Alastair Preston Reynolds (born 13 March 1966) is a British science fiction author.
- See Alastair Reynolds's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
The Iron Tactician (2016)Edit
Page numbers from the reprint in Gardner Dozois, The Year’s Best Science Fiction 34
- “But you seem so nonchalant about it all,” Teal said.
Merlin pondered this for a few seconds. “Do you think being not nonchalant would make any difference? I don't know that it would. We’re here in the moment, aren’t we? And the moment will have its way with us, no matter how we feel about things.”
“Cheerful realist. There’s a distinction.”
- p. 613
- “So you've no qualms.”
“Qualms?” Merlin set down the papers he had been leafing through. “I've so many qualms they’re in danger of self-organizing. I occasionally have a thought that isn’t a qualm. But I’ll tell you this. Sometimes you just have to do the obvious thing. They have an item I need, and there’s a favor I can do for them. It’s that simple. Not everything in the universe is a riddle.”
- pp. 618-619
- Maybe if you weren’t busy throwing rocks at each other, you could spend a little time on the other niceties of life, such as cooperation and mutual advancement.
- p. 630
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (2003)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-01278-7
- I had never understood mathematics with any great agility, but now I sensed it as a hard grid of truth underlying everything: bones shining through the thin flesh of the world.
- Diamond Dogs, Chapter 11 (p. 135)
- The Jugglers store patterns, but they seldom show any sign of comprehending actual content. We’re dealing with a mindless biological archiving system, a museum without a curator.
- Turquoise Days, Chapter 1 (p. 177)
- A single data point—even a single clutch of measurements—could not usually prove or disprove anything, but it might later turn out to play a vital role in a chain of argument, even if it was only in the biasing of some statistical distribution closer to one hypothesis than another. Science, as Naqi had long since realised, was as much a swarming, social process as it was something driven by ecstatic moments of personal discovery.
It was something she was proud to be part of.
- Turquoise Days, Chapter 1 (p. 188)
- Naqi suspected that the ability to turn drunkenness on and off like a switch must be one of the most hallowed of diplomatic skills.
- Turquoise Days, Chapter 2 (p. 237)
- “Tell me, scientist to scientist, do you honestly think it will work?”
“We won’t know until we try,” Naqi said. Any other answer would have been politically hazardous: too much optimism and the politicians would have started asking just why the expensive project was needed in the first place. Too much pessimism and they would ask exactly the same question.
- Turquoise Days, Chapter 2 (pp. 240-241)
Galactic North (2006)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2008 by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-01600-6
- We don’t aspire to genetic unity, no matter what your propagandists think. The pursuit of optima leads only to local minima. We honour our errors. We actively seek persistent disequilibrium.
- The Great Wall of Mars (p. 22)
- Afterwards, when Clavain tried to imaging how he might describe it, he found that words were never going to be adequate for the task. And that was no surprise: evolution had shaped language to convey many concepts, but going from a single to a networked topology of self was not amongst them.
- The Great Wall of Mars (p. 37)
- Clavain had been a soldier. He had killed more people than he could remember, even though those days had been a long time ago. It was really a lot less difficult to do when you had a cause to believe in.
- Glacial (p. 102)
- “Only trying to make conversation, friend.”
“Don’t bother—it’s an overrated activity at the best of times.”
- A Spy in Europa (p. 104)
- “All right, Marius—I get the message. In fact I intercepted it, parsed it, filtered it, decrypted it with the appropriate onetime pad and wrote a fucking two-hundred-page report on it. Satisfied?”
“I’m never satisfied, Mishenka. It just isn’t in my nature.”
- A Spy in Europa (pp. 104-105)
- Is this a personal grudge or are you just psychotic?
- A Spy in Europa (p. 105)
- You’ve been good to me, Inigo. But I really am like the weather. You can admire me, even love me, in your way, but I can’t love you back. To me you’re like a photograph. I can see right through you, examine you from all angles. You amuse me. But you don’t have enough depth ever to fascinate me.
- Weather (p. 159)
- Grafenwalder shoots a sidelong glance at Ursula Goodglass, wondering what their marriage must be like. Clearly sex isn’t in the cards, but he doubts that it was ever the main interest in their lives. Games, especially those of prestige and subterfuge, are amongst the chief entertainments of the Rust Belt moneyed.
- Grafenwalder’s Bestiary (p. 212)
- Pretty smart piece of thinkware by all accounts: full Turing compliance; about as clever as you can make a machine before you have to start giving it human rights.
- Nightingale (p. 277)
- “Is he dead?” Irravel asked.
“Depends what you mean by dead.”
- Galactic North (p. 366)
Zima Blue and Other Stories (2006)Edit
All page numbers from the hardcover edition published in 2009 by Gollancz ISBN 978-0-575-08405-6
- Loosen up. I need reverence like I need a skateboard.
- Angels of Ashes (p. 253)
- She rapped on for a while about how the nineties milieu was best addressed as a system of infections: sexual illnesses, rogue advertising slogans, computer viruses, proliferating junk mail…the kind of jive that had spread into all the glossy style magazines, as if, she mused, the viral paradigm was a metavirus in its own right.
- Digital to Analogue (p. 362)
- “The old murals came from the heart,” Zima said. “I painted on a huge scale because that was what the subject matter seemed to demand.”
“It was good work,” I said.
“It was hack work. Huge, loud, demanding, popular, but ultimately soulless. Just because it came from the heart didn’t make it good.”
- Zima Blue (p. 395)
- Some people get it. Most people never will.
But that’s art.
- Zima Blue (p. 403)
All page numbers from the hardcover second edition published by NESFA Press ISBN 978-1-886778-98-6
- Ghosts are not the souls of the dead, but the souls of people written out of history when history changes.
- The Fixation (p. 66)
- “Still don’t trust us?”
“First rule of complex systems,” I said. “You can’t tell friends from enemies.”
- Stroboscopic (p. 105)
- “You’re quite right: that theory is taken a bit less seriously.”
“But it isn’t discredited, is it?”
“You can’t discredit an untestable hypothesis.”
- Tiger, Burning (p. 321)
Belladonna Nights and Other Stories (2021)Edit
All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published in 2021 by Gollancz ISBN 978-1-64524-013-6
- That was my plan. But there is an old saying about plans and war.
I would have done well to heed it.
- Holdfast (p. 86)
- You owned the world when you were a young man, felt it like it was fashioned to fit your hands. You could do anything with it you wanted to. But the world kept changing, and sooner or later there came a day when it didn’t feel like you were the one the world was interested in any more.
- Wrecking Party (p. 178)
- “And what keeps you going, exactly?”
“Insulting my friends. Making new ones, to compensate for the ones I already insulted just a bit too much. You’d be surprised how much work those activities demand of me—it’s practically a full-time occupation.”
“In fairness, you’re getting very good at it.”
- Death’s Door (p. 211)
- There’s nothing like a stupid, accidental death to remind you of the supreme futility of everything.
- Death’s Door (p. 229)
- “Imagine a permanent, shivering gloom, and never a moment without hunger, thirst and exhaustion. Imagine the constant fear of suffering illness or injury.”
