j's Reviews > Chasm City

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
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's review
Jul 17, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: 2011, audiobooks, sci-fi-fantasy
Read from July 17 to August 31, 2011

Is this what a China Miéville novel would be like if China Miéville wasn't so much with the prose? Because like China, Alastair Reynolds is totally horny for the Big Idea (and perhaps even better than him at actually providing a sort of logical justification for all the weird and wacky world-building he does, though that simply might be a circumstance of his preferred genre -- hard sci-fi -- more or less demanding that kind of effort from an author.) (Also he is an ex-scientist of some sort.)

So, yeah, Chasm City, which various blogs convinced me was a great place to start with the author, is full of ambitious sci-fi storytelling, some of it familiar, some of it fresh and fascinating, all of it fairly well "explained" with convincing-sounding science-y justifications, or at least as convincing as you can get when you are talking about nano-machine plagues that reshape and mutate entire space colonies. Cool ideas here include an in-depth consideration of a generation ship-type mission, a different take on cybernetic implants, musings on the psychological impact of virtual immortality and a richly imagined post-plague dystopia.

The prose and plotting knitting all those ideas together isn't quite as compelling, though. Reynolds is very much in the mold of, say, an Iain M. Banks, but doesn't have the same literary chops. So basically, we've got a fairly standard vendetta plot, populated by one-dee characters (including a protagonist who arguably has no personality at all -- conceptual spoiler alert!), plot twists that are overly-telegraphed and ponderously over-explained, and just... terrible, terrible dialogue. Not just the expository stuff. The snappy banter like "Try anything and the only kind of composing you'll be doing is DE-composing!" (Said, obviously, to a composer.)

I still liked it. Pretty much. It is very long, and I confess that I have had my patience tested by this and other "space opera" adventures that are long on incident and short on substance; I somehow tend to find them totally awesome and totally boring at the same time (which is probably why I gravitate toward Miéville, who loves layering his books with meaty philosophical and political concepts... that and the whole "he can write interesting prose" thing).

I'm going to read more though. This one was fun. I do with he would publish something with fewer than 600 pages. Just as an experiment.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Dave (new)

Dave Turner Thanks for saving me reading this book. I finished Reynolds 'Revelation Space' and the god-awful dialogue really put me off continuing the series. I was hoping it was a phase he'd snap out of as an author as the series progressed, but evidently not. Phew.

Cecily It's interesting you link this to Mieville. The two I paired were Reynolds' Century Rain and Mieville's The City and the City.

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