Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Areography

Weekend before last I was on the train reading Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, which the back cover describes as "a snarling, drooling, crazy-eyed mongrel of a book, equal parts steampunk, western, planetary romance and far-future SF"[1]. It begins in Spearpoint, the last city on Earth, an atmosphere-piercing spire. Then on page 106 our protagonist Quillon has a look at a map:
The other side of the map was not much of an improvement, but at least he recognised more of the landmarks. Soul’s Rest was the largest community anywhere on Earth, with the exception of Spearpoint, and that really was halfway around the world. It lay far to the west, beyond the Daughters, the three mountains punched in a sloping line with the regularity of bullet holes, beyond even the Mother Goddess, the tallest of all mountains, so tall and wide that from its footslopes it no longer seemed a mountain, but merely a gentle steepening of the ground. It lay west of the shrunken waters of the Long Gash and the Old Sea - marked in black on the map, although he had a suspicion that the waters had retreated even further since the map was drawn.

I recognise this terrain and it's not Earth. It also casts light on this later description of a character - "In his thirties, certainly - perhaps even his forties, but with the vigour of a man a third his age." - and some other passages.

Which of course leads me to wonder, when did I become so familiar with the distinctive features of another planet that I can pick them out from a brief description, the day after a quite savage stag night?

[1] This could describe my journey home, except replacing "far-future SF" with "near-future SF" and "book" with "rail journey".

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