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Inhibitor Phase
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Inhibitor Phase

Series: Revelation Space (9)

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1376169,516 (3.98)5
A stellar new science fiction adventure from the author who redefined space opera, set in his bestselling Revelation Space universe. For thirty years a tiny band of humans has been sheltering in the caverns of an airless, crater-pocked world called Michaelmas. Beyond their solar system lie the ruins of human interstellar civilization, stalked by a ruthless, infinitely patient cybernetic entity determined to root out the last few bands of survivors. One man has guided the people of Michaelmas through the hardest of times, and given them hope against the wolves: Miguel de Ruyter. When a lone human ship blunders into their system, and threatens to lead the wolves to Michaelmas, de Ruyter embarks on a desperate, near-suicide mission to prevent catastrophe. But an encounter with a refugee from the ship--the enigmatic woman who calls herself only Glass--leads to de Ruyter's world being turned upside down.… (more)
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Title:Inhibitor Phase
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Inhibitor Phase by Alastair Reynolds

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
After some considerable time, Alastair Reynolds returns to his Revelation Space universe with this tale of the beginning of the fight back against the technology-destroying alien Inhibitors (or 'wolves' as they are referred to throughout this book). Inhibitor Phase ticks all the boxes of his Revelation Space series, but without seeming too obvious; the book can stand alone even though there are various reveals in it. Many of the characters have pasts that earlier books covered, but it's not completely necessary to have read those books to enjoy this (but it will help). There's lots of what the Golden Age would have called "super-science", but with Reynolds, there's a reasonable expectation that there's some real world science at the bottom of it all.

Having said that, there are few surprises and a lot of plot token collecting. Conjoiner Heaven appears to have revolving doors, though they cannot be trusted to always deliver the result you expect.

Given how long it's been since there was a Revelation Space novel (in what we might call the "main sequence" of stories set in that universe; Reynolds has been returning to this universe as a whole with a recent second Prefect Dreyfus novel), it's likely that the target market for this book is the long-time Reynolds reader, who will find their memory jogged by elements in this book. I enjoyed it, though it will not be for everyone: the human race is split into a small number of isolated settlements hiding from the Inhibitors, and the action of the novel takes place against a background of humankind under threat and with no guarantee of any sort of future. The novel concludes with the outcome showing signs of hope rather than a clear-cut favourable outcome, though a glance at the timeline that Reynolds adds to the end of the book will set the tremulous reader's mind at ease.

I've looked back over some of my other reviews of earlier books in the series, and whilst at one stage I thought they were all standalone titles, I was taken by surprise by one that wasn't. A new reader might well find enough in Inhibitor Phase to pique their interest and inspire them to seek out the other books in the series, though a reader entirely new to science fiction might find the acceptance of the remarkable a bit too unlikely. Possibly one specifically for the enthusiastic Alastair Reynolds reader, then. ( )
1 vote RobertDay | Feb 6, 2022 |
Great book in the revelation space series from a master of science fiction. We need more books like this that have great story, characters, and science. ( )
1 vote aarondesk | Dec 31, 2021 |
An unnecessary nominally 'stand alone' episode in the Revelation Space opera, but I can't imagine how this would work for anyone new to the series. It's far from Alastair's best work, and is overlong for the small amount of details it fills in, whilst creating new ambiguities. It does give a few characters a peaceful ending that they hadn't otherwise experienced, I'm not sure that they deserve them though - which is kind of the point of the book.

Various characters have assumed new names and continued in their lives. It's a bit of a guessing game initially who is exactly whom, but AR quickly gets bored and allows their prior identities to be confirmed. The setting is after Absolution Gap, but before the GreenFly, which leaves ones massive continuity hole* and detaisl the start of humanities fight to survive if not exactly fight back, against the wolves. Aurua has gained knowledge of a device the NestBuilder Aliens decided was too dangerous to use, and reasoned, in true conjoiner fashion, that it can't be that bad if the alternative is extinction. She rounds up a few useful people and revisits most of the key locations in Revelation Space to do so - this felt very lazy indeed with a galaxy of wonders to explore why stick to the same places. This gathering of people and final ideas occupies most of the book and lends the whole thing a bit of an odd pacing, the last push to obtain the details from the Nestbuilders has little tension because we already know she's going to succeed.

Not one of his best, for Revelation Space completists only.

* how on earth is Scorp even contemplating more reefersleep journies let alone surviving them. He should be ancient, decrepit and most likely a frosticle. ( )
  reading_fox | Nov 27, 2021 |
I received this novel from Orbit Books through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to both of them for this opportunity.

It’s been a long time since I read Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space trilogy and I have to admit that I approached this new installment with some trepidation, because I know my memory of details and characters might be faulty: I saw that the author said Inhibitor Phase can be read as a standalone, and that’s partly true, because any reference to the previous works (and also the previous timeline of events) is offered in such a way as to provide enough information without need for lengthy and distracting explanations.

Still, there is a number of details that surface now and then that can shed more light on the background if you are familiar with Revelation Space, and I was pleasantly surprised by the discovery that I remembered much more than I thought possible, which added to my enjoyment of the story. Think of the difference in approach - according to your knowledge of Revelation Space or lack of it - as watching a movie in which the production hid some Easter eggs: old-time fans will recognize them and be delighted, but newcomers will enjoy the story nonetheless.

In the distant future envisioned by Alastair Reynolds, humanity scattered among the stars and made great progress, but encountered two huge dangers in its path: first the Melding Plague, a nanotech virus attacking both machinery and implants with horrifying consequences, particularly for those humans who had chosen to modify their bodies with augmentations. Centuries later, a worse threat manifested itself, that of the Inhibitors, also called “wolves”: hive-mind machines whose only goal was to annihilate any sentient life reaching beyond a certain level of technology. Inhibitor Phase starts a few decades after a devastating war that saw most of humanity succumb.