“You’ve just described nine-tenths of human history.”
- Open and Shut (p. 265)
- “Something worse.”
After a silence Dreyfus said: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s always something worse.”
“Yes. Odd that that should be what keeps us going, but there it is. We take our comforts where we may.”
- Open and Shut (p. 269)
- In its purest distillation beauty had always been merciless.
- Plague Music (p. 294)
Revelation Space (2000)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
- “Are you sharpness personified?”
Khouri poured herself a few final sips of coffee and then left the rest of it on the stove for when she got back. Coffee was her only vice, one acquired in her soldiering days on the Edge. The trick was to reach a knife-edge of alertness, but not be so buzzing that she could not point the weapon without shaking.
“I think I’ve reduced the amount of blood in my caffeine system to an acceptable level, if that’s what you mean.”
- Chapter 2 (p. 27).
- “It’s all in the fine print. You should read it sometime.”
“When I’m gripped by existential boredom,” Khouri said, “I might try it.”
- Chapter 2 (p. 51).
- She wondered if she could put a dart in his eye. It would not kill him, but it might take the edge off his cockiness.
- Chapter 2 (p. 59).
- The new regime which had succeeded his after the coup had become as fragmentary as the old, in the time-honoured way of all revolutions.
- Chapter 3 (p. 61).
- “You can hardly blame them.”
“Assuming stupidity is an inherited trait, then no, I can’t.”
- Chapter 3 (p. 67).
- “How long have we been friends, Dan?”
“I wouldn’t exactly call it friendship; more a kind of mutual parasitism.”
- Chapter 7 (p. 166).
- I was going to call it a mistake, but you could argue that there are no mistakes in war, only fortunate and less fortunate events.
- Chapter 10 (p. 220).
- It seemed that she had not so much misjudged the woman as assigned her to completely the wrong species.
- Chapter 14 (p. 316).
- “A splendidly inept thing,” Sylveste said, nodding despite himself.
“The human capacity for grief. It just isn’t capable of providing an adequate emotional response once the dead exceed a few dozen in number. And it doesn’t just level off—it just gives up, resets itself to zero. Admit it. None of us feel a damn about these people.”
- Chapter 15 (p. 323).
- “You look older, son.”
“Yes, well, some of us have to get on with the business of being alive in the entropic universe.”
- Chapter 16 (p. 332).
- “I don’t know.” That was typical Sajaki; like all the genuinely clever people Sylveste had met he knew better than to feign understanding where none existed.
- Chapter 18 (p. 357).
- For whatever reason, I am now fully conscious. Perhaps all beta-levels are capable of this, or perhaps my sheer connectional complexity ensured that I exceeded some state of critical mass. I have no idea. All I know is that I think, and therefore I’m exceedingly angry.
- Chapter 18 (p. 364).
- “I don’t like this at all,” Hegazi said.
“Believe me,” Sylveste said, “you’re about to like it a lot less.”
- Chapter 18 (p. 370).
- “Haven’t you ever heard of morale-building?” Khouri had asked.
“Heard of it,” Volyova said. “Don’t happen to agree with it. Would you rather be happy and dead, or scared and alive?”
- Chapter 19 (p. 381).
- She had almost dared ask, but was perhaps too fearful of hearing something she could not refute.
- Chapter 23 (p. 424).
- The mere fact that there could be danger in this is fascination in itself; almost an incentive to push further. That’s how you feel, isn’t it? Every argument they could use against you would only strengthen your resolve. Because knowledge makes you hungry, and it’s a hunger you can’t resist, even if you know that what you’re feasting on could kill you.
- Chapter 26 (p. 452).
- “I imagine you feel insignificant,” Sajaki said, almost as if he had been listening in on the conversation. “Well; you’re justified in feeling that way. You are insignificant. That’s the majesty of this place. Would you choose it any other way?”
- Chapter 34 (p. 523).
- For someone admitting guilt she sounded remarkably void of repentance.
- Chapter 35 (p. 533).
- Khouri did not need to be told that Hades was a neutron star, any more than she needed to be told that there was no such thing as a safe close encounter with one. You either kept away or you died; those were the rules, and there was no force in the universe capable of negating them. Gravity ruled, and gravity did not take into account circumstances, or the unfairness of things, or listen to eleventh-hour petitions before reluctantly repealing its laws. Gravity crushed, and near the surface of a neutron star gravity crushed absolutely, until diamond flowed like water; until a mountain collapsed into a millionth of its height.
- Chapter 37 (p. 554).
Chasm City (2001)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
- His parents had abdicated responsibility to an illusion.
- Chapter 6 (p. 83).
- I learnt the true meaning of what was euphemistically described as close-quarters combat. No line-of-sight particle-beam weapons now; no delayed-detonation nano-munitions. What close-quarters combat meant was something which would have been infinitely more recognisable to a soldier of a thousand years earlier: the screaming fury of human beings packed so close together that the only effective way to kill each other was with sharpened metal weapons: bayonets and daggers, or with hands around each other’s throats; fingers pressed into each other’s eye-sockets. The only way to survive was to disengage all higher brain-functions and regress to an animal state of mind.
So I did. And in doing so, I learned a deeper truth about war. She punished those who flirted with her by making them like herself. Once you opened the door to the animal, there was no shutting it.
- Chapter 7 (p. 108).
- “Don’t you agree with me?”
“On some distant theoretical level, just possibly.”
- Chapter 12 (p. 177).
- Who was it who said that a wise man speaks when he has something to say, but a fool speaks because he must?
- Chapter 12 (p. 197).
- “But you can be sure there are pockets of wealth and influence, and I’m willing to wager that a few people are wealthier and more influential than they were before.”
“That’s always the way with disasters,” I said.
“They’re never bad news for everyone. Something nasty always rises to the top.”
- Chapter 13 (p. 208).
- The one thing I never counted on was having luck on my side.
It was generally simpler that way.
- Chapter 13 (p. 209).
- “Besides—we all know guns don’t kill people, do they?”
“No, it’s the small metal projectiles that generally do the killing,” Cahuella said, smiling.
- Chapter 19 (p. 315).
- Evolution doesn’t greatly care about what happens to creatures once they’ve passed on their genetic heritage.
- Chapter 20 (p. 332).
- “I gather you were all too busy killing each other.”
“That’s a fairly reductive summary of our history, but I don’t suppose it’s too far from the truth.”
- Chapter 21 (p. 359).
- The poor didn’t have them and so the rich flaunted them, the larger and more conspicuous the better.
- Chapter 25 (p. 406).
- “I don’t trust you.”
“Of course you don’t. I know I wouldn’t. And I’m not asking you to. I’m not putting you in a situation in which your trust of me is even remotely relevant. I’m just pointing a gun to your head and giving you orders.”
- Chapter 26 (p. 424).
- Am I that fascinating to you, or are you just more bored than I imagined?
- Chapter 27 (p. 438).
- “Tanner, are you insane?”
“Very probably several kinds of insane,” I said. “But I’m afraid it doesn’t change anything. I’m perfectly happy with my current delusional system.”
- Chapter 27 (p. 454).
