Speaking of old-fashioned, Reynolds’ novella takes us to one of the most classic of sf tropes: the Big Dumb Object. In this case, we have a mission of later-twenty-first-century neo-Soviets going to examine a massive satellite complex they call the Matroyshka (named after the nesting dolls because it’s composed of a series of shells). Most of the story is told in flashbacks by an escapee from a mental institution as we learn that the members of the expedition have not fared well upon their return to Earth. There are a few interesting twists along the way, including a nice one that serves as the source of the title. The biggest twist, however, doesn’t really seem to serve any narrative purpose other than to give the story something shocking for its last ten pages.
Alastair Reynolds is at the vanguard of space opera and hard sf today, and I have a review of one of his works coming up when we resume our march through awards history in the fall (did I just use the royal we?). I’m not sure if this is the best introduction to his work though. Whereas many of our stories this year have done new ideas in a clean, retro-style; this feels like an old cliché dressed up in a more contemporary, Big Ideas style. I find that combination less appealing myself. It’s not that there was anything I actively disliked about this story; it’s quite decent. It just didn’t really capture my imagination (and it didn’t come close to drawing an emotional reaction from me) like a good sf story should.