Troika - Alastair Reynolds

***** Disquieting and with an unexpected ending

This science fiction gem differs from the epic novels that Reynolds has accustomed me to, not only because of its length (it is indeed a novella), but above all for the apparent simplicity of the plot. The story is told from the point of view of Dimitri Ivanov, a Russian cosmonaut, on two parallel timelines. It offers a pessimistic image of the future, in which space exploration has practically stopped due to the interaction with a mysterious huge artefact of alien origin, which the Russians call Matryoshka.
In a timeline, we see Dimitri escaping from a structure for mental patients and trying to reach someone to reveal what he discovered in his last space mission. The mission is shown in the other timeline, in which he and two other colleagues are approaching the Matryoshka and preparing to take samples.
In the alternative future in which the events occurring to this cosmonaut are narrated, only Russia has maintained a minimum of space activity, while the rest of the world surrendered to the impossibility of revealing the enigma concerning the alien artefact. And the same Russian cosmonauts are driven in their search more by necessity of survival than by the desire for discovery. If what they discover won’t be pleasing to their government, they could still come to a bad end.
A sense of anguish pervades both timelines and the absence of division into chapters urges the reader, prompting them to complete the reading as soon as possible. I particularly appreciated the whole space part of the story, which, as in all Reynolds’s works, mixes rigorous science with aspects which, due to their origin, go beyond our ability to establish how realistic or not they can be. The more I went on, the more I grew curious to know what was hidden within the Matryoshka.
And the answer comes in an unexpected and therefore satisfying ending, not so much for its content, which, when you think about it, is anything but original, but rather for the skill of the author in distracting the reader and then surprising them.

Troika on Amazon.

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