- “That’s how it went, wasn’t it Zebra?”
“It might,” she said. “If I happened to be colluding in your own delusions.”
- Chapter 29 (p. 479).
- “Is there anyone in Chasm City she hasn’t deceived?”
“Possibly, somewhere, but only as an extreme theoretical possibility.”
- Chapter 29 (p. 481).
- “Is he dangerous?
“Anyone who lies for a living is dangerous.”
- Chapter 29 (p. 485).
- By and large these attempts to rewrite history were not taken seriously, but it was disconcerting to hear that they had gained even a toehold.
- Chapter 30 (p. 490).
- Just because something had spawned a myth did not automatically mean it had to contain anything of substance.
- Chapter 33 (p. 531).
- “Don’t tell me you aren’t the slightest bit curious, Norquinco.”
“I hope you burn in hell, Sky Haussmann.”
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
- Chapter 35 (p. 562).
- “Is there anyone or anything in this city which can’t be bought?” I said, slipping him a note.
“Yeah,” the man said, laughing quietly. “But I’m not it.”
- Chapter 39 (p. 634).
Redemption Ark (2002)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
- It was one of the oldest tricks of mob-management: give them a hate figure.
- Chapter 4 (p. 66)
- “You seem upset by the fact that we’re hated and feared.”
“It does give one pause for thought.”
- Chapter 5 (p. 80)
- He had never lost that mingled combination of awe and terror that welled up in him when confronted by the routinely huge distances of space.
- Chapter 8 (p. 129)
- The battle sunk towards the horizon. Presently it would be gone, leaving a sky unsullied by human affairs.
- Chapter 8 (p. 130)
- Volyova did not like planets at the best of times, and gas giants struck her as an unreasonable affront to human scale and frailty. In that respect, they were almost as bad as stars.
- Chapter 11 (p. 206)
- “What happened?”
“Let’s just say my efforts to reprogram the weapon were not an unqualified success, shall we, and leave it at that?” She hated discussing failure almost as much as she hated the thing itself.
- Chapter 15 (p. 255)
- It was his experience that crises in space fell into two categories: those that killed you immediately, usually without much warning, and those that gave you plenty of time to ruminate on the problem, even if no solution was very likely.
- Chapter 15 (p. 265)
- This gets better, it really does. The odd thing is, I actually think you might be telling the truth. If you were going to lie, you’d at least come up with something that made sense.
- Chapter 21 (p. 367)
- In Clavain’s experience, it was the less comforting possibility that generally turned out to be the case. It was the way the universe worked.
- Chapter 23 (p. 413)
- It was a numbers game, not a guaranteed method of avoiding being killed, but Clavain had been a soldier long enough to know that this was, ultimately, what most combat situations boiled down to.
- Chapter 25 (p. 452)
- Relativity distorted classical expectations in a way that Clavain still did not find entirely intuitive. Slam two objects towards each other, each with individual velocities just below light-speed, and the classical result for their closing velocity would be the sum of their individual speeds: just under twice the speed of light. Yet the true result, confirmed with numbing precision, was that the objects saw each other approach with a combined speed that was still just below the speed of light. Similarly, the relativistic closing velocity for two objects moving towards each other with individual speeds of one-half of light-speed was not light-speed itself, but eight-tenths of it. It was the way the universe was put together, and yet it was not something the human mind had evolved to accept.
- Chapter 26 (p. 463)
- “How are the internal complications, anyway? Aren’t the other branches of government getting a little suspicious about all these machinations?”
“Let’s just say that one or two discreet assassinations may still have to be performed,” Khouri said.
- Chapter 27 (p. 490)
- Either you are a man of unusual ability, Thorn, or a man with a rather inadequate grasp of human nature. I just hope it’s the former.
- Chapter 27 (p. 495)
- I don’t question your loyalty, Skade. I just wonder exactly what it is you’re loyal to.
- Chapter 29 (p. 540)
- Don’t overestimate your familiarity with technologies you barely understand. It could be your undoing.
- Chapter 30 (p. 565)
- They had been in love, desperately in love, but the universe cared nothing for the vicissitudes of the human heart.
- Chapter 31 (p. 586)
- But make no mistake. My counterpart is capable of a great deal of ruthlessness in pursuit of a just cause. He believes he has right on his side. And men who think they have right on their side are always the most dangerous sort.
- Chapter 32 (p. 600)
- “I’m not a bad man, Ilia. I’m just someone who knows exactly what needs to be done.”
“Like you said, always the most dangerous sort.”
- Chapter 33 (p. 611)
- She would worry, just as you worry. It’s the people who don’t worry—those who never have any doubts that what they’re doing is good and right—they’re the ones that cause the problems.
- Chapter 34 (p. 628)
- Clavain felt little in the way of regret; more a sense of quiet relief that they were past the negotiating stage and into the infinitely more honest arena of actual battle.
- Chapter 35 (p. 634)
- “Can I still wish you good luck?”
“You can wish me what the hell you like. It won’t make any difference. If it did, it would mean I hadn’t prepared well enough.
- Chapter 38 (p. 654)
- And even if what they showed you is true, that doesn’t begin to make it right. The cause might be just, Felka, but history’s littered with atrocities committed in the name of righteousness.
- Chapter 38 (p. 662)
- Clavain saw it all with sudden, heart-stopping clarity: all that mattered was the here and now. All that mattered was survival. Sentience that bowed down and accepted its own extinction—no matter what the long-term arguments, no matter how good the greater cause—was not the kind of sentience he was interested in preserving.
- Chapter 38 (pp. 663-664)
- There were choices to be made, harder choices than I would have liked, and I realised that I had been neglecting them because of their very difficulty.
- Chapter 39 (p. 667)
Absolution Gap (2003)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
- Memo to himself: the one way to make people panic was to warn them not to.
- Chapter 4 (p. 56)
- All machines knew what would happen to them when their masters lost faith in their infallibility.
- Chapter 5 (p. 75)
- To feel oneself so tiny, so fragile, so inherently losable, was at first spiritually crushing. But, by the same token, this realisation was also strangely liberating: if an individual human existence meant so little, if one’s actions were so cosmically irrelevant, then the notion of some absolute moral framework made about as much sense as the universal ether. Measured against the infinite, therefore, people were no more capable of meaningful sin—or meaningful good—than ants, or dust.
Worlds barely registered sin. Suns hardly deigned to notice it. On the scale of solar systems and galaxies, it meant nothing at all. It was like some obscure subatomic force that simply petered out on those scales.
- Chapter 6 (p. 84)
- But sanity, Vasko decided, was like the pattern of lights he could see through his cabin window. In almost any direction the only way to travel was into darkness, and there was a lot more darkness than light.
- Chapter 7 (pp. 105-106)
- Rashmika could tell when anyone around her was lying. But seeing through her own deceptions was another matter entirely.
