This was written a couple of years ago, but it seems appropriate to post this now, since it has baubles in it.
I recently bought a stack of old SF books from a second-hand shop. Unfortunately it seems my discernment has changed over the years and quite a few of them went into a bag after a few pages to go back to a charity shop. I also went into Waterstones and bought some new books from writers who have never really failed me, and one of those is Alastair Reynolds. Finally giving up on the second-hand stuff I picked up Revenger.
Here we have a far future human civilization after the planets have been broken up and formed into millions of small worlds called the Congregation. There have been many ‘occupations’ of these worlds – the rises and falls of previous civilizations – which have left all sorts of high tech goodies scattered across space. These are often to be found in ‘baubles’ – worlds often concealed under force fields that open intermittently. This opening can be predicted by augury, usually by experts aboard the sailing ships that seek out this treasure. Of course the sailing ships run the perfectly feasible technology of light sails but, you know, there are pirates too.
Arthur C Clarke tells us that ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. Reynolds takes hold of this and gives us alchemy, a form of phrenology that delighted me, and all the dusty weirdness where advanced technology has become ancient, whipped up with a riff from Pirates of the Caribbean. I had a ball with this.