cap­tain’s com­ing Alas­tair Reynolds tells us why he’s never yet writ­ten a space opera

SFX - - Red alert -

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.

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