- Chapter 8 (p. 119)
- The virus was not helping. He had hoped that it would, but the feelings it brought were too superficial. When he most needed their succour he could feel them for the paper-thin façades they were. Just because the virus was tickling the parts of his brain that produced feelings of religious experience didn’t mean he was able to turn off the other parts of his mind that recognised these feelings as having been induced artificially. He truly felt himself to be in the presence of something sacred, but he also knew, with total clarity, that this was due to neuroanatomy. Nothing was really with him: the organ music, the stained-glass windows in the sky, the sense of proximity to something huge and timeless and infinitely compassionate were all explicable in terms of neural wiring, firing potentials, synaptic gaps.
- Chapter 9 (p. 136)
- The church-sponsored archaeologists were the only ones who had any kind of overview of the entire haul of relics, and they were under intense pressure to ignore any evidence that conflicted with Quaicheist scripture. That was why Rashmika wrote them so many letters, and why their infrequent replies were always so evasive. She wanted an argument; she wanted to question the entire accepted view of the scuttlers. They wanted her to go away.
- Chapter 11 (p. 166)
- Maps had never really been his thing, even during his days under Scorpio in Chasm City. There, it had hardly mattered. Blood’s motto had always been that if you needed a map to find your way around a neighbourhood, you were already in trouble.
- Chapter 18 (pp. 255-256)
- “Personally,” Scorpio said, “I think it’s time to stop thinking chivalry and start thinking artillery.”
- Chapter 19 (p. 272)
- “But of course, you don’t believe in the existence of sin, do you?”
“I believe in the existence of reckless stupidity,” Rashmika replied.
- Chapter 20 (p. 288)
- I’m fed up with everyone being lied to just because the administration thinks it’s in our best interests not to know all the facts.
- Chapter 25 (p. 378)
- He’s not really a religious man, but he knows which side his bread’s buttered on. The churches pay his salary, so he doesn’t want anyone rocking the boat with unorthodox rumours.
- Chapter 28 (p. 441)
- “That would require an unprecedented leap of faith.”
“I don’t do faith,” Scorpio said.
- Chapter 33 (p. 515)
- It was a glaring omission, a sign of cosmic sloppiness. Not even that, Vasko corrected himself. It was a sign of cosmic obliviousness. The universe didn’t know what was happening here. It didn’t know and it didn’t care. It didn’t even know that it didn’t know.
- Chapter 39 (p. 627)
Century Rain (2004)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
- “Until recently we were a trio. Before that, a quartet. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m beginning to detect a trend.”
- Chapter 1 (p. 1)
- “I thought debate was supposed to be healthy,” she countered.
“It is,” Auger replied, “so long as you don’t disagree with me.”
- Chapter 2 (p. 17)
- As always, it was necessary to strike a balance between a cavalier disregard for the rules and a professional understanding that some rules were more flexible than others.
- Chapter 2 (p. 19)
- Charm was what he excelled at. If anyone sensed his underlying shallowness, they usually mistook it for well-hidden great depth of character, like misinterpreting a radar bounce.
- Chapter 4 (p. 42)
- “The Fascists got what they deserved,” Floyd said.
“My husband lived long enough to see those monsters come to come to power. He saw through their lies and promises, but he also knew that they spoke to something nasty and squalid in the human spirit. Something in all of us. We want to hate those who are not like us. All we need is an excuse, a whisper in the ear.”
- Chapter 9 (p. 135)
- “Maybe it’s not as bad as she fears. Old people always think the world is going to ruin. It’s their job.”
“Maybe they’re right,” Floyd replied.
- Chapter 9 (p. 138)
- “There’s a catch,” Skellsgard said.
“Another one? But of course there is. You know, I’m thinking I should start a collection.”
- Chapter 11 (p. 171)
- “The central defect of the human mind,” Custine said, “is its unfortunate habit of seeing patterns where none exist. Of course, that is also its chief asset.”
“But sometimes a very dangerous one.”
- Chapter 12 (p. 178)
- Why was it never good news that put problems into perspective? Why did it always take another set of problems?
- Chapter 14 (p. 219)
- “It must be a real one-horse town.”
Auger shook her head as she lit a cigarette. “It has wild ambitions of becoming a one-horse town.”
- Chapter 15 (p. 242)
- Nice girls don’t carry guns.
- Chapter 19 (p. 325)
- She must have walked through life with men like him falling at her feet, squashing them underfoot like autumn leaves. It probably happened so often that all she noticed was that nice crunching sound.
- Chapter 21 (p. 357)
- “I’ll survive,” Floyd said. “I’m a private detective. If I don’t get clouted on the head at least once a week, I’m not doing my job properly.”
- Chapter 24 (p. 392)
- “Is that as bad as it sounds?” Floyd asked.
“No,” Auger said. “It’s worse. A lot worse.”
- Chapter 30 (p. 466)
- The future might have been crammed with miracles and wonders, but it also offered truly awesome opportunities for screwing up.
- Chapter 30 (p. 467)
- Anxiety is a useful tool: it forces us to make plans. But when too much anxiety freezes us into indecision, it needs checking.
- Chapter 33 (p. 506)
- No one ever took music away from me, but I’m damned if it ever sounds quite as good as it used to when I was twenty.
- Chapter 36 (p. 555)
- “I feel as if I’m missing all the excitement.”
”In my experience,” Tunguska said, making himself a temporary seat, “excitement is always better when it happens to other people.”
- Chapter 36 (p. 561)
- “But at least you cared. At least you were ready to do something.”
“This little mess,” Auger said, “is all because of people who were ready to do something. People like me, who always know when they’re right and everyone else is wrong. Maybe what we need is a few less of us.”
- Chapter 36 (pp. 565-566)
- The simple fact was that she no longer hated them as a matter of principle. It was also a source of shameful amazement that she could ever have wasted so much energy on groundless prejudice, when acceptance and tolerance would have been the easier, even the lazier, course.
- Chapter 36 (p. 567)
- But when she tried to say something, the words always seemed trite and inadequate. Nothing measured up. When any moment might be their last, there was nothing she could ever imagine saying that had the necessary dignity to fill that instant. Silence was better. Silence had its own dignity.
- Chapter 37 (p. 573)
- It was bad, but it was some other slightly less piquant flavour of bad.
- Chapter 37 (p. 573)
- Auger could not help marvelling at the experience of being inside the ALS sphere and seeing her world as it should have been. This was an earth that had never known nuclear war, or runaway climatic catastrophe, or smart weather, or a Nanocaust. The sight of it made her want to weep. No image had ever come close to the heartbreaking beauty of this small blue world, a beauty all the more acute now that she knew how exquisitely fragile it was. It was the beauty of a butterfly’s wing.
- Chapter 40 (pp. 596-597)
- There was something about the cocksure confidence of that statement that gave Auger goose pimples. It was like an invitation to fate.
- Chapter 40 (p. 599)
- I guess I’ll do what everyone else does: get on with my life and forget the big questions.
- Chapter 41 (p. 606)
Pushing Ice (2005)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 978-0-441-01502-3
- It was astonishing how quickly friendship could turn to enmity, she thought, like a compass needle swinging from one pole to the other.
They’d been excellent friends. They’d make excellent enemies as well.
- Chapter 8 (p. 132)
- There’s a lot here we don’t understand. Adding one more thing to the list doesn’t strike me as the worst crime imaginable.
