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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Chasm City" is an odd book, a tangent to the universe that Reynolds in creating with his books "Revelation Space", "Redemption Ark" and "Absolution Gap". Technically, it is not a sequel to "Revelation Space", but rather a fleshing out of the same universe.

I won't waste your time going over plot details. "Chasm City" is a detective novel and revenge fantasy. Prepare to have your conceptions regarding almost every single character in the novel changed at least once. No one is who they seem. Its a great companion piece to Reynolds' overarching plot, but can be read on its own without having picked up "Revelation Space". However, some events and characters (ie - Sky Haussman and Sky's Edge are huge plot movers here, both of which are mentioned in "Revelation Space")

Some reviewers say that Tanner Mirabel, the protagonist of "Chasm City", makes his way into the other books of the series. I can't say one way or the other, as I'm only 100 pages into "Redemption Ark". Still, "Chasm City" is a wonderful piece of sci-fi, taken on its own or as part of a series.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading Revelation Space, Reynolds' first novel, I was hoping to enjoy Chasm City just as much. In fact, I tried - really, really hard - to enjoy this book more than I did. But if I'm honest, it fell far short of my expectations.
As in Revelation Space, Reynolds interweaves multiple storylines in this book, each of them occurring in a different time frame. However, he doesn't handle them nearly as deftly as he did in his first novel, making Chasm City a rather uneven read. I agree with the other reviewers who felt that the Sky Hausmann storyline is the best part of the book. By contrast, the Chasm City storyline, which is ostensibly the main plotline of this novel, is very shaky. The characters behave unbelievably, the environment (Chasm City itself) is not nearly as interesting as it could have been, and the author ruins most of the plot twists by dropping numerous obvious hints along the way. In the end, I couldn't even forgive Tanner Mirabel his erratic behavior, even though Reynolds tries to justify it through one of his plot twists.
Don't get me wrong - this is not a terrible book. In fact, parts of it are great. In addition to the Sky Hausmann story, I thought that the first couple of chapters with Tanner Mirabel were riveting. It's just that the novel as a whole does not live up to this auspicious beginning.
So, while I can't enthusiastically recommend this book, I can make a qualified recommendation: If you loved Revelation Space and want to experience a different part of that universe, consider Chasm City. Just don't set your expecatations too high.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Chasm City is the main city of the planet Yellowstone, which orbits Epsilon Eridani. Some 7 years prior to the action of the book, Yellowstone and its orbital habitats were devastated by the Melding Plague, which destroyed the nanomachines upon which much of the high-tech infrastructure depended, and which effected horrible alterations in anything (and anyone) dependent on that sort of technology.
The central thread of the this novel is brutally simple: Tanner Mirabel comes to Yellowstone from Sky's Edge looking to kill Argent Reivich, who had killed the woman Tanner loved. However, that's just the skeleton on which a more complex plot is hung. The story unfolds in three threads, all nominally from Tanner's point of view. The first thread takes place over a rather short period in Chasm City as Tanner looks for Reivich, in the process learning a lot about the curious nature of the decayed city -- especially the conflicts between the "Mulch" (lower class) and the Canopy (where the aristocrats hang out). Tanner becomes involved in a dangerous "Game," in which bored Canopy residents kidnap people from the Mulch and hunt them to their death. He also hears of the illicit trade in "Dream Fuel," which seems to give users immunity from the Melding Plague.
Another thread tells, in flashbacks, of Tanner's association with the arms dealer Cahuella back on Sky's Edge, and Cahuella's wife Gitta (with whom he falls in love), and Reivich's attempt on Cahuella's life (in revenge for Cahuella supplying the weapons that killed Reivich's family), which led to Gitta's death. Finally, Tanner has apparently been infected with an "indoctrination virus," which implants memories of Sky Haussmann, the sometimes revered, sometimes hated, last Captain of the first ship to reach Sky's Edge. As those memories return to Tanner, at first in dreams, later more insistently, he learns a somewhat different, much stranger, story of the journey of the colonizing generation starships from Earth to 61 Cygni.
