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The Prefect (March 2010) > BotM: "The Prefect" by Alastair Reynolds

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard (mrredwood) | 123 comments Go get a copy of The Prefect; read it and report back to us here!


message 2: by David (new)

David (bodam) | 43 comments Mod
I am curious: I noticed that this is the seventh book of a series. I have not read any of the other books in the series. Is it a good standalone book? Can I follow it without having read the others?


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard (mrredwood) | 123 comments I hadn't spotted that. Actually, it is the fifth set within the same universe, but we're okay according to the author's website:
My earlier books are Revelation Space (2000), Chasm City (2001), Redemption Ark (2002), Absolution Gap (2003) and The Prefect (2007), all of which are set in the same universe. They can be read independently, although it's preferable to read RS, RA and AG in that order. CC and THE P can be read at any point in the sequence.



message 4: by Username, SF Techgod (new)

Username (usernameiv) | 56 comments Mod
Richard wrote: "Actually, it is the fifth set within the same universe, but we're okay according to the author's website:My earlier books are Revelation Space (2000), ..."

The other two books are Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days: Tales from the Revelation Space Universe, which includes tw novellas and Galactic North, a short story collection.


message 5: by Larry (new)

Larry (hal9000i) | 108 comments Started reading this today!


message 6: by Scott (new)

Scott Danielson (sddanielson) On order! I was concerned about the Book 7 thing, too, but will dive in as soon as I can.


message 7: by Scott (new)

Scott Danielson (sddanielson) I should mention that I noticed on Barnesandnoble.com that hardcovers of The Prefect are only $5.38. I ordered one of those.


message 8: by Larry (new)

Larry (hal9000i) | 108 comments Another book I wont be finishing!
I give up with modern SF!


message 9: by Username, SF Techgod (new)

Username (usernameiv) | 56 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "Another book I wont be finishing!
I give up with modern SF!"

What was about it that put you off?


message 10: by Larry (new)

Larry (hal9000i) | 108 comments Username wrote: "Larry wrote: "Another book I wont be finishing!
I give up with modern SF!"
What was about it that put you off?"


Oh I dunno,the politics, the lack of SF....yawn


message 11: by David (new)

David (bodam) | 43 comments Mod
Just finished it 5 minutes ago. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I thought it started slowly though. Took about 100 pages to get going, but once it did, I enjoyed the ride!


message 12: by Richard (last edited Mar 16, 2010 11:01PM) (new)

Richard (mrredwood) | 123 comments Splendid!

I thought Reynolds did a great job with a sociologically plausible modern space opera.

His technology had an almost steampunk feel to it, and the curious blend of mechanical and ultra tech reminded me of Dune in a favorable way. My personal hunch is that human society isn't stable at such levels of technology — it'll either transcend or collapse — but he does an excellent job of staying plausible and dramatic.

I am still a bit confused about magnitudes; when I first was reading about the Glitter Band I imagined habitats spread throughout a solar system. But later it turned out that many of these are only hundreds of kilometers from one another... so everything is bunched up in near orbit around the planet Yellowstone? Still kinda hazy on that.


Definitely the best of the space operas I've read recently. Better than Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky or A Fire Upon The Deep, and much better than Banks' The Algebraist. The whole war between humans, post-humans, trans-humans and AIs is really the sweet spot in scifi these days, and Reynolds slams it home. (I was surprised there were no Nats, but maybe they make an appearance in other books in his universe. Yellowstone isn't really the right place for them, anyway.)


The book was kinda long, though. There wasn't any portion where I was thinking "this chapter should have been cut", but the whole thing should have had a hundred pages or so squeezed out of it.


message 13: by David (new)

David (bodam) | 43 comments Mod
Question since I'm new here: Are we able to discuss specific aspects of the story yet? These discussions would involve spoilers. Or are we waiting until after the end of the month to "spoil" the book?


message 14: by David (new)

David (davidbrandt) | 105 comments If you post a comment that begins with a warning that there will be spoilers about the book in the message, people can decide if / when to read the rest of the message.

David Brandt


message 15: by Richard (new)

Richard (mrredwood) | 123 comments Actually, I think in a discussion forum the spoilers warning is kinda silly — why on earth would you be reading discussions about a book before reading it?