- Chapter 10 (p. 164)
- Such hopes now seemed ludicrous in their naivety, like trying to stop a bulldozer with a feather.
- Chapter 13 (p. 216)
- “You always did think like an engineer, Svieta.”
She nodded. It was only hours later that she realised he had not necessarily meant it as a compliment.
- Chapter 16 (p. 268)
- Once, they would have meant something to Svetlana, but now all she felt was a faint prickly of recollection. Fluency with mathematics—in the context of any kind of engineering discipline or physical science—was a use-it-or-lose-it skill.
- Chapter 18 (p. 294)
- “Even godlike aliens have to act rationally—don’t they?”
“I wouldn’t know,” she said. “I can’t recall ever meeting any.”
- Chapter 18 (p. 301)
- Hallucination doesn’t preclude a rational response to that same hallucination.
- Chapter 19 (p. 319)
- “Is he going to be okay?” Svetlana asked.
“He was dead, Svieta,” Axford said patiently. “Anything else has to count as an improvement.”
- Chapter 23 (p. 354)
- “The question is: do you trust me?”
Bella smiled. “That’s exactly the right attitude: trust your leaders, but be careful not to trust them too much.”
- Chapter 27 (p. 397)
- There are certain truths that, in themselves, are as dangerous as any advanced technology.
- Chapter 30 (p. 435)
- The existence theorem says that it is always much easier to find a solution when you can be confident that one exists.
- Chapter 31 (p. 444)
- “We’ve never lied to you,” McKinley said.
“No,” Bella said, “but you’ve done a damned good job of not correcting any of my assumptions.”
- Chapter 32 (p. 459)
- Some promises are best broken. Trust me on this: I’m a politician.
- Chapter 34 (p. 475)
- That was the universe: you could beat it once, you could float a message in a bottle across half of eternity, but the universe would always find a way to have the last laugh.
- Chapter 36 (p. 492)
- “There’s still hope.”
But a small, private voice said: there’s hope, and there’s desperation.
- Chapter 38 (p. 527)
- I wish there was something we could do. But organised structure is the most precious thing in the universe. When it is lost, it is truly lost.
- Chapter 39 (p. 557)
- “Then all this,” Chromis said, gesturing at the vista before them, “everything we’ve lived for and made, everything we’ve dreamed into existence—you firmly believe it won’t always be here?”
“It’d be egocentric to think otherwise. Almost every sentient being who ever lived belonged to a society that doesn’t exist any more. Why should we be any different?”
“But our deeds will remain.”
“If we’re lucky. There’s every chance they won’t survive either.”
“That’s so bleak, Rudd.”
“Bracing, I prefer to think.”
“But if nothing we do here has any guarantee of lasting, if even the best gestures have only a slim chance of outliving us—is there any reason not to just give up?”
“Every reason in the world,” Rudd said. “We’re here and we’re alive. It’s a beautiful evening, on the last perfect day of summer.” He turned and nodded at the waiting cauls. “Now let’s go down there and make the most of it, while it lasts.”
- Epilogue (pp. 579-580; closing words)
The Prefect (2007)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 978-0-441-01722-5
- They screwed with democracy. I’m not going to lose much sleep when democracy screws them back.
- Chapter 1 (p. 6)
- “Nothing he said indicated that he was that angry. I mean, there’s a difference between angry and murderous. Isn’t there?”
“Less than you’d think.”
- Chapter 5 (p. 52)
- One trusted machines. But one never expected machines to return the favor.
- Chapter 5 (p. 54)
- “I’m hoping no one will be quite that stupid,” Sparver said. “Then again, this is baseline humans we’re dealing with.”
- Chapter 6 (p. 59)
- You are that rarest of creatures: a man with the wisdom to see beyond his own time.
- Chapter 10 (p. 125)
- I’m just saying that right now we could all use a degree of perspective. Because this is not the end of the world.
- Chapter 13 (p. 191)
- Everything looked utterly normal, exactly as Thalia had expected save for the absence of a rampaging mob.
- Chapter 14 (p. 198)
- She’d walked a delicate line with commendable skill.
But sometimes the best case wasn’t good enough.
- Chapter 18 (p. 290)
- “I’m just saying...we can’t trust them. We’ve never been able to trust them. That’s always been a cornerstone of our operational policy.”
“Then maybe it’s time we got a new cornerstone. They’re people, Lillian. They might be people who make us uncomfortable, people with very different values from ours, but when we’re facing local extinction at the hands of a genocidal machine intelligence, I don’t think the differences between us look massively significant, do you?”
- Chapter 28 (p. 472)
House of Suns (2008)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 978-0-441-01886-4
- I was born in a house with a million rooms, built on a small, airless world on the edge of an empire of light and commerce that the adults called the Golden Hour, for a reason I did not yet grasp.
- Chapter 1 (p. 3; opening words)
- “Are you threatening me, shatterling”
“No, just indulging in a little wishful thinking.”
- Chapter 2 (p. 25)
- No act of knowledge acquisition is entirely without risk.
- Chapter 5 (p. 59)
- If my years as a shatterling had taught me anything, it was that not all questions had answers. Societies had reduced themselves to radioactive dust because they could not accept that single unpalatable truth.
- Chapter 8 (pp. 84-85)
- The problem was, although I was as certain as I could be that I was right, I could offer nothing to bolster my arguments.
- Introduction to Part 2 (p. 100)
- I had read in the story-cube that the speed of light was a universal limit; that in a thousand years of experimentation—despite any number of false dawns—no one had ever managed to circumvent it. This had made me feel hemmed in and claustrophobic—it was like being told I must never run or skip down the long, dreary corridors of the house, but must walk instead, with my neck straight and my hands held behind my back. I felt affronted, as if the speed of light was a personal assault on my liberty. Why should I not go as fast as I pleased? Why should I not skip and run? But I could no more explain why the speed limit existed than I could explain why two and two did not make five. It was simply the way things were, one of those rules—like the edict not to visit certain parts of the house—that were not to be questioned.
- Introduction to Part 2 (p. 100)
- “We’re flexible,” Campion said. “It’s the price we pay for being sentient.”
- Chapter 10 (p. 133)
- Civilisations beyond number had risen from obscurity, considering themselves masters of all creation, before fading back into the footnotes of history.
- Chapter 12 (p. 152)
- “Wonderful, isn’t it?”
“Wonderful and a little spooky.”
“Like all the best things in the universe.”
- Chapter 14 (p. 204)
- “I’m hearing a lot of reasons why someone wouldn’t hold a grudge against us,” Campion said.
Betony looked sympathetic. “Then you misunderstand human nature, my dear fellow. People will hate us simply for being what we are: a force for good, for benign non-interference. The mere fact that we haven’t dirtied our hands, that we’ve maintained an unblemished reputation—that’s enough to make someone detest us.”
- Chapter 14 (p. 209)
- People lived and died and did strange, pointless things to themselves. So did societies, be they city-sized states or galactic empires encompassing thousands of solar systems. Everything came and went, everything was new and bright with promise once and old and worn out later, and everything left a small, diminishing stain on eternity, a mark that time would eventually erase.
