setting remains at all times intimate with a relatively small cast and just three point-of-view characters. My only complaint, however, is the precise handling of these three points of view; all are written in first person and two spend at least half of the book in almost constant companionship, making it often difficult to tell which person’s head the reader is in at the start of each chapter. There is some logic to the choice of multiple first person perspectives as they are all clones (shatterlings) but that doesn’t stop it from being a touch confusing at times.

The pacing is excellent and the story sustains a steady and consistent page-turning impetus throughout its typically large Reynolds size; I never once found it to be flagging. The only real unevenness occurs at the end which, though well signalled, was extremely abrupt; I kept trying to find another (non-existent) page on my eReader. Nevertheless on reflection it was an entirely appropriate ending; the abruptness inevitable as the story never actually ends.

The technology presented throughout the book is Reynolds’ typical clever blend of the fantastic and yet plausible and as usual he refuses to permit himself the luxury of faster than light travel, instead allowing events to unfold over millennia rather than mere years. He does slip in one piece of faster than light travel but with a rather a neat side step around the causality problem. There are not many authors who can produce galaxy spanning space opera without FTL!

This was my first Reynolds book for a while and it has certainly revived my love of his work. It will not be anything like such a long time before my next!

5/5 stars
 
Last edited:

Bugg

A Lerxst in Wonderland
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Messages
1,441
My favourite of his that I've read, alongside Chasm City.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,767
Location
Scottish Highlands
My favourite of his that I've read, alongside Chasm City.
Yes I think it probably sneaks in as my favourite but I was a little hesitant to say so as it may just be that it is so much newer and fresher in my mind.

But I did thoroughly enjoy it and I've got Pushing Ice coming up next from him! :)
 

Nick B

author Nick Bailey, formerly Quellist.
Joined
Feb 13, 2014
Messages
1,847
Location
UK
I'd say Pushing Ice and The Prefect are his best, but House of Suns comes a close third.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,767
Location
Scottish Highlands
I enjoyed The Prefect, which I read at the end of the Revelation Space series, and, whilst I liked it a lot, I think I preferred House of Suns. Pushing Ice is annoying me because I passed up an opportunity to pick up a cheap copy from a charity shop a few weeks back thinking that was the book I'd just bought but it wasn't, I'd just bought House of Suns! Never mind I'm happy to pick up a new copy and will do in my next batch of shopping. I'm also interested in his new book Revenger... but then there's Slow Bullets... oh and the Poseidon's Children books of which I've read the first already. Actually they should probably take precedence!:LOL::ROFLMAO:
 

Rodders

|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Supporter
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
4,696
Nice review, Vertigo.

I have this in my library at home, but i have yet to read it.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,767
Location
Scottish Highlands
Nice review, Vertigo.

I have this in my library at home, but i have yet to read it.
I think there's a very good chance you'll enjoy it. It sat on my wish list for literally years and now I wish I read it when I first added it to that list! :D
 

Bugg

A Lerxst in Wonderland
Joined
Aug 7, 2011
Messages
1,441
I enjoyed The Prefect, which I read at the end of the Revelation Space series, and, whilst I liked it a lot, I think I preferred House of Suns. Pushing Ice is annoying me because I passed up an opportunity to pick up a cheap copy from a charity shop a few weeks back thinking that was the book I'd just bought but it wasn't, I'd just bought House of Suns! Never mind I'm happy to pick up a new copy and will do in my next batch of shopping. I'm also interested in his new book Revenger... but then there's Slow Bullets... oh and the Poseidon's Children books of which I've read the first already. Actually they should probably take precedence!:LOL::ROFLMAO:
Slow Bullets is okay - not one of his best, IMO. You know it's a novella, though? It's only 190 pages long. Mind you, some Golden Age SF novels are shorter than that :D
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,767
Location
Scottish Highlands
Yes, it was more a reference to a number of his works that I've not yet read. I went through them a little while ago and those are just some of the ones that floated to the top. :) Until reading this book I had read all the Revelation Space books and shorts. And then seemed to stop and move on to other authors. I'm not sure quite why. More recently I've read Century Rain and Blue Remembered Earth and now House of Suns and have consequently decided to put all his other works onto my wish list!

It's funny isn't it how a 190 page book is now viewed as a novella. ;)
 
Top