Customer Reviews: Absolution Gap (Revelation Space)
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on August 9, 2004
Oh, the humanity! Everything everybody wrote below is true: great, gothic science fiction, creeping horror, technology, darkness. Wonderful, additional storylines thrown in. Oh, and real character development. The first two books (three, including Chasm City) sold me on the Epic Quest of mankind against the Inhibitors, with wonderful little mysteries thrown in, along with tantalizing hints that they all might be related.

But what do we have here? Toss the major connecting thread between the books... the Inhibitors explained away in less than four pages. Magical "out-of-nowhere" saviors who are hinted at only twice in the entire story, and done in a way that they seem nothing more than a callous afterthought.

Imagine've worked your way through the first two (three, including Chasm City) books, slowly grown used to and then developed an affinity for Mr. Reynolds' wonderfully unique style. You're happy with the subtle hints at 700 years of human history, having been given enough of the details to fill in the dark, gothic story with your own imagination. But five hundred pages to go, you start thinking, "Now we'll see the culmination of it all!" Two-hundred fifty pages, and you're thinking, "Ok, anytime now..." One hundred pages, and there's a sinking feeling..." Fifty pages, with the ending to the central theme of the series nowhere in sight, you finally realize the awful truth: this whole storyline was *never* about the Inhibitors. It was *all* a mechanism to force us to fill in the blanks of the future history of humanity, with the Inhibitor battle only a convenient way to move things along.

Until, that is, Mr. Reynolds couldn't write about it anymore. So, with nothing more than a rubber stamp called "Epilogue", the story ends. No mysteries solved. Mademoiselle? Nope. Conjoiners? Nope. Plague? Nope. Inhibitors? "Poof!" they are gone with the aid of magical fairies, only to be replaced by newer, badder bad guys. But none of this was what this story was about. As a literary mechanism, I applaud Mr. Reynolds' achievement. If you read books to be entertained along the way, this whole series is wonderful and I highly recommend it - I enjoyed 3/4 of it immensely. But if you like a story with a good ending, it is supremely disappointing... I, for one, feel cheated. It's actually worse than Hamilton and the Night's Dawn ending. Mr. Reynolds' style is to leave much to our imagination, and for most of this series he does so brilliantly. But, where he carefully takes thousands of pages to weave us a story of the past 700 years, he give us the future in a mere four.

Oh well. I suppose it was worth it.
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on September 11, 2004
First, I'd like to mirror what many of the other reviewers have said. Specifically a correlary between Stephen Baxter and Reynolds. He does seem to have a bit of a problem continuing this story.

I think what nobody has mentioned here, and bears mentioning, is that Reynolds left his job as a scientist to pursue writing full time to write this book. It seems that perhaps he got a little cocky.

Where the previous two books (I disagree that this is a four book series) were cold, realistic, hard science fiction (with the notable, but forgivable exception of Skade's FTL escapades and the cache weapons), his resolve to write concise books simply disappears with the third. Bizarre weapons ("hypometric" weapons, "bladder mines", "cryo math", and so on) and forces peek out and begin to play very large parts in this book.

Additionally, characters are spun through very strange trajectories not expected from the previous books. Scorpio is nearly a different character entirely. Brannigan is, well, a person again. Khouri is almost maternal, and rather boring. Clavain is near useless, and certainly uninteresting, and Skade is implausible(er) and not nearly as formidable.

What happened? I don't think anyone but Reynolds can really answer this. As somebody who went to to get copies of his books which were unavailable here in the US, I am definitely somebody who is a fan of his. After reading this, however, I'm not sure I'd read another of his books. My hope is that he will realize from the vast majority of reviews of his recent book, that he has taken a turn that was unexpected, and that perhaps he should reconsider.

At any rate, I would also suggest buying as a paperback. Or borrowing. This isn't worth the cost of admission, and it really wasn't worth the time I spent reading it. The suspense at the end of the book (a paltry 60-80 pages) is roughly the same quality as the middle to end of the second book, but is completely blunted by a weak, anticlimactic ending. This series needed a solid ending, regardless of whether it was a lead in to another book. What we have here is loose ends gummed up, rather than sewn up.

