Sunday, 13 July 2014

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

This was quite enjoyable, and another book in the "I liked it but didn't love it" file. Revelation Space is a sprawling trip through time (in only one direction) through a universe filled with unknown and unknowable aliens, human factions, and a dead world, killed aeons ago by a solar flare that might or might not have been related to the spacefaring contingent of that world - according to the main character, Dan Sylveste, at least. No one else believes him.

The timelines, though, confused the heck out of me at the start of a book, as a chapter would start with a date, follow one of the three major groups for a while, then mid-chapter switch to another group, to events that could not be happening at the same time as the chapter heading. Eventually I decided to just absolutely ignore the stated dates, and then I found the entire story made sense.

On Resurgam, Dan Sylveste continues to investigate an archaeological dig related to the Amarantin, who Dan believes to have achieved spaceflight before their world died (or was killed?), with reckless disregard to life and limb. At least until a coup overthrows him (and I was never entirely sure why this archaeologist who had no apparent interest in politics was in charge of the colony anyway), and he is imprisoned for years, with only a simulation of his father and an intrepid reporter writing his lifestory for company.

On a lighthugger ship, a crew of "Ultras" - humans who have embraced technological modification - is looking for Dan Sylveste, as their Captain has succumbed to a technological plague, and Dan managed to cure him once before.

But to get to Resurgam, they need to flesh out their crew, as one member had recently gone insane, babbling about a "Sun Stealer," and to do so take on board, unwittingly, an infiltrator - Khouri, ex-soldier, whose husband is being held captive by the enigmatic Mademoiselle. Mademoiselle has one job for Khouri - to kill Dan Sylveste.

The story moves along nicely, the details are extremely interesting, but the author did occasionally fall prey to a trick I hate - having characters discover important information, and react to how important it is, but withholding it from the readers. It's false drama.

But the revelations in Revelation Space, when they come, are satisfying, speculating on one answer to Fermi's Paradox - namely, where the hell is everyone?

I will probably read more Alastair Reynolds if it crosses my path, but it wasn't quite good enough for me to run out and hunt down some more.

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