Book Review: The Six Directions of Space – by Alastair Reynolds

Standalone, Novella

Scifi

Subterranean Press; January, 2009

85 pages (Hardcover)

2.7 / 5 ✪

An interesting piece of scifi set in a future where the Mongol Khanate never fell but overran the earth, eventually extending their vast empire to the stars. Interesting, but quite short—especially when considering Reynolds’ other work—Six Directions tells the story of Yellow Dog, a spy for the Inner Systems sent to investigate phantoms on the Empire’s fringe. These “phantoms” appear in wormholes on the outskirts of the Outer Systems, and are thought by most to be simply a glitch of the machine, mistake of the eye, or even ghosts from the past. Others believe them to be aliens; though these are far in the minority.

And yet the Inner Systems seem to be taking the phantoms seriously, as they have sent one of an elite number of spies to investigate (albeit, after quite some time). Yellow Dog’s investigation will take her to unique and new places, let her see sights few of her kind has ever laid eyes on, while danger and death close in all around.

Six Directions is… okay. I mean, it was interesting, and I never had any trouble reading through it. I liked it, when everything was flowing. It’s just that right when I began to really get into the story—it ended. To say the conclusion was abrupt would be an understatement. I mean, I knew the thing was short, but it just… stopped. Some loose ends were tied up, the main arc as well, I guess. The story wasn’t anything to get excited about. The main problem with novellas is that; it’s hard to weave together any kind of adequate thread-count when your tale lasts about as long as the average cartoon.

The author also seems unwilling to completely separate the Chinese and Mongolian influences, although historically they were completely different, only coming together during the short period where the Khans conquered China (known as the Yuan Dynasty). I mean, they’re separate in the text, yet still oddly connected. I couldn’t figure out what was going on with their relationship.

All of this lends itself to my rather odd rating. I’d read it again, if only as it wouldn’t take much doing. I’d recommend it, but only if it were cheap or free (I got it from the library, so that was a win-win). I’m familiar with the author (and generally enjoy his stuff), so knew it’d be thoughtful if not terribly fulfilling.

Ultimately, however, it was just a thin story followed up by an brief, shallow conclusion and no prospect of future continuation. In short, it was interesting, but only that.

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