Whether you view this novel, being comprised of two short stories already in print and available in forms that in comparison offer far superior value for money, as a cash-in, or, as the blurb on the dust-jacket suggests, "...a new double volume from Subterranean Press that stands squarely in the tradition...of the Ace double novels of the `50's and `60's...which have long been a source of both pleasure and nostalgia" there is no disputing the quality of this work, or the talent of the author. So for hardened fans of Alastair Reynolds the purchase of this double novella is an absolute must. Only newcomers might need some persuading, which only a few pages of either of these stories will accomplish far more easily and completely than I ever could.
I'd previously read and enjoyed `Minla's Flowers' in the author's `Zima Blue' short story compilation novel, so I expected that `Thousandth Night' would offer an equally compelling narrative. And I wasn't disappointed, either with re-reading the former, or with savouring the latter for the first time. Both stories are brilliant examples of this author producing science-fiction at his most ingenious and captivating.
On a secondary note the aesthetic of this book is fantastic- the hardback book is in bright orange boards and the artwork on the dust-jacket by Tomislav Tikulin is gloriously emotive, as well as the format of the book that displays a title page right-side-up when flipped over top-to-bottom. It all works superbly and more than does justice to the content.
`Minla's Flowers' - A novella that incorporates time-travel, or at least the suspension of time for our protagonist Merlin, while the world around him advances radically in terms of both technology and philosophy in an attempt by its inhabitants to prevent the decimation of their world. The price for survival however turns out to be far more terrible than he, or they could have contemplated. This is classic science-fiction, filled with flawed characters, impossible odds and terrible choices. (9/10)
`Thousandth Night' - A story that has engaging lead characters, a solid sci-fi-mystery plotline, plenty of intrigue and fantastical imagery. The only criticism I could make of it would be that it lacks that extra special exploration of the human condition, as characterised for me by the very best of Alastair Reynolds' short stories, such as `Minla's Flowers', or `Diamond Dogs' say. I would put this story more on a par with `Turquoise Days' which possesses an equally enjoyable blend of intrigue and science, but doesn't resonate with the same ominous tone, or as many moments of desperately painful moral dilemmas for the main characters. Fantastic nonetheless. (8/10)
Alastair Reynolds continues to prove that he can write short stories and novellas as well as he can write a full novel. These two stories have sufficient similarities to sit well together in this edition and keep the reader engaged. Overall a nice interlude while waiting for the next novel.
Thousand Nights sets up the universe that is used in the novel House of Suns. It gives a fantasic inside look at the Gentian Line at their reunion but the story has a definate plot and stands well alone that it does not matter whether you have read House of Suns.
In Minla's Flower the author deals with the question of whether intervening in a situation alters events for better or worse. When Merlin's ship is in need of repairs and he lands on a planet he knows that the planet is going to be destroyed in seventy years his choice to stay and give limited help to allow the occupants to escape has an effect and not the one he hoped or (it seems) intened but in seeing his choice through does he make things worse or was the outcome inevitable and did he do the right thing in the end? Those are all judgements that the reader will make for themselves.
I especially liked the publication style harking back to the 50's and 60's of one story at the front and the other at the back upside-down so to speak, it reminded me of shopping in old book shops many years ago. Perhaps a little expensive but they are signed and the cover is so well done it is worth the extra.
I really enjoyed this book, the two stories fired my imagination and the beautiful language used to describe the environments was delightful. The morality tale of Minla's Flowers of a traveler with advanced technologies forced by his own morals to intervene in a local civilisation and the compromises he must continue to make is a solid if familiar tale of how people can destroy what is in their best interests. The mystery behind Thousandth Night was compelling and I enjoy the universe constructed here for the Gentian Line, which is covered in greater detail in the full length novel 'House of Suns'.
This is also a very special limited edition signed run, with beautiful artwork and binding so the physical object of the book is a pleasure to hold. I've been a big fan of Alastair Reynolds for some time, so I'm very happy to have a signed book. However, if you're just after the content, then you should be able to find it cheaper elsewhere.