- Chapter 16 (p. 240)
- Open your story-cube on the way home and ask it to tell you about causality violation. I did once, because I asked the same question you did. Why should I be limited? What right does the universe have to say what I can and can’t do? I’m intelligent. The universe is just a lot of hydrogen and dirt, going through the motions. But in this instance the universe has the final say.
- Introduction to Part 4 (p. 267)
- I felt a terrible sadness open inside me, a void through which the winds from the end of the universe were blowing.
- Chapter 19 (p. 307)
- There had been a human soul in that skull only a few hours earlier, and now no authority in the universe could bring her back. We were like monkeys sitting around a fire that had just extinguished, wondering why the warmth and light had gone away.
- Chapter 19 (pp. 307-308)
- She was usually caught with her back to us, a distant figure standing on some cliff or high building with one hand on her hip and another shielding her eyes from the sun, lost in the rapture of scale and scenery, drunk on the very idea of being human, a monkey who had hit the big time.
- Chapter 21 (pp. 330-331)
- Sorry, Campion, but we can’t trust Lady Luck any more. Lately she’s taken to pissing on us from a great height.
- Chapter 33 (p. 467)
- They’re your children. The more you try to force them to be like you, the more they’re going to flare off in different directions like wild fireworks, the more they’re going to surprise and disappoint you.
- Introduction to Part 8 (pp. 485-486)
- Given the evidence at our disposal, only a fool would put any faith in the organic and the machine living harmoniously for the rest of time.
- Chapter 38 (pp. 501-502)
- Don’t you start. It’s bad enough that one of us feels he could have done more. We’re human, Campion—that’s all it boils down to. Human and not nearly as clever as we thought we were when it counted. End of story. When they put up the gravestone for our species, that’ll be the epitaph.
- Chapter 39 (p. 509)
- We were sowing so much misinformation that some of it came back and bit us.
- Chapter 39 (pp. 516-517)
- Do you see us slavering for revenge, that most pointlessly biological of imperatives?
- Chapter 41 (p. 558)
- “I have only your word for that.”
“Yes,” the glass man said, “that’s rather the point. There’s going to have to be a lot more trust from this time forward. Why don’t we start as we mean to go on?”
- Chapter 41 (p. 563)
Terminal World (2010)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 978-0-441-02043-0 (June 2011), 1st printing
- They might have their airships and machine guns, but superstition wasn’t something that went away just because you had engines and bullets.
- Chapter 11 (p. 177)
- “And you do not think that this is possible?”
“I’ll believe in anything when I see evidence for it.”
- Chapter 12 (p. 188)
- “I know what you’re feeling," Meroka said. “You’re thinking, this was my little adventure, it was all revolving around me. And now it’s not. You’re just a detail, swept up in the stuff she’s making happen. Welcome to the way most of us spend our lives feeling, Cutter. We’re just turds swirling our way down the pipe.”
- Chapter 12 (p. 188)
- “I had you down as a xenophobic zealot,” Quillen said. “I didn’t realize you were also a sadist.”
“We all have our hidden depths.”
- Chapter 13 (p. 218)
- I’m not asking you to open your mind to all manner of nonsense, Doctor, merely to allow for the possibility of things you might previously have dismissed, or failed to give any consideration to whatsoever. Such as the fact that the world was not always this way, and by implication doesn’t have to be this way in the future.
- Chapter 14 (p. 232)
- This was a watering hole, and watering holes drew the hungry as well as the parched.
- Chapter 16 (p. 265)
- “I take it you’re not a believer, Meroka?”
“I don’t believe.” He paused theatrically. “In anything. I question. I doubt. I doubt and I doubt consistently and systematically. It’s called thinking scientifically.”
“I hope you understand what the fuck that means,” Meroka said, because I sure don’t.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to, my dear. The world isn’t exactly conducive to scientific thinking. Not in its present condition. But it’s changing, and so must we. Those of us who can, anyway.”
- Chapter 16 (p. 274)
- “We don’t have enough evidence to decide either way,” Ricasso said, “so for now we may as well keep open minds.”
- Chapter 22 (p. 405)
- “Do you think it means anything?”
“Probably not," Ricasso said, wiping his dust-smeared hands on his knees. “I’m all for looking for meaning in ancient texts. But now and then you have to just accept the fact that you’re dealing with so much religious gibberish.”
- Chapter 22 (p. 413)
- Welcome to politics, Doctor. We don’t get to pick our allies. The best we can hope for is that we don’t despise them quite as much as our enemies.
- Chapter 22 (p. 417)
- Hopefully they’ll accept me for what I am, not what I was. That’s all we can ever hope for, isn’t it?
- Chapter 24 (p. 454)
- It was easy to sound that confident; less easy to believe it in his heart. They had got this far did not give them an automatic guarantee of success. The world did not work like that. It took pleasure in punishing the cocksure.
- Chapter 24 (p. 455)
- She was pointing into the empty, angel-less heavens beyond.
Everything else. The universe.
- Chapter 30 (p. 550; closing words)
Blue Remembered Earth (2012)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 978-0-425-25616-9 (June 2013), 3rd printing
Spelling, italics, and ellipses (except the one indicated) as in the book
- What you encountered was an abomination, a military intelligence. It was designed to be insidious and spiteful and inimical to life, and it wasn’t smart enough to have a conscience.
- Chapter 3 (pp. 65-66)
- “We’re pushing into deep space now—Trans-Neptunian, the inner boundary of the Kuiper belt, and we’ve even got machines in the Oort cloud. That’s where it gets stickier. If we’re going to do anything useful out there, we’ll need smart machines and lots of them. Machines that break right through the existing cognition thresholds, into post-artilect computation. Human-level thinkers that can live with us, be our equals as well as our workers.”
“You’re not sounding any less scary than you were five minutes ago,” Geoffrey said.
“Look, in a thousand years, the difference between people and machines…It’s going to seem about as relevant as the difference between Protestants and Catholics: some ludicrous relic of Dark Age thinking.”
- Chapter 3 (p. 67; in the book, an artilect is a sentient AI)
- She looked at him, marvelling. “Sometimes it’s as if you’re living a century behind the rest of us.”
“Elephants don’t care what century it is. They care what season it is.”
- Chapter 4 (p. 74)
- The air crackled with rivalry and the potential for swift backstabbing.
Geoffrey hadn’t sensed anything like it since his last academic conference.
- Chapter 5 (p. 86)
- In a flash she understood herself for what she was: an exceedingly smart monkey. She was a smart monkey who had travelled across interplanetary space in a thing made by other smart monkeys. And the fact of this was enough to make her laugh out loud, as if she had suddenly, belatedly, grasped the punchline to a very involved joke.
I’m the punchline, Sunday thought. I’m the period, the full stop at the end of an immensely long and convoluted chain of happenstance and contingency stretching from the discovery of fire down in the Olduvai Gorge, through the inventions of language and paper and the wheel, through all the unremembered centuries to…this. This condition. Being brought out of hibernation aboard a spaceship orbiting another planet. Being alive in the twenty-second century. Being a thing with a central nervous system complex enough to understand the concept of being a thing with a central nervous system. Simply being.