I mean, sure, if you're skimming the reviews to see what the lovers and haters have to say, then spoilers would be trouble, but we're in a discussion forum.

And anyway, my instructions in the first post were (1) read the book, and then (2) report back here.

So I'm not gonna feel guilty that I didn't say "spoilers!" before my previous post...


message 16: by David (new)

David (bodam) | 43 comments Mod
Richard, loved your review....you have quite the way with words. I did want to comment on some issues that you raised.

Regarding the technology you said "steampunk feel to it, and the curious blend of mechanical and ultra tech reminded me of Dune in a favorable way". Personally I found the wide disparity in tech levels to bother me. The active matter that they have (sorry I don't have my Kindle handy so I can't look up how the book refers to it) that formed things such as self-healing space suits to be too advanced compared to the rest of the technology available to them.

As to your comment about the size of the Glitter Band, I have to concur with you. In the beginning pages of the book, I too thought that it was spread throughout the solar system but come to find out all the 10,000 habitats are within orbit of Yellowstone with only 10s of kilometers separating them.

I also agree with your assessment that the book could stand to lost 100 pages or so but I don't know exactly what I would cut.

This is my first book by reynolds alastair so I have not even read the other 4 books that take place in this universe but I did see some areas that I wanted to see explored. For one, how their society as a whole treats alpha and beta simulations. I would also like to understand more of their abstracted world. If the prefects patrol the "real world" and do not have the wiring to be able to abstract themselves, does the citizenry have a different police force to deal with "abstract crimes"? The book points out that the prefects only deal with the overall security of the Glitter Band and that each habitat is allowed complete autonomy and some habitats have some pretty bizarre and severe forms of local government. But what about a crime done in abstract by a member of one habitat to someone of another habitat? Anyway, just some musings going through my head as I read.


message 17: by Richard (new)

Richard (mrredwood) | 123 comments David wrote: "The active matter that they have (sorry I don't have my Kindle handy so I can't look up how the book refers to it) that formed things such as self-healing space suits to be too advanced compared to the rest of the technology available to them. "

In Dune there had been wars in the then fairly-distant past against AI-based machines, if I remember correctly. I got the feeling the same had happened here, although I don't have the book in front of me.

If "thinking machines" are outlawed, then the technologies that don't depend on such a foundation could race ahead, while other technologies suffer a severe setback and never really catch up. If you posit that the quickmatter isn't actually very smart, then I can see it surviving the wars.

But I agree that pushes plausibility: how the quickmatter is able to distinguish between the dead organic matter of "living" hair or skin yet know to digest and recycle the dead organic matter of a corpse seems like it takes quite a bit of smarts.

Perhaps a rule that restricts the cognitive domain of such inventions?


And, yeah, I think the philosophical points in dealing with different types of sentiences is among the most interesting aspect of modern scifi. Good thing, too, since in another few decades we'll have to figure this out in the real world.


The fact that the Prefects have no authority to enforce universal laws within habitats is a direct corollary to the anarchy between states in the world today. North Korea would fit in quite nicely as a "voluntary tyranny", don't you think?


message 18: by Buddy (new)

Buddy | 1 comments Richard wrote: "Actually, I think in a discussion forum the spoilers warning is kinda silly — why on earth would you be reading discussions about a book before reading it?

I mean, sure, if you're skimming the rev..."


I like to see what others have thought before deciding to invest my time in the book, and am glad to give my views so others can do the same


message 19: by David (new)

David (bodam) | 43 comments Mod
Richard wrote:
In Dune there had been wars in the then fairly-distant past against AI-based machines, if I remember correctly. I got the feeling the same had happened here, although I don't have the book in front of me.

If "thinking machines" are outlawed, then the technologies that don't depend on such a foundation could race ahead, while other technologies suffer a severe setback and never really catch up. If you posit that the quickmatter isn't actually very smart, then I can see it surviving the wars."


But in Dune, most of the technologies were equal but where they were not, plausible explanations were given. There were lasguns but they used swords because of the shield technology that existed.

And the lack of computers was addressed by mentats and Guild space navigators hooked on menange.

