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Reader's Thoughts: Revelation Space
- ESA Scientist Alistair Reynolds first book is exceptional son of space opera hard sci-fi, based around an astroarchaologists attempt to contact what can be described as an alien race hiding behind a fold in space/time, whilst avoiding a revolution on the planet he is investigating, and the mercenary crew of a lighthugger starship who want his uploaded father to save there captain from an alien nanoplague.
Filled with fascinating, and rational, technology (the cyborged rat cleaners/spys on the lighthugger a particular favorite). Aliens that as Phil Dick described are not like us and interesting characters make this a very impressive first novel, begging to be mined for OA ideas.
- I just finished reading the first example of non internet science fiction that deals with transhumanist ideas. The book 'Revelation Space' by Alastair Reynolds shares many concepts with OA though in practice they are very different.
The book is based in the 26th century. There are three main locals that book explores. The first is a semi barren planet around Delta Pavonis that was once home to an alien civilization. The planet Resurgam was rendered uninhabitable by a massive solar flare style event millions of years ago. It is now home to a small human colony founded to reserach the aliens. The second world is known as Yellowstone and orbits Epsilon Eridani. Yellowstone is somewhat like one might imagine Titan. There are mentions of methane floods for example. The third local is a lighthugger, a STL interstellar vehicle that is the size of a very large city, called "Nostalgia for Infinity".
The story revolves around three people that seem completely unconnected to one another at first glance. The first is a Archeologies from Resurgam (former head of the colony and Yellowstone native), the second is a Soldier from Sky's Edge who due to a clerical error got sent to Yellowstone in a cyronic sleeper pod on a ship, the third is one of the roughly six member crew of the light hugger with an afinity towards weapons.
The story includes a nano plague on Yellowstone that infects other nano systems including personal implants. One of the main characters is contract assasin that hunts people that pay her to do so as a kinda sport played by the new immortal Yellowstone citizens. There is uploading, various subturing AI programs, human cladization, virtual reality, radical genemods, radical cyborg mods, cyborgization is practically universal. There is even a neutron star computer of alien origin. A event known as the Transenlightment. Star drives that seem a mixture of ramscoop and GUT. These things all just scratch the surface of things.
I highly recommend this book. It is as hard science as OA and is somewhat less dystopian. Things are described beautifully and are sure to thrill people interested in transhumanism ideas. However I should stress that it doesn't deal with the singularity or similar ideas which makes it far more palatable.
- Although set in the same universe as Revelation Space, this book could best be described as a Sci-Fi technothriller/revenge story, that although starts at a blistering pace with the sabotage of an orbital elevator, seems to loose pace midway through and not pick up till towards the very end.
There are two narratives throughout the book, one being that of Tanner Mirabel, whose desire for revenge leads him across 300 years to the planet Yellowstone and what was the center of interstellar culture, Chasm City, currently having its own set of problems with the same alien nanoplague from the first book. As he hunts down the man who killed his employer and employers wife. The second narrative is that of Sky Haussman, founder of the Sky's Edge colony, and religious messiah for some of the natives. Tanner being infected with an indoctrinal nanovirus before he left skys edge.
Although well envisioned, it comes with an obvious twist at the end, rather reminicent of The Prisoner episode, The Schizoid Man. Well written and full of ideas ready to be slotted into O.A, it is not up to the standard of the first book.
- PS Publishing is a very small UK publishers who never the less have managed to get some of the best science fiction authors in the world to write a novella; of which a small number are printed (500 paperback and 400 Hardback). All books are signed by Alastair Reynolds, while the hardbacks are also signed by the forewords writer Stephen Baxter.
Set in the same universe as Revelation Space and Chasm City, and starting on Yellowstone just prior to the nanoplague; it is the story of two descendants of the eighty, an ultra captain, a time travelling industrial spy from the glitter ring an expert on the pattern jugglers and a renegade cyberneticist. They travel to a planet called Golgotha, on which one of their number has discovered an alien citadel, access to which is governed by a labyrinth containing complex mathematical puzzles.
Its very difficult to describe this book without giving the game away; yet be assured that it reads just as you would think an OA rpg adventure would be carried off - absolutley stunning and yet again packed with technology just waiting to be mined for OA or any other science fiction scenario.
- How is it best to describe the third book by Alistair Reynolds? Well it's very much a sequal to Revelation Space, seeing the return of Nostalgia for Infinity and Triumvir Voylova, the doomsday weapons, the Captain and of course the Inhibitors. However they for the most part play a minor/supporting role.
Indeed prehaps the only way I could briefly describe Redemption Ark is to say it is sheer bloody briliance, and you should buy this book rather than eat!!
The story's protagonist is one Nevil Clavian (a character in a number of short stories by Reynolds). The Butcher of Tharsis, former soldier in the Coalition for Neural Purity and for the past 400 years a member of the Conjoiner faction of Humanity; a group mind responsable for many of the technological advances in Reynolds universe. Clavian from the outset represents a fascinating character, a man regardless of consequences who has always done the right thing. It is this attitude that causes him to turn his back on the Conjoiners, and cross the dozens of lightyears to Resurgam in a stolen lighthugger to do battle not only with the Triumvir, but also the Inhibitors and the Conjoiners, who are being directed by messages from one possible future, for the future of humanity.
Al Reynolds is truely the most exciting of all the new crop of Son of Space Opera authors. He has a genuine eye for action sequences, of which there are many in this book, coupled with a knack for epic storytelling and as an Astrophysicist himself, a well imagined and consistent style of technology. All of which are fully on display in this book; which deserves pride of place on the bookshelves of all OA fans.
Hell, buy this book just for the chapter where a Gas Giant is converted into a Dyson motor. Now thats Megascale Engineering...
Ben Higginbottom BACK