Review of 'Revelation Space'

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
1st book in the 'Revelation Space' series

revelation_space.jpg In the 26th century scientist Dan Sylveste is investigating why the technologically advanced Amarantin race disappeared from the galaxy. His investigations take him to the planet of Resurgam where militants stage a coup and make him their prisoner. Meanwhile the crew of the lighthugger “Nostalgia for Infinity” seek Sylveste to help their ailing captain. They take on board the young Ana Khouri as a replacement gunnery officer when the previous died in rather messy circumstances. Little do they know that Khouri has been hired by the mysterious Mademoiselle to assassinate Sylveste. On their trip from the planet Yellowstone to Resurgam, Khouri is continually harassed by a neural implant containing the Mademoiselle's consciousness but there is also the aggressive entity discovered in the lighthugger itself, “Sun Stealer”. The secrets of the universe await but is the universe ready for them?

For some reason this is the first book by Reynolds that I have read despite having heard good things about his style of “hard” Science Fiction (more technical SF that tries to stay within the realms of reason). I have to say I am quite impressed. At times it was pretty hard going trying to keep track of what was going on, the different characters, the races, planets, etc, but once that was done early on in reading the pages just flew by.

The characters are all very believable though none being particularly likeable. The casual and frequent violence is somewhat tempered by the advanced medicine that often undoes the damage inflicted. Here the big thing is the mystery of the Amarantin and how it relates to the ruins and historical evidence that has been found. When they come the revelations are both startling and satisfying. I like the fact that a lot of this is up to the reader to piece together and this comes with a great deal of satisfaction though there is enough exposition to let those of us left a bit behind in on what is going on but not so much as it gets boring and repetitive. The scale of the universe this book describes is immense so there is always going to be something that we have to be specifically told rather than learning ourselves but it works together to leave the reader well satisfied and informed.

Certainly one for the SF nerds and not really for the casual reader. Patience is rewarding with a great payoff at the end. Should be interesting to see where Reynolds go with this as I see there are two more books in this sequence…

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2018-01-20

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Orion Books

Publication Date: 2000

ISBN: 9780575083097