In the year 3000, the wealthy Abigail Gentean, inspired by dreams of exploration and discovery, creates nine hundred and ninety-nine clones of herself.  These “shatterlings” and her original self (indistinguishable from her duplicates) are subsequently dispersed to the far reaches of space – to colonize, investigate, learn and, eventually, meet up every two thousand years to share the memories they have gathered over the course of their travels.  Some six million years after the Gentean line first left the Milky Way on their galaxy-spawning odysseys, two clone siblings, Campion and Purslane, enroute to one of these reunions, receive a troubling message.  The gathering was ambushed by unknown forces and most of their numbers killed.  Only the fact that Campion and Purslane were running late saved them from a similar fate.

Campion and Purslane must place their trust in an enigmatic ally, the amnesiac Hesperus, a robot of the machine people, if they have any hope of finding out  why the Gentean Line has been marked for extermination.  As it turns out, the shocking answer may lie with the mysterious House of Suns…

Alastair Reynolds is an author with an impressive academic background firmly rooted in science.  To be honest, when I heard that he was a former research astronomer with the European Space Agency, I approached my first Alastair Reynolds novel with a certain amount of trepidation.  Let me be frank.  Most of the SF authors I’ve read who straddle the worlds of science and science fiction tend to come up short in certain key areas of story-telling – namely character, plotting, and a prose style that doesn’t have you skipping whole pages to get back on the narrative track.  Still, having heard good things about Reynolds, I was cautiously optimistic when I started reading Revelation Space.  Eventually, that cautious optimism turned to relief, then surprise, and, ultimately, utter delight.  Revelation Space became a fast favorite because it delivered on so many of the levels I’d found wanting in other hard SF writers.  As for House of Suns?  Well, in my opinion, it’s even better.

One of the things I love about Reynolds’ books – and it’s a characteristic of the works of Iain M. Banks as well – is their ability to serve up BIG ideas: multi-century spanning narratives, inventive technologies, and unique takes on future/alien cultures.  Lesser writers would be content with introducing one, maybe two such cool concepts and making them the center-point of the story.  Reynolds throws about a dozen at you, each one helping to build the narrative in its own unique way, from the surrealistic game play of palatial to the Andromeda-dwelling First Machines and so much in between: the information-gathering beings known as The Vigilance, cloning and communal memory-sharing as a means to advancement, ever-evolving machine intelligence possessed of god-like abilities, vast solar system-containing devices known as stardams, the miraculous all-purpose aspic of machine, and, my personal favorite, the time dilated interrogation of prisoners.

Reynolds peoples his novel with interesting characters.  I felt for both Campion and Purslane and was wholly invested in their stories although I had a particular affinity for Hesperus who was undergoing his own parallel journey of self-discovery.  The one nitpick I had was with some of the supporting players, those surviving shatterlings, who, with a few exceptions (notably Mezereon and Betony), didn’t really distinguish themselves from one another.  As a result, the reveal of the mole-in-their-midst wasn’t quite as powerful as it could have been.

Overall, the story was very well-paced, striking a perfect balance between the establishment of some fairly lofty concepts and timely plot advancement.  The shifting point of view between Campion and Purslane in alternating chapters was admittedly damn confusing at first, but easy enough to follow once I’d caught on.  And I found the Abigail storyline equally engaging.

I’ve heard some complain that they found the ending abrupt or anti-climactic.  I disagree with the latter.  I loved the fact that despite the building suspense, race against Cascade and Cadence, and looming spectre of vengeance for the mass genocide, the First Machines have developed to a point where they are beyond it.  Their decision offers hope for all sentient beings, something that is reinforced in the book’s final moments.  Yes, the ending is abrupt – but perfectly so.  Campion is told that his lover has survived, housed within the protective gold sarcophagus created by Hesperus in a final act of sacrifice, and as he prepares to free her with the help of a descendant of the race his people almost wiped out, one can’t help but feel that sense of hope and anticipation, of looking forward to something long sought-after finally within reach, a sense of wonder that pervades House of Suns, perfectly distilled and crystallized in its closing paragraph:

“’Then I’ll help you,’the glass man said as my fingers du their useless nails into the fused seams of that golden mask.  ‘After which, with regret, I shall have to be on my way.’”

