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87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2003
Just a warning to anyone reading the reviews below. These reviewers tell you specific facts about the ending of the book.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2003
One of the best things about Alastair Reynolds is that he is a practicing astronomer who really knows what he is talking about when it comes to space and planetary motion. If Reynolds makes up something that is not realistic by today's standards he is at least basing it on the current theories of space and time. This is why a science major like myself would appreciate reading his fiction more than most of the pop that found in the sci-fi section of today's book store.
However, there are many problems with Redemption Ark. It was far less enjoyable to read then either Chasm city or Revelation Space. The strength of Reynolds writing comes largely from his was imagination that is not too far detached from realistic outlook on scientific principles of today (such as our inability to achieve the speed of light). He presents us a whole new and exciting world of the future, the world that is based on the assumption of human race having the intelligence to propagate its survival by colonizing space. The setting Reynolds presented was so convincing and intriguing that it made Revelation Space almost like an ethnographic account of new cultures as well as a novel at the same time. Chasm city had some of the same element but Redemption Ark had almost nothing new. Once again we find ourselves in the same world but we are no longer impressed by it, but find ourselves in a familiar territory.
Writer's style also started wearing off in its ingenuity. Reading Redemption Ark felt like being supplied with tiny spoons of interesting plot points drifting amid empty conversational and narration filler. It is if we are feed the relevant information at more or less constant rate as we progressed towards the end. At times there were many lines like: It was time to do what had to be done or Now she knew what to do or Now he understood the significance. Some chapters ended as over dramatized, unfinished soap opera episodes.
Yet although the aforementioned flaws are more or less forgivable the biggest downfall of Redemption Ark is failure to introduce and develop likable characters. There are too many characters that are poorly developed that get too much attention and plot time. One of such characters was Felka, a semi-crazy side kick of Clavain who we really do not know much about except her affection for Clavain. There is Galiana, mentioned way too much and too often but without enough of concrete information for us to draw up her personality. But the old characters are back but they are no longer as intriguing as before. Volyova is back but is more irritating this time.
The hardest thing about reading Redemption Ark was the first two hundred pages. The prolonged introduction to new characters and setting up of a plot was just too long and mind-numbing. Too bad I couldn't amplify my conciseness like a true Conjoner and read those pages fifteen times faster.
Overall, I think that this is a worthy read for any Alaistair Reynolds fan. It is somewhat less satisfying then his previous works but nonetheless Redemption Ark is still entertaining. I'm looking forward to reading more from Reynolds although I truly hope that whatever else he will write will have nothing to do with Revelation Space universe. It is time he applied his creativity onto a new project, Revelation Space saga had all the development it needed. Go Reynolds!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2003
Who wouldn't love a plot like this? 4 km-long starship, "Nostalgia for Infinity", gradually being absorbed by the super-technovirus, the Melding Plague and/or the ship's former Captain, his mind now having merged with said Plague. The way-to-cool Triumvir Ilia Volyova trying to get control of 33 mysterious Hell-Class weapons in order to direct a pre-emptive strike against the galaxy's most fearsome menace, the soulless Inhibitor-machines, bent on extinguishing 'outbreaks' of starfaring, intelligent life. Meanwhile her associate Khouri (who survived Revelation Space!)attempting to organize the evacuation of 200.000 people from Resurgam before the Inhibitors can finish the ultimate doomsday weapon of their own, made out of the Delta Parvonis system's biggest planet! And on top of this: two competing factions of the ultra-advanced, hive-minded Conjoiners, one led by the old war-hero, Nevil Clavain, the other by his adversary, the scary cyborg woman, Skade, race towards Resurgam to reclaim the weapons for their own, more or less, righteous purposes. And that's just scratchin' the surface! This book is an incredibly cool scifi-read with more than its share of incredibly cool - and even some quite sympathetic characters (like the tormented Clavain, and the unwilling trader-turned-heroine, Antoinette Bax). Not very 'deep' characters, mind you, but they never really were in 99% of all scifi I read, so I don't mind.
What I *do* mind, however, is that the story seems strangely unfinished by the end of it. Many of the sketchy interrelations between the characters (such as between Khouri and Volyova) are barely resolved, if at all. Too many interesting characters (such as Clavain's lost love, Galiana - and to a large extent: Bax) are just left in plot limbo. And the relentless exposition of Reynold's hard-to-access-for-the-less-than-well-educated astronomy and quantum physics concepts makes it a heavy read at times. And as for the pay-off: the final showdown with the Inhibitors, well ... where did it go? It seems as if Reynolds is either aiming at picking up on a lot of things in a sequel (and I haven't yet read "Diamond dogs ... " by the way) or simply discovered that he was late for lunch and then quickly patched up what he was working on at the time and shipped the novel off to publishing. A real shame ... for it is in all other respects a great scifi-book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 18, 2006
"Redemption Ark" is billed as a sequel to Mr. Reynolds's intriguing "Revelation Space, and in some sense it is; but it's much more than that. It brings back a few of the characters--and settings--of its predecessor, but it veers off in a totally unexpected direction. The author introduces plenty of new characters--human, machine, and combinations of the two--and new puzzles. The conflicted warrior Nevil Clavain assumes the hero's role and Skade (of the detachable head) serves as his bizarre opponent.