Consider all the inanimate matter in the universe, all the dumb atoms, all the mindless molecules, all the oblivious dust grains and pebbles and rocks and iceballs and worlds and stars, all the unthinking galaxies and superclusters, wheeling through the oblivious time-haunted megaparsecs of the cosmic supervoid. In all that immensity, she had somehow contrived to be a human being, a microscopically tiny, cosmically insignificant bundle of information-processing systems, wired to a mind more structurally complex than the Milky Way itself, maybe even more complex than the rest of the whole damned universe.
She had threaded the needle of creation and stabbed the cosmic bullseye.
- Chapter 12 (pp. 215-216)
- “How did you…pass the time?” Sunday asked. “You couldn’t just ching out of it, could you?”
“We had a different form of chinging,” Eunice said. “An earlier type of virtual-reality technology, much more robust and completely unaffected by time lag. You may have heard of it. We called it ‘reading.’”
- Chapter 12 (p. 228; in the book, chinging is an advanced VR form of communication)
- “I worry that it’s me they’re really after.”
“You don’t exist. At the risk of wounding your ego, not everyone in the known universe is obsessed with you and your secret history.”
- Chapter 14 (p. 260)
- You’ll have to excuse our customs and immigration staff: they preach courtesy and respect while demonstrating exactly the opposite.
- Chapter 14 (p. 265)
- She worked quickly, but not because she considered the commission beneath her. It was simply the way she always approached her art. Preparation, forethought, hours of meditation, then an explosion of swift and decisive action, like the quick and merciful descent of a sword. Execution, in every sense of the word.
- Chapter 15 (p. 272)
- The world had absorbed the dizzying lessons of modern science easily enough, hadn’t it? Reality was a trick of cognition, an illusion woven by the brain. Beneath the apparently solid skin of the world lay a fizzing unreality of quantum mechanics, playing out on a warped and surreal Salvador Dali landscape. Ghost worlds peeled away from the present with every decision. The universe itself would one day simmer down to absolute entropic stasis, the absolute and literal end of time itself. No action, no memory of an action, no trace of a memory, could endure for ever. Every human deed, from the smallest kindness to the grandest artistic achievement, was ultimately pointless.
But it wasn’t as if people went around thinking about that when they had lovers to meet, menus to choose from, birthdays to remember. The humdrum concerns of normal life trumped the miraculous every time.…And the knowledge that humanity was not alone in the universe would be as relevant to most as the knowledge that protons were built of quarks.
- Chapter 16 (pp. 282-283; ellipsis represents the elision of a brief list of examples)
- Nature shouldn’t be able to do this, Sunday thought. It shouldn’t be able to produce something that resembled the work of directed intelligence, something artful, when the only factors involved were unthinking physics and obscene, spendthrift quantities of time. Time to lay down the sediments, in deluge after deluge, entire epochs in the impossibly distant past when Mars had been both warm and wet, a world deluded into thinking it had a future. Time for cosmic happenstance to hurl a fist from the sky, punching down through these carefully superimposed layers, drilling through these carefully superimposed layers, drilling the geological chapters like a bullet through a book. And then yesterday more time—countless millions of years—for wind and dust to work their callous handiwork, scouring and abrading, wearing the exposed layers back at subtly different rates depending on hardness and chemistry, util these deliberate-looking right-angled steps and contours began to assume grand and imperial solidity, rising from the depths like the stairways of the gods.
Awe-inspiring, yesterday. Sometimes it was entirely right and proper to be awed. And recognising the physics in these formations, the hand of time and matter and the nuclear forces underpinning all things, did not lessen that feeling. What was she, ultimately, but the end product of physics and matter? And what was her art but the product of physics and matter working on itself?
- Chapter 17 (pp. 292-293)
- We have been clever, and on occasion we have been foolish. For smart monkeys, we can, when the mood takes us, be exceedingly stupid. But it was cleverness that brought us to this point, and it is only cleverness that will serve us from now on.
We have no time for anything else.
- Epilogue (p. 562; closing words)
On the Steel Breeze (2013)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 978-0-425-25633-6 (June 2015), 3rd printing
- They had hardly ever spoken of her life before the the day they met in Belém. It was what they had both agreed on, a relationship built on a solid foundation of mutual ignorance.
- Chapter 1 (p. 10)
- I’ll argue to the death against stupid legislation, but some rules exist for a reason.
- Chapter 5 (p. 43)
- I ran an experiment and I got a result. That’s more useful to us than fifty years of theorising.
- Chapter 6 (p. 71)
- Venus was a machine for making bad weather.
- Chapter 12 (p. 135)
- Something that bad, it makes the headlines. They were idiots to bet against physics.
- Chapter (p. 149)
- Autocratic governments are masters of self-contradiction. They say one thing, do another.
- Chapter 22 (p. 253)
- “That doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.”
“Welcome to politics.”
- Chapter 22 (p. 253)
- Crime is an adaptive organism. Squeeze one niche and it moves into another.
- Chapter 26 (p. 283)
- This is a kindness, a thing done to another human being for no reason other than compassion. A private, dignified act of basic human decency, which history, being the bastard that it is, will probably neglect to commemorate.
- Chapter 28 (p. 304)
- “I can’t tell you how much happier I’d be meeting a bunch of artificial intelligences if I also happened to have one on my side.”
“Can we drop the ‘artificial intelligence’? It’s a bit like me calling you a meat-based processing system.”
- Chapter 29 (p. 312)
- Humanity is an assemblage of information-processing entities, and in that regard you have potential.
- Chapter 43 (p. 438)
- All her concerns, all her fears, began to feel trifling. It was just a trick of perspective, really, seeing things as they truly were.
- Chapter 51 (p. 506)
- I had work to be getting on with. I’ve always had work to be getting on with. It’s what the universe was put there for: to give me things to do.
- Chapter 53 (p. 523)
- “Could be worse, as they say.”
“That’s the sum story of human history, isn’t it? Could be worse. As if that’s the very best that we can manage.”
- Chapter 53 (p. 527)
Poseidon's Wake (2015)Edit
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 978-0-425-25634-3 (September 2016), 2nd printing
Spelling, italics, and ellipses (except as indicated) as in the book
- I can’t stop being a rationalist just because it upsets some people.
- Chapter 9 (p. 99)
- “You weren’t there.”
“I didn’t have to be—I know my history.”
- Chapter 9 (p. 99)
- Half of all the great art and literature in existence went unrecognised during the lifetimes of its creators.
- Chapter 10 (p. 109)
- It was a fault of the human condition—or perhaps a blessing—that there was no situation which did not eventually become the normal state of affairs.
- Chapter 13 (p. 147)
- Kanu closed his eyes, opened them again, hoping that the world would have done the decent thing and changed into a less problematic version of itself.
- Chapter 14 (p. 161)
- “There are no nasty surprises,” Swift said, “only degrees of unpreparedness.”
- Chapter 22 (p. 253)
- “Ideology is all there is.”
“Really? I would have thought there were many other human qualities worth considering. Fairness. Generosity. A sense of humour. A willingness to see the best in people, even those we do not automatically agree with.”
