This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Revelation Space
Series: Revelation Space #1
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
An archeologist on the world of Resurgam is trying to prove that the extinct inhabitants of the planet had gotten to the technological standpoint of space travel. The rest of the colony just wants to terraform the world so they can live. A coup occurs and the archeologist, Dan Sylveste, is imprisoned and yet given enough freedom to perform his research. He eventually proves his theories right but still hasn’t answered how the aliens went extinct.
Ana Khouri, separated from her husband in a military accident and sent to the wrong world, has become an assassin for the near immortal rich in Chasm City. She’s hired by Madam to go and kill Sylveste. Khouri is hired by some Ultra’s (space goths from what I could tell who love to meddle with their bodies) who are on their way to Resurgam as well. They want Sylveste as well, to heal their captain, who is being taken over by some sort of viral plague that is melding him to the ship.
The Ultras kidnap Silvestre and his wife, while Khouri must deal with a digital avatar of the Madam in her head. Also on board the ship, is a shadowy something called Sun Stealer, which drove Khouri’s predecessor insanse. Sun Stealer is also the name of the being on the final monument of the aliens on Resurgam. Sylvestre also has the digital recording of his dead father in his head. Good times.
Turns out there is a dead species of aliens who lived to make sure no other species ever reached a certain technological level. They left artifacts scattered around the universe that would lead to the destruction of any species that interacted with them and that is what lead to the destruction of life on Resurgam.
The humans are all being manipulated by various alien factions to use the device so humanity will be the next target and draw away attention from them. Things don’t go according to the aliens plans and the humans survive and now know about the traps.Silvestre and his wife decide to stay on the artifact as digital incarnations while Khouri and the lone surviving Ultra head back to human space.
Hopefully to warn everyone. We aren’t told.
This was a VERY complex storyline, hence my rather inarticulate ramble of a synopsis. The universe that Reynolds has created reminds me a lot of Neal Asher’s Polity and Asher’s fascination with the Jain, long dead aliens inimical to all other lifeforms. Here Reynolds calls them the Inhibitors but it is not until nearly the end that we find out about them clearly.
I thoroughly enjoyed this. Unfortunately, most of the characters were rather unlikeable so my enjoyment was tempered by disgust. Khouri was the least objectionable person but she was a pawn for almost all of the book. I would say the ideas and the storyline were able to overcome the characters. That doesn’t happen very often for me.
After reading this, I feel like I have a decent grasp on modern Space Opera. Between Revelation Space, The Polity and The Culture, I can say it is something that I really like when it is done according to my tastes. I was apprehensive about starting this series, as I ended up disliking Banks’ The Culture book quite a bit. Thankfully this seemed to be more in line with The Polity, a series that I’m pretty in love with.
The inclusion of techno-porn (ie, the abundant description of technologies above and beyond the call of duty) did make me skip whole paragrapsh while reading. From a layman’s perspective, talking about that kind of thing does nothing for me and is just babble. So I skip it. It also tends to date your book for those who do know what you’re writing about, as theories go out of style like fashion. Sometimes being a little vague is ok.
I tore through this in about 3 days. Started it on a Thursday evening and finished it up by reading all day Saturday. I’m glad I’ve got all 7 novels in the series lined up. I hope the others live up to this one.