Clavain is intriguing: like the lonely private eyes of the hardboiled detective tradition, he doesn't always quite know what's going on; and his plans don't always work quite as designed. He battles the life-destroying Inhibitors (machine intelligences that want to "inhibit" intelligent life), the forces unleashed by Skade, and a few others as well. Spaceship captain Antoinette Bax and her mechanic and more than friend Xavier Liu, who are enlisted in Clavain's pickup army, supply the human factor. Their heads aren't detachable, and they don't deal in cosmic issues; they just want to survive. And then there's Scorpio--he's a . . . err, never mind. Best if you see for yourself.

There's plenty of great science here, too. The author, an astronomer by trade, instructs his readers on how to destroy a star, and how a starship might gain sentience of its own. And the author's technique is unorthodox, he writes as though he's saying to his audience, "look--we've all read space operas--we all know how battles go." So he pretty much shows you more of the befores and afters, and less of the action than do many authors. Some may be put off. I thought it was clever.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2003
Alastair Reynolds has it, and he is running with it. Somehow out of a genre that hasn't had much interesting things happen to it in recent history (I think) Alastair has created a unique and highly colorful landscape of technology, characters, motivations, and catastrophes that is simply incredible. I usually read fantasy, but I picked up Revelation Space and couldn't just stop with that one and continued on with Chasm city and now, Redemption Ark the newest book in his science fiction futuristic series.
The complexity of this book alone should win awards within literary circles, the sheer number of plots, subplots and threads of storyline is staggering, but somehow, surprisingly, Reynolds weaves it all together and the reader is completely in the story for the entire length of the book. I think that this is probably one of the best books out today for science fiction or for fantasy, and I highly recommend reading this book to whoever has a rainy Sunday to read good literature (good luck putting it down once you start.). I highly anticipate the new book in the series and hope it is as good as the last 2. Thank you Alastair for bringing some excellent literature to this genre of writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 26, 2006
Picking up 50 years after where Revelation Space left, this fantastic hard science fiction novel (second of a trilogy) once again brings a cast of characters - some new and some from the first book - from light years apart (in time and space) and builds their story arcs until the collide and the climax of the book.

In the 26th century, humans have split into factions: the Conjoiners, with their augmented mental abilities and group mind capabilities; the Demarchists, who hate human augmentation of any kind and losing their war with the Conjoiners over control of the Yellowstone system (which they don't realize the Conjoiners may not want anymore); Ultras - cyborgs, that started out human - who pilot trade ships between the stars; and everyone else, who are mostly out for their own gain, survival, or both.

When centuries old Clavain learns that the Conjoiners have learned of the Inhibitors - semi-intelligent machines charged the suppression of intelligent life in the galaxy - is the source of all of the extinct civilizations on the brink of space travel for the last few hundred million years and that they plan to run and leave the rest of humanity to suffer the same fate, he defects from the Conjoiners and travels into the heart of the enemy looking for allies to help him recover a cache of Hell Weapons, stolen from the Conjoiners decades before, that are in the Delta Pavonis system on an Ultra lighthugger; weapons that the Conjoiners want back as well.

Meanwhile, 50 years after Revelation Space, in the Delta Pavonis system, the survivors of that same lighthugger are struggling to guide the colony of 200,000 living on Resurgam under a brutal authoritarian government towards their salvation from the Inhibitors, who have arrived in system after being alerted by the activities that brought Revelation Space to conclusion (I will leave out the details for those a book behind). The Inhibitors have begun to dismantle some moons in the system with the goal of building an extinction weapon.