- Chapter 23 (pp. 260-261)
- “History’s a stopped clock,” Eunice said. “It’s nice to look at, but there’s only so much you can tell you.”
- Chapter 25 (p. 280)
- “I will say this, though—it’s a very odd thing not to be conscious. To be—to all intents and purposes—dead. Neither gathering nor generating information, as cold and changeless as eternity. How do you humans live with the thought of that hanging over every moment of your pitifully short existences?”
“We don’t,” Kanu said. “We just get on with it.”
- Chapter 26 (p. 287)
- I’m not on the side of elephants or people, Goma. I’m on the side against stupidity.
- Chapter 29 (p. 333)
- “Clearly we missed something.”
“You have a fine talent for understatement.”
- Chapter 33 (p. 381)
- Of course there were no miracles to be had, except of the modest kind permitted by the exigencies of medicine and time.
- Chapter 33 (p. 381)
- “Are you impressed?” Goma dared ask.
“I don’t really do impressed. But consider yourselves the recipients of grudging approval.”
- Chapter 35 (p. 403)
- Goma shook her head. “No. We don’t speak of souls. Not now, not ever. Souls aren’t real.”
“Patterns, then. Abstract structures of experience and reaction, making up a consistent, continuous human identity.”
- Chapter 37 (p. 425)
- We have all made mistakes. The mark of intelligence is to learn from them, and not be bound by the errors of the past.
- Chapter 38 (p. 437)
- If I’ve learned one thing in my long existence, it’s that hesitation gets you nowhere.
- Chapter 39 (p. 450)
- “And when do we abandon negotiation and start hitting each other with increasingly large sticks?” Ru said.
“Only when we’ve exhausted all the other options,” Vasin said.
- Chapter 39 (p. 453)
- The sense of squandered possibility, of better paths now lost to them all, filled him with a sudden rising sadness. He wondered if it was too late to make something better of their world.
- Chapter 40 (p. 473)
- “You’re taking this very well,” Goma said.
Eunice gave a semi-shrug. “Experience. You can fight the odds up to a point, but sooner or later you have to face reality. The universe doesn’t care about temper tantrums or pity.”
- Chapter 41 (p. 485)
- There is a point to love, if love itself is remembered. There is a point to the creation of beauty, because beauty will endure. All words, all thoughts, have a chance of transcending death and time. There is no heaven or hell, no afterlife, no divine creator, no great will behind the universe, no meaning beyond that revealed by our senses and our intellects.
This is a hard thing to accept. Yet there is still a point to being alive, and that makes the acceptance bearable. But the universe withholds even this bleak consolation.
Within its deepest structure, written like a curse into the very mathematics out of which it is forged, the universe contains a suicidal imperative. Vacuum itself is poised in an unstable condition. Given time—and the one certainty is that there will always be time—the vacuum instability will tip the universe into a new state of being. In that instant of uncreation, all information encoded in the present universe will be erased.
No memory of anything will endure. No single experience of any living organism will be preserved. Nothing learned or discovered or made will survive. No art, no science, no history, no deed, no kindness, no fond thought, not a single moment of human happiness.
Nothing will last.
Nothing will matter.
Nothing has ever mattered.
- Chapter 46 (p. 528)
- “I’d argue with you, but I suspect it would feel a bit like arguing with myself.”
- Chapter 51 (p. 568)
- “They dug too far into physics and it bit them. Physics will do that. It’s an ungrateful piece of shit. It’s a fickle lover that will always betray you. It courts you, gives you rewards, coughs up little treats like fire and the wheel, telescopes and the secret of starflight, makes you think you’re worth it, that you’re the special one, that you really, really matter to it.…All the while it’s saving up this nasty little truth: that every thought, every deed, every hope you’ve ever held is futile. That the universe will end, and forget itself. That there is no such thing as meaning.…
“Do you believe it?” Goma asked.
“Of course I believe it. Physics doesn’t give a damn about how we feel. It doesn’t give a damn about a sleeping soundly in our beds, thinking we matter.”
- Chapter 51 (pp. 577-578; ellipses represent brief elisions for the sake of continuity)
- Oh, I’m not perfect—not by a long stretch. I just make the rest of you look bad.
- Chapter 51 (p. 580)
- “Now you’re scaring me.”
“If you were not scared, you don’t understand the situation.”
- Chapter 53 (p. 590)
- “What could be colder than being made to feel the utter futility of existence? To know that not only is there no meaning to anything, but there never can be? That life itself is completely devoid of purpose? That nothing will be remembered? That despite our grandest efforts our boldest endeavours, nothing can or will ever be preserved? That the kindest acts are doomed to be forgotten, along with the cruelest? All loves, all hates erased from the record? Yes, what could be worse than that?”
“You tell me.”
“Nothing. Nothing at all in the whole of creation. And if death troubles me—which, I am pleased to say, it most certainly does—then the idea of not even being remembered, not even leaving the tiniest quantum ripple in the wake of the coming vacuum fluctuation…well, that is a great deal more than troubling. We live by our deeds, whether we are machines or people or elephants. And if our deeds are meaningless and forgotten what does that make us?”
“Nothing,” Kanu answered, fiercely enough that he spoke the word aloud. “Pointless interactions between matter and energy, doomed to be erased. That’s the message, Swift. That there’s no meaning. That we don’t matter.”
“No,” Swift answered with corresponding force. “We do matter. This truth does not rob us of meaning—it gives it back to us. It liberates us from the burden of posterity, from the burden of deluding ourselves that our acts have some chance of outlasting eternity. If we are kind to each other now, it’s not because we are hoping to be remembered well, to be lauded in some great accounting of things. It’s not because we want to be rewarded for our behaviour, or to be admired for the wonderful things we did during our brief span of existence. Exactly the opposite! Now that we know there is no chance of that, our deeds have no higher meaning than the context of the moment in which they occur. One decent deed, one kind gesture, enacted without thought of recompense or remembrance, performed in the full and certain knowledge that it will be forgotten, that it cannot be otherwise—that single deed refutes the entire message of the M-builders. They were wrong! There is no Terror, only enlightenment! Only liberation! And we will continue to refute their message with every gracious act, every decent thought, every human kindness—until the moment the vacuum rips.”
“Just a fancy speech, Swift. That’s all it is.”
“More than a speech, Kanu. A viable moral strategy for negating the M-builders’ nihilism. It’s a choice. A question of free will. Do you choose it, or reject it?”
- Chapter 53 (pp. 599-600)
- Believe me, Kanu—the one thing you don’t do in emergencies is think things through. Thinking things through gets you a headstone and a nice epitaph. She thought things through. See how that worked out for her.
- Chapter 53 (p. 601)
- You wish things were different from the way they are. That’s a refrain as old as time. I’ve lived a long and strange sort of life, Kanu, and I’ve known that feeling a few times. Generally it’s best to accept that things are exactly as bad as they look. At least that way you know it’s time to start digging your way out.
- Chapter 53 (p. 605)
- “For all you know, no one even remembers what you did by now.”
“No one remembers anything, in the end.”
- Chapter 55 (p. 620)