Review of Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds

“It had taken one shot. The sound of it had echoed back off the buildings. Crows had lifted from a copse of trees nearby, wheeling and cawing in the sky before settling back down, as if killing was only a minor disturbance in their daily routine.”

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“It had taken one shot. The sound of it had echoed back off the buildings. Crows had lifted from a copse of trees nearby, wheeling and cawing in the sky before settling back down, as if killing was only a minor disturbance in their daily routine.”



Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by
Original Title
Edition LanguageEnglish

Book Synopsis

Fix the past. Save the present. Stop the future. Alastair Reynolds unfolds a time-traveling climate fiction adventure in Permafrost.

2080: at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. To make the experiment work, they just need one last recruit: an ageing schoolteacher whose late mother was the foremost expert on the mathematics of paradox.

2028: a young woman goes into surgery for routine brain surgery. In the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head… an unwanted presence which seems to have a will, and a purpose, all of its own – one that will disrupt her life entirely. The only choice left to her is a simple one.

Does she resist… or become a collaborator?

My Thoughts…

The ironic thing about the novella, Permafrost, is that in Permafrost, nothing is permanent. The name belies the content. The future, the past, and the present are all malleable constructs.
I haven’t read any Alastair Reynolds books previously, although I am very familiar with his books. I have wanted to read Redemption Ark forever. If you are looking for sincere and hard science fiction, he is your man from what I hear. In Permafrost, Reynolds utilizes the much-overused time-travel trope. It would take an excellent writer with a fresh perspective to bring anything new to the time travel type novel. He does it here. Instead of being hackneyed, this story comes off fresh and exciting. I liked how he explained time as a stream; someone who travels the flow goes backward and forwards like swimming in a river. Where you are in a stream is always relative to other points. It is an excellent way to explain a difficult concept without a Deus ex Machina explanation.
In some ways, the story is a scary premise. The future, 2080, has been destroyed by a malignant virus type thing that systematically destroys all the insectile species on the planet. Insects are a keystone, so soon, other animal and plant systems start to collapse, and finally, the whole pyramid, with humans at the top, crumbles like Jenga. The WHO(World Health Organization) is the only government type organization still in existence. They have a shot of saving the future by going into the past. Now, this is a shortish story. There is not a lot of time for explanation. So it is bare-bones, and much of the time, Reynolds only gives the reader the barest glimpse of the history and backstory. Sometimes it is like trying to see things through a blizzard. It is just enough to provide a springboard for the imagination of the reader to take hold. Valentina Lidova, the main protagonist of the story, is a 71yr old daughter of the inventor of the science of time travel. It is her consciousness, along with a few others, which are sent back through the past to save the future. Protecting the future is not what you think it will be. It is a twisty story that grabs your heart, intelligence, and emotions and ties them in knots. Although that doesn’t sound fun, it is.
This is an incredibly exciting novel and worth the time it takes to deep dive into this brilliant environmental dying Earth story. 

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About The Author

I’m Al, now a Goodreads author. I used to be a space scientist, and now I’m a writer, although for a time the two careers ran in parallel. I started off publishing short stories in the British SF magazine Interzone in the early 90s, then eventually branched into novels. I write about a novel a year and try to write a few short stories as well. Some of my books and stories are set in a consistent future named after Revelation Space, the first novel, but I’ve done a lot of other things as well and I like to keep things fresh between books.

I was born in Wales, but raised in Cornwall, and then spent time in the north of England and Scotland. I moved to the Netherlands to continue my science career and stayed there for a very long time, before eventually returning to Wales.

In my spare time I am a very keen runner, and I also enjoying hill-walking, birdwatching, horse-riding, guitar and model-making. I also dabble with paints now and then. I met my wife in the Netherlands through a mutual interest in climbing and we married back in Wales. We live surrounded by hills, woods and wildlife, and not too much excitement.

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