Clavain's rag-tag army and the Conjoiners giving chase are heading to Resurgam unaware of the system's fate and their role in it. I am so looking forward to reading the conclusion in Absolution Gap (update: see my review for Absolution Gap to learn why my excitement became disappointment)!


A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2003
Lacking the initiative to go back and review Reynolds' other books (for the moment,) I'm going to weigh in on his most recent. True fans of well-written hard SF should be aware of the strength of UK writers by now -- Alastair Reynolds needs to be held in the same esteem as Ken Macleod, Peter Hamilton and Richard K. Morgan. The works in his Inhibitors series (Revelation Space, Chasm City, and too many short stories and novellas to mention) are among the finest hard SF ever written. Redemption Ark shares their fine writing, storytelling and concepts, but as an obvious transition chapter in the overall story, it fails to excell as an actual novel.
Not to say it's not good and a fun read; on the contrary, it kept me glued to the page from start to finish. Its problem is its transitory nature -- it neither completes the saga of the Inhibitors and the human diaspora nor supplies a self-contained chapter of the overall story. The next (final?) book in the series, Absolution Gap, should rightfully complete the story begun in this book. A part two, if you will.
Ignore Reynolds at your own peril -- he's a force to be reckoned with in SF. Do not, however, begin your exposure to him with this book. Start with Relevation Space and follow from there. The rewards will be evident.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2005
"Redemption Ark", the third novel by Alastair Reynolds, is the professional astronomer's best work yet. It is an intricate and richly imagined space opera that hits a sci-fi sweet spot with its intriguing characters, fast-moving plot, detailed vision of humanity's future, and hard science.

The story picks up some years after the end of Reynolds' debut novel, "Revelation Space". It also shares some locales and minor characters with his second book, "Chasm City". It is helpful but not necessary to have read those books before this one.

The basic plotline revolves around the discovery that humanity has attracted the interest of the Inhibitors, a swarm of deadly, self-replicating machines whose genocidal wrath is triggered when an intelligent species adopts advanced star-faring technology on a broad scale. Several groups of people realize that the best hope for survival lies with a super-secret cache of weapons now stowed on a distant ship. A race for control of the cache ensues. But that is a vastly simplified summary. There are too many wrinkles and twists in the plot to go into in a review like this, but the reader is never left feeling confused or disoriented.

As usual, Reynolds' material also stands out for its excellent scientific imaginings. New acceleration technologies and methods for destroying planets and stars are described in thought-provoking detail.

Woven into all this is the theme of redemption. Nearly every character in the book, whether a legendary general with augmented mental powers, a murderous half-pig freak, a diseased ship captain who has melded with his vessel, or a disguised digital copy of a long-dead smuggler, has to come to terms with grievous past crimes. These individual conflicts are so convincingly portrayed that they evoke genuine empathy with even the most vile characters in the book.

Reynolds really hit one out of the park with this book. Highly recommended for those who have enjoyed his previous works. And if you haven't read him before, this may very well be the best place to start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2004
Chasm City, and the Revelation Space books, bring to life a universe, that is as rich, dark, and weird as the early Greg Bear novels. If you like your science fiction hard and fast, with rich characters, these books are for you. Reynolds somehow brings the tremendously long distances and time spans between stars up to the speed of heat in his "lighthuggers" (relativistic starships) in Revelation Space, and describes a culture that had great wealth in technology, and lost it in Chasm City. So, go find yourself an intelligent weapon of planetary destruction in your lighthugger weapons bay, get your mods implants, and get ready for some kick-ass gunnery training. Sci-Fi doesn't get much better than this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2005
I've read all the real sci-fi greats from Asimov to Clarke to Pohl but I have a limited appetite for the fantasy end of sci-fi like LeGuin.

If you also prefer imagination sparked by hard science and are looking for a new author in the mold of Simak and Poul Anderson with the texture of Herbert, Zelazny and Niven, you will be thoroughly impressed.

Starts a bit slow but Reynolds soon weaves a complex story with intricate charactors and compelling science. It's good enough to 'have' to replace my half-finished copy I accidentally left on a recent flight!
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