As the reader expects, these threads converge, leading to revelations about Tanner's past, the truth about Sky Haussmann, the real nature of the Yellowstone colony, the place of humans in the universe, and the emptiness of the revenge motive. To a pretty impressive extent, Reynolds manages to deliver on some of the rather large implicit promises he has made the reader: for one, these threads dovetail pretty well; for another, some of the big revelations are pretty neat. On the other hand, the whole revenge motif seems forced from the beginning, and the resolution to that aspect, while twisty enough to be interesting, doesn't quite convince.
This novel is full of neat SFnal ideas, not necessarily brilliantly new, but very well-realized: the generation ships (treated rather differently than usual in SF), some genetic technology, some alien ecosystem stuff, even a hint of a communication system reminiscent of the Dirac Communicator in James Blish's "Beep." It sets up expectations for a pretty spectacular closing revelation, tying together the three threads, and as I've said, it pretty much delivers on those expectations. The resolution had elements that I expected, and which were nicely foreshadowed, plus elements that were a great surprise, but which still worked for me. Thus, I'd say, that in terms of large-scale plot and setting, the book works very well. The novel's faults, then, lie in some small-scale plot elements, and characterization.
The plot, particularly Tanner's attempts to find Reivich, depends on a lot of implausible coincidence and luck, super-powerful characters who still don't kill their rivals when reasonably they should, and secret organizations suddenly being penetrated by little more than brandishing a gun in the face of underlings. More tellingly, the characters are a bit under-motivated, and they are pretty much all evil and violent, but not really presented in such a way. More than several times, we are told that such and such a character, single-mindedly bent on killing several other characters, is really not bad and is justified in so doing. This seems to represent an awfully cynical view of humanity: everyone is purely out for number one, and is pretty much ready to kill anyone in their way.
On balance, this is a pretty impressive book. The faults are the faults of much SF, especially hard SF, and the virtues are the virtues of the same sort of SF. It doesn't, then, transcend its subgenre at all, although it does do very well within those boundaries. And for a long book, it reads smoothly enough, and keeps the interest. It's another step towards what could become a very significant 21st century hard SF career.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While Chasm City may lack a little bit of the epic scale/harder sci-fi of Revelation Space, I still found it to be an enormously compelling read, and it really got tough to put down with about a hundred pages left. From an overall quality perspective, I put it right on par with Revelation Space, which I thought was terrific.
Although I guess it's really a subjective assessment, dependent on each reader's tastes/reading histroy, I disagree with those who thought Chasm City was slow. Quite the contrary, I thought Reynolds did an admirable job of moving the stories along at a brisk pace, revealing just enough information at each point to keep you hooked for what was to come. And even though there are some sharp plot twists as the book progresses, I never felt deliberately manipulated or "misled" by the author, which is really something I resent as a reader. (And which many authors are guilty of doing.)
Reynolds also did a superb job of telling two stories at once, and I was equally enthralled by both of the main story lines. Bottom line is that I'd highly recommend this book. Along with Revelation Space, it's one of the finest I've read this year.
By the way - Reynolds is a Brit, and hence, the third installment of this series, Redemption Ark, is being published June 27th in the UK, simulataneously as both paperback and hardcover. If you can't wait for it to hit stateside (like me), you can order it from the amazon.co.uk web site. You'll pay a little more for the shipping, of course, but I won't hesitate for a second to pay the premium. (If you like Reynolds or any other British writers, amazon.co.uk is a great place to find works that aren't yet - if at all - available in the states.)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2005
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
If your considering this series, and you should be, read this book first, followed by revelation Space. I did the opposite, and I can tell you RS would have made much more sence if I had read CC first. It is also first timeline-wise. Anyway, fantastic book, my favorite current author. Im off to read diamond dogs next!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In "Chasm City," Alastair Reynolds has created a unique hybrid of literary types: a space opera with imaginative science, crime noir prose, and quasi-steampunk ambience. It works, not least because he has created one of the more memorable protagonists in recent fiction, an unlikely hero suffering from schizophrenia with a vengeance.

