by Alastair Reynolds
A book review by Mark L. Olson
PS Publishing, 2001, 111 pp
"Diamond Dogs" is one of a series of chapbooks of British SF writers put out by PS Publishing, and is set in the same universe that Reynolds has used for most of his writing, with a lot of the action taking place in Chasm City.
A man is recruited by an obsessed character to be part of a team to explore an alien artifact which appears to be a deadly series of puzzles. The artifact is incredibly contrived why would aliens bother to do this? It presents the team with mathematical puzzles of increasing difficulty. To succeed means you go on to the next puzzle in a slowly shrinking tunnel; to fail means punishment and quite possibly death. The members of the team discover that they have the choice of modifying their bodies and minds more and more radically or dieing or giving up. (My own reaction was that giving up was a really sensible choice.)
Throughout the story I was struck again and again at how contrived the whole thing was. Why would the aliens do this? Why would people get so obsessed with it all? How did they every find out about the Melding Plague without an FTL radio?
(Incidentally, that first question, at least, applies equally well to similar series such as Charles Sheffield's Summertide novels where the aliens have littered the entire Galaxy with weird artifacts to equally little purpose.)
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