On the inhospitable world of Michaelmas, Miguel de Ruyter leads a small group of survivors living under the surface, hiding from Inhibitors by leaving as small a tech imprint as possible: when a ship in distress enters the system, Miguel tries to meet and destroy it before the wolves become aware of human activity, but the encounter propels him instead on a dangerous quest across the galaxy in search of a weapon that might one day tilt the balance in favor of humans and remove the Inhibitor threat once and for all. Miguel’s journey starts with something of a leisurely pace, but gains momentum and raises its stakes as it progresses, offering such surprises and revelations that often made me unsure about where the story would take me next - this is the main reason I’m struggling a little with this review because I don’t want to spoil anything: facing this novel with… innocence is indeed the best way to enjoy it.

Story-wise, Inhibitor Phase looks like a cross between a classic quest and a heist: the characters’ final goal is to procure a weapon from the secretive Nestbuilders, a weapon which might prove decisive in the battle against the Inhibitors, but to get there they need other items first, and some of them can only be obtained through dangers and sacrifice, which at times adds a layer of deep pathos to the adventure. There are elements of horror as well, particularly in the section in which the characters need to effect a dangerous exchange among the ruins of Chasm City, which was the background for a previous novel in the series: this encounter with the crime overlord - or rather lady, if you can use such term for this barbarous butcheress and her bloodthirsty Court of Miracles - is one of the most tense, most hair-raising passages in the whole novel.

Still, the adventure, the technological wonders and the obstacles to be overcome take second place in comparison with the personal journey facing the characters: identity is the main theme here, either hidden for personal reasons or convenience, or voluntarily suppressed to forget a dark past - I know I’m being cryptic here, but a few of the characters are not who they look on the surface, or who they think they are… Just as much as the quest for the Nestbuilders’ weapon forces the group to piece together information and parts, so the discovery of who they are, or were, is also a puzzle working slowly but steadily toward showing the reader the complete picture. What ties these different people together - even when they are wary or distrustful of each other - is their willingness to give everything they have to fulfill the goal of ridding the galaxy of the Inhibitor threat, and that spirit of sacrifice shows how much they value the survival of humanity and the potential for hope.

And speaking of humanity, be aware that this term has a far wider meaning here, because the people that once took off from Earth to venture into space have taken many forms in Reynolds’ universe, from the mind-linked Conjoiners to the cyborg-like Ultras. And yet one of the most human characters I encountered in Inhibitor Phase is a hyperpig, the result of past genetic manipulation and part of a race used for menial and dangerous tasks: Pinky (even though that’s not his real name) turned out to be my favorite, not in spite of but because of his gruff attitude that hid the psychological scars of a terrible past, and a great capacity for courage and selflessness. There is a magnificent sentence that defines Pinky perfectly: “You don’t have to be human to be people”, and it’s one that moved me deeply.

While I found that reading Revelation Space was a very immersive experience, sometimes it used to feel too much: too many characters to keep track of, too many narrative threads to follow, too much information - no matter how intriguing - to digest. This new novel in the saga appears almost streamlined when confronted with my recollection of the past, with a tighter pacing and only the barest details: in the end it makes for an enhanced reading experience and a totally engrossing story. I have no idea whether Reynolds intends to move forward with this story - although these premises are just begging to be developed - but if he decides to do so, I will be more than happy to see where he takes me next. ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Nov 26, 2021 |
Reynolds, Alastair. Inhibitor Phase. Revelation Space. Orbit, 2021.
If you are looking for high-class space opera these days, you look first to Peter F. Hamilton, James S. A. Corey, John Scalzi, and Alastair Reynolds. Inhibitor Phase, Reynolds’ new addition to the Revelation Space history, will certainly keep him in the pantheon. But be warned, though it is billed as a novel that can be read on its own in that it does not advance the plot of any of the previous works in the series, readers will need some familiarity with the series to appreciate what Reynolds is up to. There is a helpful glossary, character list, and chronology at the end of the novel, and I would recommend reading them first and consulting them often. Though I have read most of the novels in the series over the years, many of the details had grown dim for me, so I found all the appendices helpful. After all, the other novels in the Inhibitor subseries were first published from 2000 to 2003. Here is the premise: Miguel is the leader of a refugee community hiding out from the ancient robotic Inhibitors that have already decimated most of human society. He rescues the survivor of an interstellar craft, who turns out to be more than she seems. She forces him to join her on a quest to find a last-ditch weapon that will give humanity a chance against their foes. Along the way, he makes discoveries about himself that he had long suppressed. There is plenty of world building and some nail-biting action, and several well-drawn characters, who kept me engaged through it all. Inhibitor Phase is not an easy read, and it did make me want to put it down and reread four or five other Revelation Space novels first, but it is worth the effort. 4 stars. ( )
  Tom-e | Nov 7, 2021 |
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A stellar new science fiction adventure from the author who redefined space opera, set in his bestselling Revelation Space universe. For thirty years a tiny band of humans has been sheltering in the caverns of an airless, crater-pocked world called Michaelmas. Beyond their solar system lie the ruins of human interstellar civilization, stalked by a ruthless, infinitely patient cybernetic entity determined to root out the last few bands of survivors. One man has guided the people of Michaelmas through the hardest of times, and given them hope against the wolves: Miguel de Ruyter. When a lone human ship blunders into their system, and threatens to lead the wolves to Michaelmas, de Ruyter embarks on a desperate, near-suicide mission to prevent catastrophe. But an encounter with a refugee from the ship--the enigmatic woman who calls herself only Glass--leads to de Ruyter's world being turned upside down.

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