A mercenary soldier and professional assassin, Tanner Mirabel hails from Sky's Edge, a far-flung planet whose society is constantly at war. After a couple of thrillingly rendered opening scenes, Mirabel finds himself, sans memory, across the galaxy on the formerly advanced planet of Yellowstone, on the way to its central metropolis. Chasm City had recently been destroyed by a biomechanical plague that had bifurcated its society into two classes: a class of ageless aristocrats living atop the remnants of the city's skyscrapers and clinging to its technological superiority and an underworld of the type one would expect to visit in a novel by China Mieville.

Mirabel's amnesia and his endurance contest on Yellowstone are complicated enough for one novel, but Reynolds doesn't stop there. Our hero has flashbacks to his earlier existence on Sky's Edge, working for an eccentric employer, Cahuella, and protecting him against the influential Argent Reivich. Mirabel soon recalls that his mission in Yellowstone is to avenge his employer's death. More inexplicably, he also experiences recollections from centuries earlier, recounting firsthand the creepy, criminal coming-of-age adventures of Sky Haussmann, the messianic founder of the first colony on Sky's Edge.

It's fun to watch while Reynolds weaves together these three stories and resolves their myriad mysteries and loose ends. And Mirabel's hardboiled, tough-guy idiom serves to enhance the whodunit mood. Reynolds meticulously peels back the various layers of his onion-plot and unveils each surprise and mystery (and there are many) with imaginatively clever twists--yet each revelation, when it occurs, seems predestined. The only disappointment is the showdown at the finale (and, no, I won't give anything away), which seems both rushed and transparently contrived. Fortunately for us, the first 500 pages are so ingenious that the last dozen pages seem almost beside the point.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Since the other reviews have already said what this book is, I'll tell you what it isn't. This is not a follow-up or a sequel to Revelation Space, but in fact a standalone story with totally different characters set in a time just before the main events of Revelation Space. It is not a prequel though, but this story serves to flesh out the worlds of Yellowstone and Sky's Edge, which were hardly touched upon before, in great detail going back to the war-torn history of Sky's Edge and the events that twisted Chasm City into it's current form.
This story follows one man from his perspective, although it appears to drift at times into the memories of others who may or may not be the same person. The characters are very well done and feature depth, although not as much is revealed about the supporting characters in thos story as we don't get to often see from their point of view.
While this story does not feature any of the characters from Revelation Space (although I do believe that the unnamed woman Tanner speaks to at the end is Anna Khouri), a few familiar names are mentioned at times, mainly those of the Sylveste family. I would recommend reading Revelation Space first however, as a few mysteries are somewhat solved in this book that could dampen the effect of those in the first book.
I thank Reynolds again for his second masterpiece, although I will not be truly satiated until we get a sequel to Revelation Space.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Revelation Space was Alastair Reynolds's first novel and this one, Chasm City, is his second. Both novels are set in the same universe. However, most reviewers somehow create the impression that Chasm City is a sequel to Revelation Space. Only two reviews I have read of all the available reviews at the time I write this actually explicitly or implicity mention that the story in this novel, Chasm City, pre-dates the story in the first novel, Revelation Space.

I agree with one of those reviewers that the person interviewed by Tanner Maribel in the epilogue of this book might very well be Ana Khouri. The facts we have been given in the these two novels support this:

In this novel, Chasm City, shortly after Tanner Maribel has met Chanterelle Sammartini, she tells him that she was born in 2339 and that she is 178 years old. This means that during the few days that the main story takes place, the year is either 2517 or 2518 (which, by the way, also shows that the main story in Chasm City pre-dates the main story of Revelation Space, since Revelation Space starts its main story in 2551). In the epilogue, we learn that Tanner Maribel has been in Chasm City for 6 years when he interviews the unnamed woman. This makes the year in which that took place either 2523 or 2524. In Revelation Space, we learn that Ana Khouri was (1) offered her job by Tanner Maribel, and that (2) it happened in 2524.

In the epilogue of Chasm City, we also learn that the unnamed woman is from Sky's Edge, and in Revelation Space we learn that Ana Khouri is from Sky's Edge.

Comparing Chasm City to Revelation Space, there is no character that plays a main role in both novels. Some of the main characters of Chasm City are mentioned briefly in Revelation Space and vice versa. And all the events that are mentioned in both novels are mentioned in such a way that these two novels can be read in any order.

However, despite the fact that Chasm City was written after Revelation Space, I recommend reading Chasm City BEFORE Revelation Space for two reasons: (1) The main events in Chasm City take place before the main events in Revelation Space. (2) Chasm City is a standalone novel, while Revelation Space is the first part of a trilogy (parts 2 and 3 are Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, respectively). So it makes more sense to me to read Chasm City first, instead of having it interrupt reading the trilogy.

The only argument I have against reading Chasm City first is a subjective one: I liked Chasm City better than Revelation Space, so if I had read Chasm City before Revelation Space, the latter would have disappointed me a little.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Looking back to the completed novel, one is struck by the symmetry of the plot, the story within the story (and at times, the tales of Sky were better than "reality"). Indeed, the structural beauty of the work was almost flawless with the introduction of characters at just the right time, the way new technologies were introduced, the whole religious subtext. This does not mean there are not things to criticize (I could not give a solid *****). These include the murkiness of Chasm City...oddly, the city itself was the worst aspect of the book. I liked all the space voyages, the various planets, etc but the city was definitely lacking. Secondly, the number of characters approaches an overload point, especially with all the hidden disguises.

Disguise, whether it is of person, place or intent is of paramount importance here. It is only after a while that the reader has the first inkling of exactly who our her really is (or was). If there were too many characters, at least they were interesting (as always), especially the three women - Sister Amille, Zebra and Chanterelle. And yet, despite all the action and intrigue and mystery, it is Sky that dominates with his actions and cruelty and - like so many others - eventual transformation into something better. All in all, a very satisfying work.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Like many of the reviewers, I really enjoyed Revelation Space and wanted to like this book a lot more than I ultimately did.

The problem was that the story does not really hold together well. The interesting details and backstory keep you reading, but I found that in the end I had rather forgotten what it was actually about and didn't have the sense that it held together very well at all.

Reynolds remains a talented and interesting writer, and this will not dissuade me from reading another of his books, but I certainly wouldn't *begin* here if I had not read Revelation Space yet.
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