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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 83 (next | show all)
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 |
The begining of several books, not so well writen but intersting enough to go on. ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 2, 2016 |
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds is a hard science fiction space opera and the first book in the three volume Revelation Space series. Since Reynolds has a Ph.D in astronomy, we are seriously talking hard science fiction. For fans of hard science fiction, this means Reynolds writes from a knowledge base that lends authenticity to the narrative. He seriously explores theories and explanations for the universe he creates. In other words, there is real science in this science fiction.

The narrative follows three unpredictable characters: Sylveste, Khouri and Volyova. At the beginning, the story moves slowly as Reynolds introduces and explores the background, lives, and motivations of the main characters. Since they are all quite different and start out during different time periods, early on you need to pay close attention to the details. All three stories do eventually merge.

I have a feeling that the careful reading of Revelation Space, keeping in mind descriptions, times, locations, etc, will pay off as the series continues. All three of the characters are unreliable narrators. Reynolds clearly has his characters withhold information, delaying revelations until later in the story - and hugely at the end.

In general I felt the writing was good, as were the characterizations. Reynolds really excelled at establishing a setting for the story and I think you really get a feeling for the vastness of space, as well as the strangeness of those who only live on ships. That, along with details about the ship Nostalgia for Infinity, also set a rather dark, dangerous, and, er, decaying tone to the novel. There are some surprising twists and information at the very end.
Highly Recommended for fans of hard science fiction; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
This sci-fi tour de force probes a galaxy-wide enigma: why does spacefaring humanity encounter so few remnants of intelligent life? Excavating the 900,000-year-old Amarantin civilization on its home world, Resurgam, archaeologist Dan Sylveste discovers evidence of a splinter cult that abandoned Resurgam for the stars but returned, only to be swallowed up by a mysterious cataclysm that destroyed all the Amarantins.

Aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity, a vast light-hugger ship in interstellar space, the ominous Triumvirate of cyborg starfarers seeks Sylveste to heal its captain, afflicted by the deadly Melding Plague. The Melding Plague is a pathogen of initially unknown origin which infects and distorts both biological entities and any sufficiently advanced technology melding and distorting them with gruesome and disastrous results. In Chasm City on the slum-ridden world of Yellowstone, assassin Ana Khouri joins the Nostalgia's crew intent on killing Sylveste. Publishers Weekly [1]

In the assassin's head is a digital form of "Mademoiselle". It uncovers a mysterious entity calling itself "Sun Stealer" hidden in the Gunnery network. The ship is carrying a large cache of Hell Class weapons recovered in space that are destructive beyond measure: one weapon can make a star go nova. A battle commences to gain control of the networks between the two digital entities.

Upon arrival at Resurgam, the crew coerces the fledgling government to release Dan Sylveste from prison. However once aboard, Dan hijacks the ship by revealing that he has antimatter in his implants which he can detonate. The ship is forced to travel to an artificial planet Cerberus. The assassin Khouri learns from Mademoiselle that Cerberus contains an Inhibitor beacon, and argues against any further approach. Illia Volyova commences an attack upon Cerberus.

When Mademoiselle loses control of the ship's computers to her digital opponent, the crew learns that this digital entity is an envoy sent out to attract the attention of the Inhibitors.

Realizing that alerting the Inhibitors would spell the end of humanity, Volyova and Khouri attempt to stop Sylveste from reaching the beacon in Cerberus.

They are unsuccessful and Dan Sylveste penetrates Cerberus's defence systems where he learns that Cerberus was built by aliens to deter other species from reaching the Inhibitor beacon. Dan Sylveste now realizes that he has been tricked and he detonates the antimatter in his implants, sacrificing himself in a desperate attempt to stop the Inhibitors from awakening.

Volyova deactivated the freezer units holding the Melding Plague and allow it to infect the entire ship. With the strange entity destroyed, Khouri and Volyova leave unaware that the Inhibitors have, in fact, been awakened.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (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.

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Book description
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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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