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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

Work details

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds (2000)

  1. 70
    Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds (Arvoitus)
  2. 10
    Saturn Returns by Sean Williams (reading_fox)
    reading_fox: Dark Space opera, splintered human factions and impressive technology
  3. 00
    Marrow by Robert Reed (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: If you like Reynold's Revelation Space series, you will probably also like Robert Reed's Great Ship series. Both are intelligent,hard science fiction.

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In a distant future, where faster than light travel does not exist, habited planets are strewn throughout the galaxy and are isolated except for their nearest neighbors given the time and distances that need to be traversed to link them up.

Ultras, humans who have, er, evolved/altered themselves, to live on light-hugger ships that travel the great distances, are even more isolated, as they can have no real ties on planets where they might not return for hundreds of years.

An obsessed archaeologist, who had gone to one planet where there are ruins of one of the few alien civilizations they’ve discovered existed, is haunted and driven by the disastrous consequences of his experiences there, which no one really understands. Nor, really does he seem to understand what happened to him. Still, he wants to go back there, to discover the truth about the Amarantans if he can.

Meanwhile, someone has hired an assassin to kill him, and she’s gotten herself aboard a light-hugger ship to come for him.

And, why, given how hospitable the universe seems, given what humans have learned about it, are there no other alien cultures, but only the husks of destroyed alien civilizations? What’s happened to them all? Where are they?

A very complex and rather grim universe is depicted with all the obvious failings of humans still present and affecting humanity’s civilization. Will we, can we, ever learn? ( )
  majkia | Feb 27, 2014 |
I enjoyed the book. The end got a little trippy, but there was lots of plot twists and it constantly made me want to continue reading. ( )
  halkeye | Feb 6, 2014 |
An intriguing space opera with plausible science. Revelation Space spans decades of time as faster than light travel is not possible within Reynolds universe. Communication within the sphere of colonized space is therefore often decades out of date and space travel between the colonies takes years. Space-farers have to face the fact that, upon a return to their homes, they will find everyone they ever knew either horribly aged or long dead and that their home worlds will be possibly hundreds of years removed from those they left behind.

This story has quite a bleak, oppressive, Ridley Scott-ish feel and is not the bright, shiny future of a Peter F. Hamilton or an Ian M. Banks. The characters are just as dark as the setting and are neither very likeable or easy to empathise with. Imagine a huge decrepit space ship, kilometers long. Once full of vast living-spaces, gardens and wildlife, now full of dark, eerie corridors and echoing halls, dripping with sludge and slowly being consumed by the melding plague, a strange nanotech virus that attacks anything with nanotechnology present within it; be it human or machine. Once brimming with life and hope, now decaying and manned by a small crew of cybernetically enhanced "Ultranaughts", who due to their long stretches in "reefer sleep" and their constant travel between the stars are mostly divorced from baseline humanity. Add to this the enigma of the alien "Shrouders", who maintain areas of distorted space - the Revelation Space of the title - rumoured to protect vast repositories of advanced technologies, and then a mystery of an ancient, long dead alien race and this makes for some good space opera.

The narrative focuses on three central characters, an Ultra and member of the crew of the decaying ship, an assassin for hire trying to save her husband and a scientist looking to uncover the ancient mystery. Although wonderfully rich in atmosphere and ideas, characterisation falls a bit by the wayside as Reynolds tries to paint a big picture of his universe. The story also suffers with some awkward info dumps and a clunky writing stye. As a result the pace is very stop-start and one is a considerable distance into the narrative before there is any indication of convergence among the separate threads. Though once the plot lines intertwine the pace picks up and the story drives ahead to a satisfying conclusion. In many respects this is a stunning novel, however the writing style and lack of characterisation let it down. I am however, intrigued to see where Reynolds goes with the sequels and though not in a great hurry to read them I definitely have them on my to-read. ( )
  TillyTenchwiggle | Feb 5, 2014 |
Quite simply the best science fiction novel I have ever read, and I've read some great ones. Dan Sylveste sets out on a quest to find out why an ancient alien society was wiped out soon after they discovered space travel. What he discovers was one of the more original concepts I have ever come across in reading science fiction. Great characters, great story, fast paced and just damn interesting to an old geek like me. This one blew me away. ( )
  utbw42 | Jan 13, 2014 |
Alastair Reynolds is one of those fairly big names in modern sci-fi, like Peter F. Hamilton or Greg Bear, whom I’ve been meaning to read for ages now. Revelation Space, his first novel, is a space opera taking place hundreds of years in the future, focusing mainly around the dusty, Mars-like planet of Resurgam, where archaeologist Dan Sylveste is studying the Amarantin – the planet’s native species, wiped out 900,000 years ago by a massive coronal event.

Reynolds’ galaxy is not exactly a bustling hive of variety – we visit only two worlds, and the two extant alien species are a type of sentient, planet-covering algae and unknown, uncontacted beings called “Shrouders” who live behind hostile barriers in space. Reynolds’ fictional world is more of a dark and frightening place, where humans live under strange political systems, half-ruined cities are gripped by nanotech “plagues,” and academics explore long-dead alien cities. I particularly liked the atmosphere aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity, a starship where much of the story takes place, massive in scale yet crewed by only five people. Reynolds gives the impression the ship was once a much grander and greater vehicle, but has fallen into decay and loneliness as the remaining crew spend most of their time in cryogenic sleep, travelling from star to star, searching for a cure for their dying captain.

Reynolds is also, unfortunately, one of those science fiction authors whose writing ability lags well behind his imagination. The book is bloated and ponderous, with occasional action sequences broken up by long passages of awkward dialogue and exposition. There is not a single likeable character in the entire cast – which I think was intentional – but neither are the bad attributes of those particular characters very well-founded. For example, when the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity visit Resurgam to recruit Sylveste, they opt for the stick rather than the carrot – despite the fact that it’s been well established that this is a cut-off, struggling colony world and the starship would have plenty to offer its citizens in exchange for Sylveste. The answer to this, I imagine, is simply that the ship’s acting captain is an asshole – but it still comes off as unrealistic. Reynolds is one of those authors who I imagine as being a very friendly, pleasant fellow in person, yet creates fictional worlds in which various Machiavellian characters act with brutality and subterfuge, and nod coolly at each other, explaining in stilted exposition that they respect each others’ brutality. I don’t mind reading about unlikeable characters, but I prefer them to be believably unlikeable.

As for the plot itself, it’s not too bad, when all’s said and done – except for a point midway through the novel when one character explains to another exactly what’s at stake, and this information is kept from the reader. A little way down the track, Reynolds does this again, and again, and again, and by the time the climax is taking place, every single character knows what’s going on except for the reader. Letting characters know things that the reader doesn’t is a technique that can be done well when used subtly and sparingly, but not when the author openly has a character say they’re about to explain everything, then end the chapter and jump to another story thread. It’s brazen and clumsy and did not endear me to the story.

Revelation Space is not a bad book, by science fiction standards, but neither is it particularly good. I’d be open to reading more books by Reynolds in the future (this was, after all, his first) but I won’t be rushing to do so. ( )
  edgeworth | Jan 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (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 editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tervaharju, HannuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (4)

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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:51 -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)

» see all 4 descriptions

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