Melange was the one "technology" in Dune that had to just be accepted on faith or the story fell apart. Quickmatter, on the other hand, was not a critical element of the story. Tom could have just put on a space suit rather than walk through with quickmatter wall, for example.

In the end, I finally just accepted quickmatter and went with it.


message 20: by Maire (new)

Maire | 8 comments I've probably missed the boat here... I'll have to start on the next BotM. (I do have Banks' CP, but no idea where it could be).

I'm only 120 pgs into the Prefect, but already struck by how many philisophical questions Reynolds has managed to pose. Is an electronic copy of a consciousness conscious? If you can't tell the difference, is there one? (is that the turing test?) Where is the balance between civil liberties and preservation of life, etc etc. (do ends justify means).


message 21: by Richard (last edited Apr 12, 2010 05:50PM) (new)

Richard (mrredwood) | 123 comments [Greetings, Maire — and welcome to Goodreads!]

I'm nearing the end of [author:Reynolds'|51204] Revelation Space, and I think it is even better than The Prefect. It has the same kind of style and feel, but the context of the story is blown wide open, dealing with the actions and still-meaningful legacies of races from billions of years prior.

Definitely more of a far-ranging space opera than The Prefect, and a much better handled space opera than Consider Phlebas.

The "do the ends justify means" question is returned to here, as are other philosophical questions. The author highlights the fact that a number of science and warrior types are drawn to the spectacle of massive technological devastation because they understandably really want to see whether these awesome devices can really do what they promise — and that those people might unconsciously be hankering for a fight even as they consciously are trying to avoid it. Tricky man, this author.

[BTW, I've opened another thread here to discuss the timing. Wikipedia says the The Prefect "takes place prior to the four previously released Revelation Space novels", but that wasn't clear at all from my reading of Revelation Space.

If you are still reading Prefect and are considering diving into the rest of the series, could you take some minor notes? Reynolds puts dates in only very occasionally, but if you could note the date along with what major events are transpiring with which major characters, it should help clear thing up. Thanks.]


message 22: by Maire (new)

Maire | 8 comments No problem Richard. You prob remember this yourself, but Prefect is taking place 11 years after the death of Dreyfuss' wife and the clockmaker incident. 20 years I think it is (?) after the Lascaille incident. I'll keep an eye out for future date markers.


message 23: by Username, SF Techgod (new)

Username (usernameiv) | 56 comments Mod
This will help: http://voxish.tripod.com/id18.html It's in Reynolds' webpage. The Prefect takes place 55 years after the 80, so around 2427.


message 24: by Maire (new)

Maire | 8 comments I think I've just gone past a specific mention of 2427


message 25: by Richard (new)

Richard (mrredwood) | 123 comments That helped quite a bit.

It might be more accurate to say that The Prefect takes place somewhat before the main action in Revelation Space, but isn't a prequel to it in any way.

Both books depend heavily on events that transpire in the decades before their respective stories. Specifically, the investigation of the Shrouds leads both directly to the Clockmaker incident as well as to the heart of RS.

The source of my confusion is that one of the main characters (Dan Sylveste) in RS is present before and after the events in The Prefect, but despite the trauma of those events and the possibility of lessons learned having a bearing on his actions, these events are never mentioned.

This can easily be ascribed to the fact that The Prefect was written seven or so years after RS, so Reynolds probably hadn't yet developed those details adequately to allude to them.


message 26: by Username, SF Techgod (new)

Username (usernameiv) | 56 comments Mod
I was going to read Redemption Ark, but now I think I'll re-read Revelation Space instead. There was a lot of stuff going on that I don't remember...


message 27: by Larry (new)

Larry (hal9000i) | 108 comments I tried to read this a while back, couldnt get into it!


message 28: by Eric (new)

Eric (ericsfraga) | 2 comments I will say that I have found all of AR's books difficult to get into but once I have hit page 100 or so, I can't put them down. The books are not easy reads and require significant levels of concentration.

Overall, I have really enjoyed these books with the combination of space opera, technology, and sociological aspects. And every book in the revelation space series seems very different.


message 29: by Harsh (new)

Harsh Verma I havent read the Prefect but I have read the other books. I agree with Eric that initially it takes time to get into the story but if you make the initial effort you really get hooked into it.


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