Suggested for hardcore fans who have to know, recommend against it for anyone else.
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on July 9, 2004
With this book, unlike the previous 3 of his I have read, I was disappointed.
The entire question of shrouder/mademoiselle penetration of the conjoiners vanishes. Presumably if the Night Council WAS mademoiselle, it still existed somewhere.
The protagonist AND antagonist from Redemption Ark are removed from the story early in a clearly contrived fashion whose only impact besides clearing the slate for new characters is to give scorpio periodic memories.
The Nestbuilders are only presented in an allusive fashion, but play a large role in the plot. Invisible Hand material (when the story goes to far to be recovered by characters in their enviroment, a new element will be used to resolve the conflict in the plot) in my opinion. The Shadow entities on the other hand at least were built up in the story some.
Greenfly seem to be thrown in after the fact as a way to not have a totally happy ending, particularly if he is planning on writing in this universe more, possibly about Sky Haussmann, assuming he is the person described in the evacuees from Yellowstone.
I would wait for paperback on this one if I had to do it again.
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on February 8, 2006
Read the other reviews and you'll find the same complaints echoed over and over again. They can be reduced to this observation: there is a profound carelessness on the part of the author that cannot be hidden. Yes, the writing is mostly excellent, Reynolds has an exceptional skill with the written word. Yes, there are several interesting ideas and a vast cargo of cool SF toys for the discriminating gourmet of the apocalyptic. All of it is rendered irrelevant by disastrously bad story choices, sloppy workmanship at the conclusion, and a hackneyed reliance on what the fancy types call "deus ex machina," when he's stuck, the author pulls something out of thin air. Or maybe out of the lower orifice of his body. Doing it once is vastly irritating; doing it three times in a row can be classified as a true dirty deed. All within pages of each other. For those who actually liked this mash, I'll list them. First came the revelation about the shadows, then came the hidden race, then came the greenflies (Don't they have a spray for that?). True aggravation from a writer with a great deal of talent, who for some reason can't deploy that talent on a regular basis.
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on June 8, 2005
I enjoyed the other books in the series, and was looking forward to this one, but it isn't nearly as good. The characters are dull, no one developed well enough for me to identify with anyone. The overall plot is interesting enough, but it all seems a repeat of ideas from the earlier books. Oh, look, more super advanced technology from a mysterious source. More heroes gallantly throwing their lives away to save humanity. More ghosts talking to people from inside their heads. *yawn* It was as if Reynolds pretty much ran out of material but still had to fill 750 pages. The most interesting aspect was the Quaicheist religion, but the more he developed the idea, the less believable it became.

Overall, I was very disappointed. I'd almost recommend not bothering to read it and never knowing how the series turns out. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't already hooked on the first two (three) books.
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on June 17, 2015
So many of these one and two star reviews for the ending wouldn't have occurred if the reviewers had read the short collection, Galactic North, before this series finale. Or better yet, before starting Revelation Space. Galactic North is all about Revelation Space but in short stories. You get more info about what's going on than all the books put together, and the ending makes perfect sense. Plus Galactic North is very much more entertaining than the books.
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on June 10, 2005
If it was possible to give a book a 2.5 star rating that's what I would have given this one. It met my expectations somewhat, but I was severely disappointed by the cobbled together ending. It's difficult for me to say negative things about this book because I enjoyed the series as a whole immensely. The reason I give it 3 stars instead of 2 is because its so imaginative and grand in scale, Reynolds is full of neat ideas. Also, Reynold's writing style is not for the light-SF reader. His style of narration can be confusing in the way that he skips from one story to the next, and it takes him a while to weave them all together. He also likes to inject bits of pure speculative astro-physics in periodic intervals that might leave some bewildered. But that's not my beef with the novel, I expected hard SF and that's what I got.