Awesome.

Well, those were my initial thoughts.  What did everyone else think?  Weigh in with your thoughts and questions for author Alastair Reynolds!

Mailbag:

Randomness writes: “Joe wouldn’t you say those aliens from Daedalus variations could just be a random alien race from another Galaxy that just so happened to come into conflict with Atlantis?”

Answer: Yes, that was the original conceit.

Chevron7 writes: “Joe, are we sure that the Joe Flanigan space suit incident was an accident? I suspect foul play.”

Answer: At the time, a straight-faced N. John Smith defending the crew member, insisting “It wasn’t malicious.”

sgugeek writes: “I know the cast is on holiday now, but if I mail my fan mail for Ashleigh today, will she get it?”

Answer: Not unless you post it on this blog and she happens to read it.

Michael writes: “1) I’ve read that SGU is moving to Tuesday but has the timeslot been announced?

2) I didn’t recognize Louis Ferreira in that robe and floppy hat, how the heck did he get past security?!

3) Why haven’t you done any commentary, the world needs to hear your genius!!”

Answers: 1) Not that I know of.

2) That was just one Friday.  You should see what Jamil Walker Smith wears on a daily basis.

3) I’ll limit my genius to this blog, but thanks for asking.

afg1 writes: “So, then, as regards the SGA movie, there’s no point in you pushing for it until MGM gets better and the SG-1 movie gets made? Is that the idea?”

Answer: Partly.

J. Chris Tucker writes: “Why are you and Paul credited as co-writers on scripts if you don’t actually co-write them?”

Answer: When we first started working on Stargate, we would write a script together, bouncing dialogue back and forth in the room.  One of us paced while the other typed.  Eventually, as we grew busier, we started working on the script separately, bouncing it back and forth between us.  He would write a scene and send it my way.  I would rewrite it and write the next scene.  He would rewrite what I’d written and write the next scene and so on.  Eventually, as we grew even more busy, we started writing scripts separately and merely doing final passes on each other’s drafts.  Eventually, we just started writing our scripts separately.  The reason we’re credited as co-writers is because while I’ve done mostly originals, Paul has done a fair amount of uncredited rewrites. And so, out of fairness (given that Paul is never credited or receives an extra script fee for what occasionally amounts to page one rewrites), we share the writing credits on the original scripts.

for the love of Beckett writes: “How long will Jelly be at the vet’s?”

Answer: She’s in all day tomorrow.  I pick her up Wednesday, then bring her back in on Thursday for the stem cell injection.

otros ojos writes: “Hey, people better not mess with the octopus. (Just saying, based on what Jeffrey Ford’s psychic octopus did in The Drowned Life.)”

Answer: True!

Angelus writes: “Judging from the Pineapple Diaries, Louis doesn’t seem very camera shy, Are there any cast members or have there been cast members who don’t like to be photographed and put in your blog?”

Answer: No, so far so good.  I tend to head down to set and snap pics on the quieter shooting days and always get the okay from the actors before proceeding, getting them to sign off any pics before posting.

Angelus also writes: “My guess is Bobby doesn’t like to be photographed considering I can’t remember a single time he appeared in your blog?”

Answer: Oh, he’ll eventually make an appearance.

Angelus also writes: “How about guest stars?, Robert Knepper perhaps?”

Answer: No, I missed out on Robert but I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded.  Very nice guy.  As for guest stars – the same rule applies.  I always tell them what it’s for, get their permission, and have them sign off on any potential public pics.

Angelus also writes: “And, Did anyone ever freak out about you posting a picture of them in your blog?”

Answer: No one ever freaked out, but Jason Momoa once suggested I ask him before posting any pics.  I thought that was very cool of him and gave him a break – which resulted in him tracking me down to take his photos for the blog, like these ones –

http://josephmallozzi.com/2008/05/28/may-28-2008-major-retailer-recalls-combustible-underpants/

E writes: “What SGA episode are you talking about? Only similar title is “Submersion”.”

Answer: Right.  Submersion.

Gabriele writes: “1. Will we see Colonel Samantha Carter again in season two of “Stargate Universe”?

