Thursday, May 18, 2006

06.17 Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds


Revelation Space (2000) by Alastair Reynolds
Pbk, Ace Science Fiction, 585p.

Here it is on the 18th of May and I have just finished my 17th book. You might notice that it has been fully a month since my last "50 Books" posting. For me, that is called being stalled. The cause of this was this novel, Revelation Space.

Alastair Reynolds is a Welsh sci-fi author whose work is generally characterized as being hard science, space opera. I'd heard many positive recommendations about his work, not least of all from another UK sci-fi'er, Iain M. Banks. Revelation Space is the first several novels and short stories he has written which exist in a future called Revelation Space (natch).

Humans exist in a form generally similar to what we are used to. Space exploration is common but slow. There is no FTL technology but there are ship drives which can reach near light travel. Reefersleep allows long distances to be covered over years. These drives, however, are relic tech from an extinct species and are in limited supply.

The book begins weaving multiple plotlines and builds a whole universe quite quickly. Consequently, it is hard to get a handle on who is doing what and to what end in the front end of the novel. Three larger stories begin to emerge.

An ex-military assassin is contracted by an organization, Shadowplay, that wealthy people hire to kill themselves so that they can have an experience if they survive.

Aboard a lighthugger interstellar ship, Nostalgia for Infinity, Ilia Volyova struggles with an insane Gunnery officer as the captain is slowly consumed by an ever expanding Melding Plague.

On the scarred desert planet Resurgam, the last son of House Sylveste searches for clues to the sudden and complete annihilation of an ancient species.

Reynolds slowly begins to twist the various characters together and at the same time creates a vivid and rich world. Alien species, the Shrouds and the Pattern Jugglers; and a final trip to the nearby neutron star Hades and the strange camouflaged artificial planet Cerberus that orbits it.

Although the novel took me a long time to get through, I think that ultimately it was worth it. I already have a copy of his second book, Chasm City, and even though I know it won't be off the shelf soon, I will read it someday.

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