Title: Diamond Dogs/Turquoise Days
Genre: Far Future SF
Published: Gollancz 2003
Purchased: Borders, Cambridge, 2004-01-24, £5.99
This book contains a pair of novellas from the same setting as his Revelation Space novels. See also lnr's review of Absolution Gap.
Diamond Dogs features a puzzle that stands alone on an otherwise desolate world. It's in the form of a great tower, impervious to normal investigation, which contains a series of rooms that slowly ascend to its peak. To get into each successive room requires solving a puzzle, and the puzzles slowly get harder and the results of failure more brutal. The story concerns a private group of investigators who attempt to solve these puzzles, and how they change, both physically and mentally, to do so.
In the end, this isn't about the puzzles, it's about the loss of self of the investigators. The overall mood is somewhat melancholic, but it's gripping nonetheless.
Turquoise Days is an unconnected story (or probably unconnected - there's a single reference to a discovery made in a tower at one point). The world of Turquoise is a water world, with the ocean filled with Pattern Jugglers, which are an alien intelligence. Or more precisely, with the recorded intelligences of aliens and humans, stored in a huge biological matrix.
The tale starts with a pair of researchers, sisters Naqi and Mina, who are observing a node in this oceanic matrix. Then, news comes that the first starship for a century is coming, Naqi and Mina go swimming with the Pattern Jugglers (totally against the rules for the untrained), and strange occurrences are seen.
In the following two years, the starship approaches (yes, this isn't a setting with quick FTL transport - there's a reason why ships can be so infrequent), and a great project nears completion. How will that project fare? What will the effect of the ship's arrival be?
In the end, this novella is much more upbeat than the first. Again, it's about personal change, but the characters are more heroic.