2. Will we see any of the Earth ships in season two of “Stargate Universe” and in the movies?”

Answer: Maybe to both questions.

andrew writes: “Anyone on the cast or crew have an ‘out there’ favorite food?”

Answer: Carl is a big fan of Chili’s.  Does that count?

Kymm writes: “What hockey team does Ivon cheer for?”

Answer: The hated-everyone-in-Canda-except-Toronto Maple Leafs.

Luis writes: “Speaking of you and Paul’s Comic Book Series..Hows that going for you guys???”

Answer: Great.  Next step: the comic book company is assigning an editor to the project.

Michelle writes: “I offer the following translations for your Atlantis movie diplomacy:

a. MGM is in so much debt, even the SG-1 movie has a .001% chance of getting financed, the SGA movie even less. Why should I waste my time?
b. Flanigan has said negative things about SGU’s ratings and prospects; no way am I fighting to get him a gig.
c. You fans are so naive. The sets are gone. SGA is over. Get a clue!
d. Have you not noticed I’m branching out to fiction and comics? I won’t be around long enough to make an SGA movie.
e. MGM never paid me for the script. I don’t work for free.

Care to comment if any of those are accurate?”d

Answer: MGM certainly did pay for the script and I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before it’s business as usual with the lion, at least with regard to features and television.  The direct-to-dvd market, however, will probably continue to be a big question mark.  As for the sets – it’s much cheaper to put them in storage and put them up when needed rather than leave them standing and pay the cost of the stage rental.

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Adam Rosalky
Adam Rosalky

Joe, after reading The Algebraist and your comments on Alestair Reynolds, I have both their full collections ready to go – I can’t wait to get started, just as soon as I finish Stephen Baxter’s Flood.

susan the tartan turtle
susan the tartan turtle

Give Jelly a cuddle from all of us. It is horrible when your furrybairns are ill. I hope Lulu is leaving her alone and not bugging Jelly too much.

✈✈ Will you be mother-visiting soon? Maybe you will get a chance to see Brie and Stewey again.

So – Jamil has an outrageous wardrobe ? Are there any piccies available?

☠☺

Bryan M. White
Bryan M. White

Hello Joe.

Please give Jelly extra hugs and our best wishes tomorrow for her procedure. I know we all wish her well. smile

Best wishes,

Bryan

PS. Can someone please clear up a question for me? Numerous people have said that they have the season 1.5 set of SGU here! But I was under the impression that it does not hit the Shelves till the 27Th? Do different region codes (region 1 blu-ray in my case) have different release dates? Or is it already out, and Amazon has the date wrong? Thanks…

Lisa R.
Lisa R.

Ok now, I have to ask. So, what does Carl like at Chili’s? That’s one of our favorite restaurants here, and we’re big fans of the chicken crispers and the country fried steak.

The book sounds fascinating. I had tried to find it in our local bookstore, but wasn’t able to. I might have to go into town and see if I can find it.

Penny
Penny

Hey Joe
How was your day??

I hope the stem cell treatment works for Jelly she deserves to have a better quality of life as you can see how much she LOVES life and how much you enjoy having her in your life!!

My Questions for Alastair Reynolds:

1) you use BIG white boards to help organize your thoughts when writing a book but do you use similar items in your everyday life to help stay organized?
2) what are you currently listening too?
3) not a question but just wanted to say that I have enjoyed your books and own almost all of them thanks for being such an AWESOME wrtiter.

Narelle from Aus

All the best for Jelly’s procedure. Human and animal good vibes from our house are heading her way.

Now I know why that book looked familiar when I was browsing the other day. No, I’m not part of any other book club that may have caused the confusion on my behalf. I’m just dense. And blonde. And tired.

Have a good night Joe.

annie from Fremantle
annie from Fremantle

Big doggy hugs to Jelly xxxxxoooooooo

Ponytail
Ponytail

OH! MY! GOSH! That May 28, 2008 blog just might be my most favorite ever of all of them! Jason is soooo cute demonstrating the proper use of and selling of furniture. Too bad the Satedan didn’t come with it. I remember spending a lot of time drooling (and laughing) over the pictures.

Question: “3) Why haven’t you done any commentary, the world needs to hear your genius!!”