Maybe a satisfying ending isn't important for some, but judging from the other reviews of this novel, many of us consider if very important. After reading 2,035 pages of this series, (Yes that's two-thousand thirty-five, I added them up) a nice ending that wraps everything up isn't too much to ask. After I finished this novel, after reading the pitiful "epilogue", I was left with no sense of closure whatsover. My mind still swirls with questions left unanswered. In my opinion, at least 1/4 of this novel should have been used as a proper "ending" to the series.

Don't let my 2 paragraphs of negative remarks sway you too much. It's a great book filled with great ideas and characters. It just has a large dent in its side created by a shoddy ending that could have been so much more.
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on September 2, 2004
First point; this book is the last of a massive trilogy, and it won't make a bit of sense if you don't read the first two volumes, in order. Imagine reading "The Return of the King" as your first foray in Tolkien. You wouldn't want to.

Second point: After almost 2,000 pages, a feat worthy of Proust, Reynolds just gives up. The resolution is short, undeveloped, and unsatisfying. As other reviewers have noted, it's a deus ex machina ending. Apparently Reynolds's publisher told him to either send them manuscript, or a check refunding their advance.

Reynolds creates an interesting future world, which we'll probably see a lot more of (vide Ian M. Banks), but this book left me feeling let down.

Roger Rensvold
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Alastair Reynolds boldly attempts to tie up his "Revelation Space" trilogy of novels with "Absolution Gap" an inconsistent but moderately entertaining book. As with his two previous novels in this series Reynolds creates a number of intersecting stories set years apart. Humanity is still being hunted by the "Wolves". The refuge that Scorpious and Nevil Clavin had hoped humanity might find on the planet Ararat appears short lived--the war is coming to them.

In the future after the assault on Ararat by the Wolves a man named Horris Quaiche travels to Hela a desolate world hoping to find riches to save his own neck. What he discovers instead is a gas giant that winks out of existence briefly and evidence of alien intelligence that might be worth billions if he can verify it is an artifact. Years later Quaiche establishes a religion build around the disappearing gas giant and the religious indoctrination virus that infects his followers and gives them visions.

Reynolds as with his previous novels creates a large canvas to play out the closing part of this trilogy of novels. Unfortunately, it appears (at least to me) that this novel might have been part of a much larger work that was cut down for publication. The result is an uneven novel that sputters from time-to-time and an inconsistency in some of the charcters. The book itself comes to a rather sudden conclusion after a very long and sustained build up which, again, suggests that either Reynolds was making it up as he was going along or that the original manuscript underwent extensive editing prior to publication.

There's also the issue of the second narrative involving Quaiche and set on Hela. As important as it is to the book and its conclusion, the characters are nowhere near as compelling and the story much less interesting than the story of Clavin and Scorpious. Many of the characters that were important to the previous books although mentioned or appearing in a cameo aren't given enough time in the story.

I wouldn't say I was disappointed by "Absolution Gap" but I did feel that, of the three novels, this was the sloppiest and could have benefited from additional thought and some restructuring. With the support of the proper editor, the potential hinted at in Reynolds' novel might have been achieved. Reynolds continues to come up with some terrific ideas for stories he just needs help from a strong editor deliver on the promise of those ideas.
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on May 22, 2016
I don't usually give complete story reviews, and I won't change my habits here. I will just say that Alistair Reynolds has earned a spot on my bookshelf. His stories are complex, but not overly so, with good character development and plot turns. Of the three main books (to date) in the Revelation Space series, I like Redemption Ark the most. Some of the reviewers have scored it lower than the other two books, or Chasm City, but I personally found this book to be more entertaining for me as a reader. I don't read to critique, I read for enjoyment, and I really enjoyed Redemption Ark. I would score the three books in the series from highest to lowest thus: Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap, Revelation Space. They are all within a hair of each other, however. All good books and worth a read for anyone interested in science fiction at any level.
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