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Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds
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Century Rain

by Alastair Reynolds

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I loved this story, and was sad to find it was a standalone as upon finishing I immediately looked for the sequel. However, it is a complete story in itself. The book starts off as sci-fi thriller set 200 years in the future, where an Apocalypse has rendered earth a lifeless husk, and we are following the story of an archaeologist studying the wastelands of Paris. The story then switches to Paris of the 1950s, but not a 1950s we recognize, some things that should have happened by 1959 haven't.

The stories intertwine, and we are treated to a thriller where the main protagonist, aforementioned archaeologist, Verity Auger, has to complete a mission on this 1950s world as she has the knowledge of Paris at this time. She is a kick-ass character and Reynolds treats her to several near death experiences which left me on a rollercoaster ride of emotion, wondering if she, and the other characters I had come to care about with little, but careful, character development, were going to make it. Recommended.

Audio-book version:
I listened to the auido-book narrated by the British John Lee. He did an excellent job with the many female voices, and his narration was very even and I now associate Alastair Reynolds with John Lee's narration. ( )
  wifilibrarian | Feb 3, 2014 |
In this standalone story, Alastair Reynolds manages to squeeze multiple SF sub-genres together harmoniously, ensuring something entertaining for all readers. The premise is that a dormant snapshot 'backup' copy of the earth, accurately duplicating the 1936 moment when it was mysteriously created by aliens down to the last atom, has been discovered in deep space and it has been activated by one of the warring factions from the 24th century. Now, history progresses there under the subtle influence of hostile agents who prevent WW2 as a means of stifling the technological developments that might allow the inhabitants to resist the greater holocaust they have planned for them, in the pursuit of pristine real estate. The unlikely heroes are a 24th-century archeologist who specializes in pre-apocalypse excavations, and a down-on-his-luck private investigator who begins to see that something isn't quite right in his 1959.

Sound confusing yet? It actually settles in fairly gradually, and the two Earth timelines are well delineated. The primary three or four characters are also very rounded, and a lot more believable and flawed than commonly seen in such busy plots; The private investigator Wendell Floyd, for example, sees himself primarily as a struggling musician who takes on PI work between gigs, and sees the world in a very musical way. Verity Auger, the archeologist intervening in his world, consistently and stubbornly acts in a much braver manner than she herself asserts. I was surprised to read so little about the children she left behind for her mission, but which she claims are central to her motivations.

The miracle and threat of nanotechnology are central themes explored, and in nearly every scene in which it is employed, we see unique applications that I've not seen elsewhere, and I appreciated the expanding implications of its use. Notably absent are the expected frictions and misunderstandings of characters from such disparate cultures interacting, but a technological 'hand wave' introduced early on may explain this. The pacing picked up considerably in the final third of the story, when the setting shifts dramatically, but this corresponded nicely to the rising stakes in the conflict. All in all, an exciting and thought provoking novel that lives up to expectations from this excellent author. ( )
  SciFi-Kindle | Jun 4, 2013 |
This might be my favorite Al Reynolds yet. I enjoyed his take on the detective story juxtaposed with his quality of space opera. ( )
  MattP225 | Apr 27, 2013 |
I can't remember why I first picked up this book, but I read it twice very soon after getting it (and believe me, it's another of those on the "to read again" list). There's something of the detective novel in it, and it's certainly sci-fi -- not quite sure if it goes into cyberpunk, because I'm no good with genres. There are two parallel stories in this that converge, and the best you can hope for is a bittersweet ending. I read the whole book in about half a day because I really didn't want to put it down. In-world politics, amusing little anecdotes (overly intelligent control systems formed fungi on the ocean into the shape of a rude gesture, if I recall rightly), some near inevitable commentary about the evils we're inflicting on earth... There's also an element of time travel, and alien intelligences, and the sense that there's something bigger hanging around outside the story... As I said, I loved it.

(I gave my copy to my sister, who despite not being much of a reader, loved it madly.) ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
I found this book to be a compulsive page-turner; something I wasn't expecting. Given that Reynolds is noted for his strict real-world physics approach (even if he does probe the boundaries of the possible from time to time), I wasn't entirely expecting an alternate history novel from him. But Reynolds has found a way to deliver such a thing in a manner totally consistent with "real" physics.

The story concerns archaeologists excavating a post-disaster Earth that has been ravaged by uncontrolled nanotechnology, and a noir thriller plot set in a 1950s Paris - but not the Paris we are familiar with. The two are linked via wormhole technology - again, well described with a proper feel for the technicalities that a practical application of such technology would involve.

The Parisian scenes are well written and vivid; Reynolds acknowledges a debt to Georges Simenon; film fans should think of Dassin's 'Rififi' to get the feel of the piece. About two-thirds of the way through, the Paris character experiences conceptual breakthrough and comes into the future world, and I was concerned about the gear change the novel goes through into space opera. I needn't have worried; the action was seamlessly added in, and was itself both exciting and strange. (Even the fact that one character appeared to spring out of nowhere didn't cause too many problems, as that character never actually appeared on-stage, which in retrospect seems strange but at the time worked surprisingly well. Reynolds has done this trick before; it's akin to the real world, where our lives and what we do can be affected by politicians who we know a lot about, and whose decisions impact our lives directlty, but who we hardly never meet, do not interact with, and know nothing about on a personal level.)

In all, a book with an intriguing premise, a puzzle that gets deeper even as we find out more, and some characters who we engage with closely. ( )
1 vote RobertDay | Nov 7, 2011 |
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The river flowing sluggishly under Pont de la Concorde was flat and grey, like worn-out linoleum.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441013074, Mass Market Paperback)

Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to the technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust.

Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose.

Something astonishing has been discovered at the far end of a wormhole: mid-twentieth century Earth, preserved like a fly in amber. Somewhere on this alternate planet is a device capable of destroying both worlds at either end of the wormhole. And Verity must find the device, and the man who plans to activate it, before it is too late—for the past and the future of two worlds…

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:15 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to the technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust. Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose. Something astonishing has been discovered at the far end of a wormhole: mid-twentieth century Earth, preserved like a fly in amber. Somewhere on this alternate planet is a device capable of destroying both worlds at either end of the wormhole. And Verity must find the device, and the man who plans to activate it, before it is too late - for the past and the future of two worlds" -- Cover verso.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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