Answer: “3) I’ll limit my genius to this blog, but thanks for asking.”

Am I missing something here? Is he talking about SGU’s first season, because you have done plenty of commentary in the past. Particularly in SGA 5th season, you did commentary with the lovely Jason Momoa on Broken Ties, and you did Whispers, and Remnants to name just a few.

I hope Tuesday Little Miss Jelly Belly feels the love coming her way. All day I will be chanting, Jellleee, Jellleee, Jellleee, in support.

Bryan M. White
Bryan M. White

Hello!

BTW: Conan on a couch… Very FUNNY!!! Thanks for the walk down memory lane for us Atlantis fans. wink

Best wishes,

Bryan

PoorOldEdgarDerby
PoorOldEdgarDerby

You know what surreal is? Going to Chili’s in Mexico.

Wait, is surreal the word I’m looking for here?

suse
suse

I’m very proud of you for not escalating that/those last questions. They were sooo very ripe for it.

I have a few snarky comments re:*those* comments that I’ll also not say.

dasNdanger
dasNdanger

All my best to Jelly! Give her big bloggy hugs and kisses from us all!

It’s been a big, long day…I’m actually too tired to harrass you. wink

Nites, sir!

das

Deni
Deni

We’re keeping Ms Jelly in our thoughts here, as well! Keep us updated, please!

Lewis
Lewis

Best of luck JELLY! We’re all rooting for you that the procedure goes smoothly with a quick recovery!

bytehead

Wishing the best for Jelly.

I just finished “House of Suns” myself two weeks ago.

It was a wild ride, that’s for sure. I figured it was going to be some kind of mystery, but that certainly wasn’t the climax, so I really wouldn’t say the novel is a sci-fi mystery. As I was reading up to the climax (it is hard to actually claim what the climax is, but I think it would be opening up the star dam), I really didn’t understand where this book was going. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but I usually like to have an idea of at least the direction we’re going.

The ending was indeed, rather abrupt. It fits, it was probably a bit tidier than I’d like, but I’ve read worse, much worse.

My question for the author would be:

The Absence is interesting, and bringing up star dams, I figured that somebody or something had managed to just put Dyson spheres around all the stars, on their way to being a Kardashev type III after having perfected type II. The fact that opening a wormhole could do that… Well, quantum mechanics being what it is, possibly. My only complaint when I first thought about it was, what about the gravity waves? Yes, I know, it’s science fiction Bryan!

Of course, on second reflection, I guess the Absence will go away once our two galaxies merge 4.5 billion years in the future.

Shiny
Shiny

What I liked most about the ending was the sacrifice of Hesperus, although I hope that there is a way to resurrect him (yet again!) in future books. I love that the Machine People were all so hard to trust/rely on/believe. And it was mostly that human fear of anything without a soul that we see so much in movies and TV (cyborgs, replicants, cylons, clone wars soldiers, terminators in general.) I found it interesting that I kept having this nagging prejudice against the machine people throughout the book; but it’s not often that we ever in our real lives have to think hard about how we would feel putting our trust in machine intelligence.

I found myself preferring Campion’s daredevil ways and his loyalty to Purslane; the POV on him was always wry.

BTW did anyone else see Brian J. Smith on Masterpiece’s Murder on the Orient Express sunday in the states? Did they film on the real train and travel to the Mid East and Europe? It was a sumptously filmed mystery, one of the best I’ve seen on Master P.

Also just watched Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (free on Netflix), it is expletive freakin’ good. Btween the House of Suns, Murder on the Orient Express and Dragon Tattoo I’ve had a super sleuthin’ weekend, whew!

Jim of WVa
Jim of WVa

Joe,

All of my questions about RS-series and House of Suns were answered by going to the FAQ sections on Dr. Reynolds’ website. However, three questions remain:

1. One of the Gentian shatterlings was the original Abigail Gentian. Was the original Abigail in latter day portions of the HOS under a different name (i.e. Purslane)?

2. Would non-FTL space opera work on television?

3. How would one make a clone that was of different sex than the original?

Thanks
Jim

crayonbaby
crayonbaby

I do believe in the near future that some other studio will buy MGM (or their catalog and movies/shows that are in production) and all will be well. That’s my hope. MGM does have lots of things going for it. Let’s take up a collection.

