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House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

House of Suns (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Alastair Reynolds

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1,274406,186 (4.02)41
Title:House of Suns
Authors:Alastair Reynolds
Info:Ace Hardcover (2009), Edition: 1St Edition, Hardcover, 480 pages
Collections:Your library

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House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Reynolds simply works for me. His stories are exactly what I expect from science-fiction. He sets the bar for large-scale, galaxy-spanning, events. House of Suns is a nice blend of mystery, action, and surprises. I'm hopeful he'll write more involving robotic sentience. I also like that he stepped away from his Revelation Space environment. While it's enjoyable to see how he's fleshing out that world, it's nice to read something that doesn't come with previous baggage. ( )
1 vote RalphLagana | Jan 23, 2016 |
I was born in a house with a million rooms, built on a small, airless world on the edge of an empire of light and commerce that the adults called the Golden Hour, for a reason I did not yet grasp. Thus begins the life of Abigail Gentian, who later makes 1000 male and female clones of herself who set off to explore the universe. Six million years later, much of it spent in stasis or cryo chambers while travelling the galaxy, two of her clones, Purslane and Campion, female and male clones now in love, against the rules, are running over 50 years behind en route to their 200,000 year line reunion. While on their way they receive an encoded message informing them that almost all or their line has been decimated by an unprecedented attack. Thus begins their quest to save some of their fellow clones and determine just who is behind this attack and why. As the mystery unfolds it is much more complex and interwoven with their pasts than they had imagined.

This is a great book for the science fiction fan who is fine with humans morphing into rather unbelievable forms, such as centaurs on one planet, immortal beings who live forever floating together in space in astronomically large suits where it can take them years to make a decision because their nerves are so vast it takes so long for signals to pass from their brains to their bodies, where there is machine sentience, where humans can clone themselves into two different sexes, etc.

At the beginning of each section we read about Abigail’s story when she was one person, and the rest of the story is told from two first person view points, Purslane’s and Campion’s.

I got this book because I loved the first sentence, which is quoted above. I liked the first chapter a great deal, but the book went downhill to only a three stars level of liking very quickly for me for several reasons. One is that despite the vast amount of time involved, some of this science fiction defies all logic (I haven’t described it all). For example, there are certain biological limitations that cannot be overcome by cloning. I didn’t care much for either Purslane or Campion and that was not solely because I have difficulty with the incestuous nature of their relationship, but more that I didn’t find either of them likable enough. I did like Hesperus a great deal. Hesperus is a machine person rescued on their way to the failed reunion who is gravely injured during their attempts to rescue any surviving clones of their Gentian line. In fact, one of the reasons I continued reading was to find out what happened to him. The other was that the writing was good enough that I really wanted to stay with it to see how the mystery was resolved. I did stay up late two nights in a row to finish, but not more than an hour or so after my bedtime.
( )
  Karin7 | Jan 20, 2016 |

"I had already seen dozens of empires come and go, blossoming and fading like lilies on a pond, over and over, seasons without end. Many of those empires were benevolent and welcoming, but others were inimical to all outside influences. It made no difference to their longevity. The kind empires withered and waned as quickly as the hostile ones."


The above passage from House of Suns serves to illustrate the author's grandiose scheme for this book. The story spans millions of years and hundreds of them often pass in the blink of an eye. Talk about fast moving narrative, this book almost break the FTL barrier. That said the story is not hard to follow providing you give it time to unfold and settle you in its very far future settings. In spite of the grand scale there are not that many characters to keep track of. The first person narrative is split into that of three protagonists, actually only one protagonist in a way. It all starts with this one girl Abigail Gentian who grew up in a weird shape shifting house and later cloned herself a thousand ( /-1) times for space exploration purposes. These thousand clones meet up every thousand years or so to celebrate, compare notes and basically party like it's 1999 ( many kilo centuries). On one such occasion they are attacked and almost wiped out...

My inadequate synopsis barely scratches the surface of the immense story. This is my second Alastair Reynolds book, the first being [b:Revelation Space|89187|Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1)|Alastair Reynolds|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1306807253s/89187.jpg|219037] which is his debut novel published 8 years before House of Suns. I rather like Revelation Space but in a muted sort of way, I thought the characters were on the flat side and a lot of the science went over my head. Well, I am glad to report that in the intervening years (while I was in suspended animation) Mr. Reynolds has acquired the arcane skills of character development. The central characters are likable and believable and the robot characters are just wonderful. While some of the science still goes whoosh! right over my head this is to be expected as I have difficulty figuring out how dental floss works. That said, most of the science and inventions are explained quite clearly and still comes across as ingenious.

Interestingly some very odd beings appear in this book but none of them are aliens. Which brings me to another quote from the book:"Yes, humanity fractured into a million daughter species, some of which were scarcely recognisable to each other. But scratch beneath the scales, the fur, the tin armour, they were still humans at the core, and no amount of primate babble could ever drown out that silence completely."
TL;DR: No aliens! All the weird blighters that show up in this book are post-humans, though a mysterious alien race is referred to they never actually drop by at any point. The post-humans weirdos more than make up for them though.

