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Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
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Title:Revelation Space
Authors:Alastair Reynolds
Info:Ace (2002), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds (2000)

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Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
I went into this book with the idea that I was going to love it. Although it was interesting at times, it also dragged and the plot refused to drag me along until I was about 50 pages from the end.

Now I've got to decide whether to read the other two books in the triology. Decisions, decisions...... ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Stunningly imaginative space opera set 5 centuries in the future.

A truism of hard science fiction is that (baring collapse-of-civilization scenarios) the farther into the future one sets a story, the harder it is to make it convincing. In this the redoubtable Mr. Reynolds succeeds amazingly well.

In this future there is interstellar colonization, but not faster-than-light travel. Story time is bent intriguingly due to some characters journeying at relativistic speeds while others are planet-bound. Humanity too has evolved in interesting ways. Rather than nationalities or races we have tribal associations or factions (similar to the schema in Bruce Sterling’s landmark and comparably inventive Schismatrix). The star-faring crews (known as Ultras), have life-spans and value systems quite alien to planet- or sun-bound humans. Other strains are differentiated by the degree to which they have cyber implants boosting their biological functions—in other words, the degree to which they have gone cyborg. Still other characters are software simulations, former humans (or aliens) uploaded into various computer strata and capable of acting convincingly sentient.

All of which makes for a wildly mind-bending novel, both thrilling and confusing. It is a challenge when a writer’s intelligence and complexity of mind is way beyond that of the average reader, and in this Mr. Reynolds is challenged indeed. But he is a skillful enough dealer of narrative tension, with frequent, exciting crisis’s, that the book kept me reading.

My main dissatisfaction was that the so-far-beyond-me characters were often not only difficult to relate to, but difficult to like. To one degree or another they are all obsessive, cold-blooded and merciless. To imagine that humanity has progressed so far scientifically, while stalling or even regressing morally and spiritually, was just a little bit depressing.

5 starts for extrapolation 3 stars for plot 1 star for character and human interest / 3 = 3 stars.

( )
  JackMassa | Nov 23, 2016 |
Dear Book,

It's not you, it's me. I'm just not in a space-opera kind of place right now. If only we'd met fifteen years ago, we might have been perfect for each other. But our time is past. I hope we can still be friends. ( )
1 vote gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
This novel is about an exploration of an alien civilization and its death. The book opens at an archaeological dig on an alien world uncovering evidence of an alien civilization and its demise. The book, sort of, follows this exploration into space and artifacts.

Alastair Reynolds is a scientist, and has stated that the technologies in his stories are conceivable with our current understanding of science. So space travel is sub-light speeds with people in hibernation, who face elapsed-time differences with the people they know. In spite of this, he does introduce a number of odd, strange and even peculiar technologies and associated problems.

From a hard science fiction perspective, this is an interesting story. However, that's where it ends. The characters are a bit flat with weak dialog, and weak prose. There is no character growth, and the story seemed to drag on in the middle.

The characters themselves are rather odd and include a virtual character. Much of the book involves mistrust between the different characters as they try to guess each others motives. This went on too long without showing much evolution. I felt it had the making of a good political struggle, but it didn't pan out.

I did find the end somewhat compelling, but it didn't make up for the weaknesses. It is a good read for those interested in the hard science, but others will be disappointed. ( )
  Nodosaurus | Sep 13, 2016 |
Oh, the memory of the chills that ran up and down my spine when my sweetheart-at-the-time handed me this book. I couldn't tell you whether the cover art or the title thrilled me more. And then to find that the contents were worthy of both! Suddenly I had a new favorite living science fiction author. And this was his very first novel!

That was ten years ago. And I've lost track of how many times I have re-read Revelation Space since. Each time, I get completely lost in the atmosphere of awe, and the intricate noir-ish plotlines of Dan Sylveste, a noir Indiana Jones in space, Ana Khouri badass military bee-hatch and assassin, and Ilia Volyova triumvir of the giant lighthugger spaceship, the Nostalgia for Infinity. To say nothing of the grotesque, baroque horrors of the Melding Plague, a hybrid of biological and computer virus that corrupts flesh and machinery in equal measure and, as its name implies, melds the one into the other, resulting in a captain that is becoming one with his spaceship, and a city full of buildings that have warped to resemble giant vertical pieces of driftwood. I mean, wow!

And the book holds up to multiple re-reads, both in its own right and as the first in a trilogy. As is so often the case with my favorite novels, re-reading only enriches Revelation Space. To read it for the first time is to be distracted into focusing on Dan Sylveste and his travails of leading a vast program of space archaeology and holding political power on a distant research planet, losing that power, and being induced to reveal his lifetime of staggering secrets. All of this forms the main plot of the novel, but it is the stories of Ana Khouri and of Volyova and the rest of the crew of Nostalgia for Infinity that continue onward in Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap. Sylveste's deeds and revelations are just what sets them in motion.

