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House of Suns: Galactic-Scale Fun and Poetry

Updated: Jul 6

Six million years ago, Abigail Gentian cloned herself—she fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones, or shatterlings, all with different looks and personalities. They formed what became known as the Gentian Line—and no one knows to this day which of the one thousand is the original Abigail Gentian.

The clones and Abigail travel the Milky Way Galaxy, helping young civilizations, collecting knowledge, and experiencing what the universe has to offer. Members of the Gentian Line are named after flowering plants. — Wikipedia

After each circuit around the galaxy, (each of which takes about 200 000 years), the members of the Gentian Line reconvene for their periodical merging of knowledge and life experience.

The shatterlings are expected to travel alone, and to only meet one another at the line’s gathering—the reunion. But Campion and Purslane broke the tradition. They travelled together and they became an item, against house rules.

Furthermore, Campion and Purslane are fifty years late for the thirty second Gentian reunion, and Campion is in need of a ship replacement.

Upon arrival, they find the line under attack, all but decimated. Only fifty siblings remain alive, out of the original one thousand. Who could be behind this? Who is attempting to wipe out the entire Gentian line?

Let's face it, the delight we take in space opera is atavistic. What we are really looking for is something that overwhelms us, that makes us go "Wow!." It's all about scale, the biggest devices, the biggest bangs, the biggest distances. And no-one does size quite like Alastair Reynolds. — Paul Kincaid, SF Site Review

This story stretched the scope of my imagination. Alastair Reynolds does know his stuff. Before he became a full time space opera writer, the Welsh author had a career as an astrophysicist and he worked for the european space agency. And now he has dozens of books under his belt.

Photo: Nicolas Lemieux
(Photo: Nicolas Lemieux)

House of Suns is a galactic-scale story about love and friendship. It is a wonderful exploration on both themes, and I wish it hadn’t ended so fast, after only 502 pages.

House of Suns features exotic, futuristic robots. But wait… aren’t most robots futuristic and exotic?

Point taken. Still. Nano-scale auto-morphing, highly intelligent, agile, human-like machine people with forever-long resilience. It's all in the way you feel them.

House of Suns features all this and more. Humongous weapons, imaginative, forward-thinking technologies, a millennia-long robot fight--in the name of friendship!, lovers chasing one another all the way to the Andromeda galaxy…

Always using the most inventive, colourful names. Especially for the ships. Reynolds tends to name them in the most epic, poetic manner:

Silver Wings of Morning (House of Suns)

Nostalgia for Infinity (Revelation Space trilogy)

Sadly, at least for the time being, House of Suns remains a stand-alone novel. I hope Alastair Reynolds chooses to remedy this soon. He is a master at epic series, so why not write a few wonderful sequels (or prequels) to this lovely story? Please, friend, we're waiting.

House of Suns was my introduction to Alastair Reynolds' work. It had me decide I was going to read everything he's ever written, and will ever write.

I am still at it, of course. Because Reynolds is very prolific, and because I tend to take more than I can chew, reading-wise.

I have all his books though, and the few that are still in wait of reading are standing on my shelf, watching over me as I write, compelling me to grab them. I look at them in turn, looking forward to the day when I will read them all. But I can only tackle one at a time. Some years ago, I enjoyed (immensely) the series set in the Revelation Space Universe, and I hear more of them are coming soon. And right now, I’m reading the last book of the Poseidon's Children trilogy, which is quite something else. Next, the Revenger series.

So many good times ahead!

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13. Feb. 2021

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