Short Story Review: GREAT WALL OF MARS (from Galactic North), by Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space trilogy is one of the most intriguing (and challenging!) reads I ever encountered, but it happened several years ago so that time has blurred my memory of it considerably, and the complexity of the narrative context in which this space opera series is set made it difficult for me to retain more than a few of the myriad details of that multifaceted tapestry.A re-read is something I might enjoy one of these days, and I think this collection of longer stories from that same universe might be the best way to re-introduce myself with the characters and the wide, sweeping background they are moving in.


In this story several of the characters I remember from Revelation Space are present, offering some of the much-needed backstory I needed to put their narrative arc into perspective, not to mention to better understand their motivations.

War between the Demarchists and the Conjoiners has been going on for some time, the latter now entrenched on Mars while their adversaries systematically destroy the shuttles launched in the attempt to evacuate the base. At the origin of the conflict is the general abhorrence for the Conjoiners’ way of life, one that implies the use of neural implants that speed up the individual’s thought processes and work toward a sort of shared consciousness that augments the cognitive abilities of the group.  Nevil Clavain and his brother Warren have fought long against the Conjoiners and Nevil was their prisoner for some time: for this reason, tired of the constant war that seems to reach no turning point, he offers a diplomatic solution he means to achieve by contacting Galiana, the leader of the Martian group and Nevil’s former jailer, a person he believes will be disposed to listen to his proposal.

Unfortunately, the shuttle on which Clavain and another diplomat are traveling on suffers a catastrophic accident and his companion is killed, while Clavain barely reaches the safety of the Conjoiners’ compound. Once there, his diplomatic mission is thwarted by an unexpected development whose consequences will bring him to shift his perceptions and change the direction of his thinking and even his life.

This was a great start to the anthology, and a very satisfying read: the pace is relentless and the sense of urgency and impending doom add to the definite feeling that there is much more than what appears on the surface – both in the actual background in which the story is set and in the narrative scope.   Great Wall of Mars also worked perfectly in making me understand the character of Clavain, whose role in the Revelation Space trilogy is one of the pivotal ones: if the other stories in this collection will do the same for other aspects of that series, I’m certain that my planned re-read will be a great journey of discovery.

Reynolds at his best, indeed.



My Rating:


14 thoughts on “Short Story Review: GREAT WALL OF MARS (from Galactic North), by Alastair Reynolds

  1. I very much agree about the series – although I only read the first book Revenger and I’m grateful that you reminded me about this excellent author:)). I am glad this collection took you back to the world, which I recall was politically complex.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah Alistair Reynolds. I still want to give him a try, even though my first and only book by him so far was a disaster (It was Revenger, but I understand that one wasn’t very typical of his usual stuff). I probably wouldn’t return with a short story, but I do think this sounds really cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Still haven’t read this author – I think possibly because it seems like very deep and involved sci-fi so I always chicken out. Like Mogsy I wouldn’t start with a short story although you make this sound brilliant. Perhaps I should think about his earlier series with SciFi month approaching.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sci-Fi month might indeed offer the chance for some exploring in Reynold’s world – and the Revelation Space trilogy is indeed deep and complex, so I understand your hesitation. But like I told Mogsy you could start with the stand-alone Chasm City, which is set in the same universe but offers a more… relaxed reading experience 🙂


  4. I have loved Chasm City and in general the Revelation Space series, but I must admit I struggle with his short stories (I read a few of them on Interzone and other magazines, and no, they’re not my cup of tea). But this review makes me think if I should give him again a try. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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