I’m still not sure why people don’t think you want the SGA movie made. You obviously do. There’s only so much one person can do if the studio isn’t on the same page (yet). And they had the money to make it.

Good luck with Jelly tomorrow. Give her lots of extra pets and scratches.

Gilder
Gilder

Crossing my paws for Jelly. I’m undergoing MRI on knee in AM…apparently injured during Ireland trip.

ytimynona
ytimynona

Thinking good thoughts for Jelly! Here’s hoping this treatment will be amazing!

I’ve been trying to find the Very Keller Mailbag you did (the whole post about how Jewel is frakking awesome)… it was so snarky and amazing and I was telling my friend about it today and now I can’t find it to link her to it… can anyone else find it?

@Shiny I did indeed see MotOE with Brian J Smith last Sunday! DANG, that kid can act. Course, I said that to my mum and she replied “if he’s a KID then you are too,” to which I could find no response. Either way, I agree: he’s really frakking amazing! grin

Dodoalda
Dodoalda

Where’s the next part of “pineapple diaries”? I love them smile

steph
steph

Your review of ‘House of Suns’ make me really wish I would have been able to find it in my library, now I think it might have to go on my Amazon list.
My journey through re-watching Stargate has finally brought me to Atlantis, I was struck again by just how great the first episode was. (And by how beautifully a romance between John and Teyla was set-up…)
Did you ever consider an alternate universe in which Daniel just runs through the stargate against Jack’s wishes, or goes through in some other way?
Speaking of AUs, do you have a favorite? Is there one that you would have liked to have explored further?
Before bringing in Cameron Mitchell, did you ever consider bring Jonas back?

Best of luck to Jelly smile

morjana

Hi, Joe.

A belated thank you for the hilarious Louis Ferreira videos.

Also, best wishes to Jelly on her stem cell therapy. It’s fascinating that this medical technology on now being utilized on pets for their benefit — as so often, we [we being the scientists] use animals to test on, rather than to treat.

And … how is you Mother doing? Is she keeping up with her physical therapy? It’s a tough go, but it’s worthwhile at the end. (Or you’re just that relieved it’s finally over, I guess.)

Best wishes.

Kymm
Kymm

Ivon cheers for Toronto…..*pfffft*…. so he’s the one….and you cheer for Montreal, if you had gotten clocked yesterday, I’m not sure it would have been an accident, given the whole Montreal/Toronto rivalry. *snicker*

Fingers crossed for Jelly. I hope all goes well and she experiences some improvement.

I saw on CNN today that Paul (yes the octopus), is getting all kinds of offers for endorsements etc. They are supposed to be making a big announcement tomorrow.

I’ve been trying to catch up on my online TV viewing, and some new shows have started that I want to catch. Did anyone watch Haven tonight? (I got distracted half way through and will have to watch it again). New season of Eureka started, episode one was a huge shake-up eh? I wonder if it will ‘stick’. Plus, The Glades debuted; I’ve been looking forward to that one.

It was a good thing someone mentioned that Brian J. Smith was appearing on the Orient Express; otherwise, I would never have recognized him. I wonder what David Suchet is like IRL.

Joe – did you ever watch the TV series La Femme Nikita?

Have a good one!!
Kymm

anais33

Coucou!!

Ahhhh enfin ici!!!! Contente je suis en repos!! ça fait plaisir!!!! ♥ Tous les jour je regarder vos photos sur mon portable!!!

Je suis contente que l’Espagne ai gagner cette coupe du monde, elle le meritait vraiment, elle a fournie un beau jeu collectif, surtout à la fin.

Par contre je suis déçu pour Lance Armstrong qui a perdu toute chance de gagner le Tour de France, j’espere qu’en même qu’il nous montera de belles choses!

Jattend avec impatience les championnat d’europe d’Athlétisme, avec Chistrophe Lemaitre tout juste 20 ans et le 1er blanc à avoir couru le 100 mètre en moin de 10 seconde!!

Vive l été, vive le sport, et vive les jours de repos!! ^^

Gros bisou!
je vous adore!