There are mercifully brief fantasy interludes (inside a virtual reality) which I don't really care for, it reminds of scenes from Neal Stephenson's [b:The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer|827|The Diamond Age|Neal Stephenson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320415915s/827.jpg|2181158] which did not appeal to me (the scenes, not the book). This book could also do with a bit more humour and levity, but the poignant finale tugs nicely at the heartstrings.

I really should stop rating books at five stars or I shall have no credibility left. I don't want to be the Paula Abdul of Goodreads or something, but really at the end of the day this is a great mind expanding read and to rate it less than five stars seems churlish. I think I will rate the next book I review at 4 stars max, regardless of how good it is! ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It...

This might be one of my favorite stand alone SF books I’ve ever read. I was already a big fan of Reynolds’ Revelation Space trilogy, and this book proves all the more what a fantastic author he is, also when he limits himself to just 500 pages.

It’s set in a different universe than the RS-books, and broadly deals with 6 million year old human characters defending their line of explorers against extinction. The book has everything: a good mystery, a love story, a great chase sequence, good action, a possible mole, a whodunnit, a sense of wonder, and even a snippet of well done fantasy in a virtual reality sub-plotline. It also has some of the greatest robot characters I’ve come across.

(...) ( )
  bormgans | Dec 15, 2015 |
Big scope, new space opera, fun to read. The only drawback I felt was the scope was sometimes too big and I lost the sense that things were happening on a galactic scale over millennia rather than, for example, on a worldly scale over months. I did enjoy the dynamics among the three narrative voices, particularly given they were three aspects of the same original person, and the plot is a page-turner, no question. Reynolds is maturing into a skilled writer of well-done sf novels, and this novel continues the general trend upward I've been happy to see in Pushing Ice and Century Rain. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
I found House Of Suns incredibly clever and sweeping and thought-provoking, and it all pays off in the final chapter with a very cosmic moment where the story's sweep opens up to take in a much larger, and stranger cosmos than we've glimpsed so far. Once you get past the slow begining, it's an exhilerating read that keeps your brain buzzing the whole time.

It was apparent from early on that the title of this book was going to be a pun.

The Gentian Line builds stardams. Using ringworlds constructed by a lost civilisation known as the Priors they surround suns completely. Not even a supernova can get through. These suns, then, are housed.

The galaxy-spanning society where the novel is set contains many Lines known as Houses who employ stasis technology in their aeons long trips around the galaxy. The Lines’ members are called shatterlings, clones of their respective founders - but of both sexes - each with their founders’ memories. The Gentians’ founder, Abigail Gentian, had a strange, artificially extended childhood, brought up in near isolation on a small asteroid enclosing a tethered black hole, with only the game of psychological immersion known as Palatial for diversion.

The shatterlings Campion and Purslane - all the Gentians have names derived from plants - are aberrant in that they are lovers. They are late for their Line’s reunion, an important gathering where all the members’ memories of their latest “circuit” of the galaxy are collected and shared. Before they arrive they receive the news that most of the Gentian Line has been destroyed in an attack. The novel works through their attempts to find out why, the significance of the mysterious occlusion of the Andromeda galaxy, and of the hidden Line called the House of Suns.

The book is split into eight parts each of which begins with a section which follows Abigail’s childhood. Thereafter succeeding chapters are, in turn, narrated from the viewpoints of Campion and Purslane. At first it is difficult to make sense of this as Reynolds does not differentiate their voices clearly enough. The other “characters,” some of whom are machine intelligences, step forward Cadence and Cascade - a King Crimson allusion? - are also not well delineated, even the elephant-like Ugalit Panth.

What Reynolds does give you is plot, in abundance. 500 pages of closely packed print is pushing it a bit, though.
added by piuss | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton

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Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Tracy and Grace: big and little sister, with love
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I was born in a house with a million rooms, built on a small, airless world on the edge of an empire of light and commerce that the adults called the Golden Hour, for a reason I did not yet grasp.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575082372, Paperback)

Six million years ago, at the very dawn of the starfaring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones: the shatterlings. Sent out into the galaxy, these shatterlings have stood aloof as they document the rise and fall of countless human empires. They meet every two hundred thousand years, to exchange news and memories of their travels with their siblings. Campion and Purslane are not only late for their thirty-second reunion, but they have brought along an amnesiac golden robot for a guest. But the wayward shatterlings get more than the scolding they expect: they face the discovery that someone has a very serious grudge against the Gentian line, and there is a very real possibility of traitors in their midst. The surviving shatterlings have to dodge exotic weapons while they regroup to try to solve the mystery of who is persecuting them, and why - before their ancient line is wiped out of existence, for ever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:43 -0400)

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Six million years ago, at the very dawn of the starfaring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones: the shatterlings. Sent out into the galaxy, these shatterlings have stood aloof as they document the rise and fall of countless human empires.… (more)

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