So this time, as Sylveste realized just how important the extinct alien race, the Amarantin*, are, and the greater theme of what came to be known as the Revelation Space Trilogy (coming up with a frankly chilling explanation for the Fermi Paradox) gets teased out, I focused more on Ana, whose story is frankly tragic: a soldier, wounded and temporarily cryo-suspended; shipped light years from home through a clerical error and separated from her husband, probably forever; manipulated first into acting as a sport-assassin for what amounts to a far-future reality TV show and then -- by two completely different parties -- into joining the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity. She is the only character to appear in all three volumes of the trilogy and its side-quel, Chasm City, but is kind of the Frodo of the piece (though she gets some moments; see below), mostly manipulated by others and only just keeping a piece of herself back -- though with such manipulators as she faces, that's probably quite heroic right there.

And our Frodo is thrown up against some of the most magnificently bitchy characters in all of science fiction: arrogant, selfish scientists (some of them acting from beyond the grave!), singleminded obsessive jackasses, would-be murderers with cosmic vendettas, sociopathic and psychopathic maniacs in charge of weapons that could destroy whole planets without even needing a change of batteries. The dialogue among these characters is just the best:
"You prick," Khouri said, spitting in the process. "You narrowminded, egotistical prick."
"Congratulations," Sylveste said. "Now you can progress to words with six syllables."
And this is before she has a plasma rifle pointed at her sort-of-ally's crotch!

And then there are the set pieces, which never get old -- the discovery of the ancient Amarantin city on the planet Resurgam; the Shadowplay chase through Chasm City and its "Mulch"; the unbelievably cool spacesuit-cum-shuttles by which Volyova and Khouri pull a Baumgartner to the surface of Resurgam: the vast baroque bulk of Nostalgia for Infinity and its haunting secret, which is also the secret not only of the Amarantin but of yet another and even more mysterious alien race from Sylveste's past. Like his fellow "New Weird" author China Mieville, Reynolds thinks big -- but Reynolds was a working astronomer, still at the European Space Agency while writing this book, so his weird is cosmic in scale and scientifically plausible. He hit me like a piece of space debris at hyperspace speeds and he's never disappointed me, as numerous entries on this blog demonstrate.

All that and he's a lovely bloke on Twitter (@aquilarift). You'll probably hear a lot more about him from me this year

*And coming off of Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men as I am, I couldn't help but imagine the Amarantin as his Seventh (Flying) Men. Hey, why not? It's my brain. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
Alastair Reynolds is a name to watch. Mixing shades of Banks and Gibson with gigatons of originality, he has pulled off that most difficult of SF tropes, believable aliens. [...] Reynolds supplies hard-science answers that are plausible, entertaining and clever; he even manages to make different flavours of neutrino sound interesting.

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alastair Reynoldsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tervaharju, HannuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

References to this work on external resources.

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441009425, Mass Market Paperback)

Alastair Reynolds's first novel is "hard" SF on an epic scale, crammed with technological marvels and immensities. Its events take place over a relatively short period, but have roots a billion years old--when the Dawn War ravaged our galaxy.

Sylveste is the only man ever to return alive and sane from a Shroud, an enclave in space protected by awesome gravity-warping defenses: "a folding a billion times less severe should have required more energy than was stored in the entire rest-mass of the galaxy." Now an intuition he doesn't understand makes him explore the dead world Resurgam, whose birdlike natives long ago tripped some booby trap that made their own sun erupt in a deadly flare.

Meanwhile, the vast, decaying lightship Nostalgia for Infinity is coming for Sylveste, whose dead father (in AI simulation) could perhaps help the Captain, frozen near absolute zero yet still suffering monstrous transformation by nanotech plague. Most of Infinity's tiny crew have hidden agendas--Khouri the reluctant contract assassin believes she must kill Sylveste to save humanity--and there are two bodiless stowaways, one no longer human and one never human. Shocking truths emerge from bluff, betrayal, and ingenious lies.

The trail leads to a neutron star where an orbiting alien construct has defenses to challenge the Infinity's planet-wrecking superweapons.

At the heart of this artifact, the final revelations detonate--most satisfyingly. Dense with information and incident, this longish novel has no surplus fat and seems almost too short. A sparkling SF debut. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:48 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Nine hundred thousand years ago, something wiped out the Amarantin. For the human colonists settling the Amarantin homeworld Resurgam, it's of little more than academic interest. But Dan Sylveste will stop at nothing to get at the truth.

(summary from another edition)

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