Cecily's Reviews > Chasm City

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
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May 04, 09

bookshelves: sci-fi-or-futuristic
Read in May, 2009

I read this because Alistair Reynolds is my teenage son's favourite author. Although it is sometimes labelled as Revelation Space book 2, he reckoned this was the best book and has the advantage of being readable as a standalone story.

Although you could summarise it as a long chase story of hunter and hunted, it is a complex and well-written page turner (and there are quite a lot of pages), the main theme of which is the nature of identity and the effects of various ways of changing it (e.g. body mods, memory implants, nanotech, DNA manipulation, immortality, reefersleep to travel through time and space).

There are three main stories, set in different times and places and it swaps between them without ever being confusing. The main one concerns Tanner Mirabel's attempt to track down and kill Argent Reivich for revenge. This involves leaving his home planet of Sky's Edge and travelling to Chasm City on Yellowstone, once rich and technologically advanced, but now devastated by a nanotech virus. The gap between the poor who live in the Mulch and the rich in the Canopy is extreme and the idle rich liven their lives in dangerous ways. Previously, Mirabel was an ex soldier, hired as private security/bodyguard for Cahuella, a rich arms dealer with many enemies. Cahuella, and one hunting expedition in particular, is the second thread. The third strand follows Sky Haussman and is set a couple of hundred years earlier. Sky grows up as crew on one of a flotilla of space ships sent to colonise a new world. There are rivalries within and between ships, including deaths. Obviously as the book progresses, the links between these different stories gradually emerge.

The science is plausible and invariably explained as a natural part of the story, though occasionally he kept me waiting for the explanation rather longer than I wanted. Reynolds has a good feel for characters' inner thoughts and emotions (something that is not always true of sci fi) and manages to make each distinct without resorting to gimmicky dialects and non-standard spelling, although they somehow seem a little flat at the same time. He's also very good at helping the reader visualise all the strange worlds in glorious detail - at times I could "see" it as if I was watching a film.

There were a few sections that were a little clichéd, especially the ending, which felt a little rushed after nearly 600 leisurely pages, but overall, I thought it was a very good read.
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