Richard's Reviews > Revelation Space

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
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's review
Apr 13, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: scifi, scifi-space-opera, series
Recommended for: Fans of epic & intelligent space-opera SciFi
Read from April 11 to 12, 2010

Reynolds' first novel in his Revelation Space Universe (up to five books, with 2007's The Prefect) delivers a space opera of stunning breadth and depth.

This novel picks up the trail of humanity's descendants (some of whom we would not recognize as obviously human) in a distant solar system just as they start running into... troubles. It seems that aliens that have been dead hundreds of thousands of years have left tantalizing relics, and they might have something to do with the relics that other aliens left even longer ago. Maybe there are staggering fortunes to be made, or maybe there are deadly traps that would make Cthulhu whimper. Two things are certain: nothing is certain and no one is to be trusted.

Reynolds has hidden clues to a deeply textured backstory here, reminiscent of the contextual mythos pervading Frank Herbert's Dune series. He deals well with a number of philosophical problems, such as the sentience of "uploaded" software instantiations of people at varying levels of cognitive resolution. The sinister allure of massively advanced technology is central — even if one suspects something is a horrendously destructive weapon, it would be so hard to turn away without knowing...

The only reason this novel didn't receive five stars is that, in the end, it suffered from a bit of over-stretch. When you try to describe the technology of the gods, it starts sounding just a bit too mystical. Remember the psychedelic trip at the end of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yeah, that.

Still, this is a space opera series I'll be returning to. The characterizations and melodrama beats Vinges' Deepness in the Sky/Fire Upon The Deep pair, and it shines where Iain M. Banks' Culture series descends into grotesque confusion.

P.S., FWIW: I don't do television so I never saw Firefly, but I did once stumble on Serenity and feel mildly confident in urging fans thereof to give this a try.
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