The Medusa Chronicles – Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter

A long, long time ago, when I was a rather young Les, there was a weekly magazine for protogeeks[1] called Speed and Power. If my flaky memory serves, my dad bought me the first issue, and I never missed one after that. It didn’t last that long, and was eventually absorbed into the less interesting Look and Learn. It featured articles on interesting machinery, planes, trains and all that kind of thing, but the most important thing was that it reprinted sf short stories. It started off with Arthur C Clarke, then moved on to introduce me to Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, which I’d no doubt have got to at some point, but it got me there sooner, which had to be a good thing.

It was during the Arthur C Clarke phase that Speed and Power serialised Clarke’s 1972 novelette A Meeting WIth Medusa, though for reasons of publishing they presented it as it were two stories rather than one. It was the story of Howard Falcon, who we first meet as commander of an airship called Queen Elizabeth IV, which has a disastrous crash which very nearly kills him. Reconstructed as a cyborg, he later rides under a balloon into the atmosphere of Jupiter, where he finds unexpected forms of life, including the jellyfish-like medusa of the title. It’s the kind of sf story that sticks in the mind, evoking the sense of wonder that characterises the best of the genre.

And apparently it had an effect on another young person in South Wales – Alastair Reynolds, who I’ve mentioned a few times before[2], refers to reading the story in the afterword to this collaboration with Stephen Baxter. Which is where this digression ends and I get on with talking about the book itself.

It’s a prolonged sequel to Clarke’s classic story, inspired by the ending which refers to Falcon being the bridge between Machine and Man in the centuries to follow. And it pretty much does what it says on the tin, dealing with episodes in Falcon’s life as he becomes more estranged from humanity, and as the artificial intelligences he was instrumental in freeing become more and more indifferent to humanity.

And it’s good stuff throughout – particularly when Falcon and an AI return to Jupiter and find it’s even stranger in its depths than they could have ever anticipated.

Highly recommended if you’re a fan of the original story, and worth a look even if you’re not familiar with it[3].

[1] I don’t think we were called geeks in those far off days, but never mind
[2] Possibly understatement
[3] It’s in various anthologies, and can probably be found online, but I’d recommend The Collected Stories Of Arthur C. Clarke  as the place to go.

One thought on “The Medusa Chronicles – Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter

  1. Pingback: Stephen Baxter – Xeelee: Vacuum Diagrams | Losing it

Comments are closed.