captain’s coming Alastair Reynolds tells us why he’s never yet written a space opera
Whatever you do, don’t call Alastair Reynolds’ Shadow Captain a YA novel. “That kind of crept into the marketing at some point,” he says of Revenger, the first volume in this space-pirate trilogy. “I wanted to write a book that you could read if you were 15 or 16, but I didn’t consciously write down to a particular audience. It has a young adult protagonist, but then so does Dune.”
What we can say is that, picking up the tale of the spacefaring Ness sisters, it’s a rollicking adventure that offers clues about the nature of “some big, underlying mysteries” that underpin the solar system. “I had a blast,” says Reynolds. “I got really into that high-Victorian adventure mode that I was hoping to hit.” This gives the book a different vibe to the cyberpunk-tinged hard SF of his Revelation Space sequence, but Reynolds says he’s long been drawn to steampunk, which he first encountered as a boy via Doctor Who adventure “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang” and Saturday afternoon movies.
He says, however, he’s yet to write a space opera. Really? Yes, because he defines space opera as referring to a standalone volume with “lots of characters, colour and sweep”. He lays down the law further: “There has to be a lot at stake, and it really has to be about the rise and fall of galactic civilisation.” JWr
Shadow Captain is published on 10 January.