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Century Rain Mass Market Paperback – May 30, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest SF novel, Reynolds (Absolution Gap) creates yet another quirky, noirish vision of humanity's future. Three centuries from now, a technologically induced catastrophe, the Nanocaust, makes Earth uninhabitable. Two versions of humanity—the Threshers, who live in a ring of habitats encircling Earth, and the Slashers, who inhabit the outer planets—each blame the other for the disaster. Both groups share access to a system of artificial wormholes, one of which turns out to contain a perfect copy of Earth, sealed off from the rest of the galaxy, at its far end. The Threshers send archeologist Verity Auger to investigate. On this subtly different version of Earth, Wendell Floyd, a second-rate detective and jazz musician living in Paris in the year 1959, is looking into a very odd murder. Then Auger shows up claiming to be the victim's sister and pursued by lethal creatures who look like decaying children. While Reynolds beautifully details this alternate-universe Paris and handles the developing mystery with aplomb, his Thresher and Slasher cultures lack depth and his climax feels a bit jury-rigged. Still, fans of sophisticated hard SF should be pleased.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Twenty-third-century Earth is an uninhabitable wasteland overrun by rogue nanotechnology. When archaeologist Verity Auger, studying the relics of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Earth, is accused of reckless endangerment after a child in her care nearly dies, shadowy government forces within her department offer her an out in the form of a mission to retrieve information from somewhere where her knowledge of the mid-twentieth century will be useful. Not until she is well underway do they inpart that her destination is an ALS (anomalous large structure) at the end of a wormhole in which 1950s Earth, slightly changed, is preserved. At that other end of the wormhole, Wendell Floyd is a Parisian PI working a case that gets stranger and more dangerous as he and partner Custine uncover the evidence, which is precisely the information Verity must fetch. The threads come together in a race to save both Earths from extremists, in which Verity and Floyd frantically search for the significance and location of three metal spheres. Reynolds blends noirish sleuthing and hard sf remarkably well. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441013074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441013074
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,034,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Not revelation space. This starts with a genuine puzzle: humanity on earth has been wiped out hundreds of years ago. But contemporaneously a strange murder case needs solving in Paris, France. It's not time-travel or a parallel universe, so how can this be? Rather deus ex machina is the answer, but this is just background to the plot!

The Paris detective stuff is really not bad: believable characterisation, trademark snappy dialogue and organic plot development. Genuinely page-turning stuff.

At the half-way point it's all change, however. We get into an extended hi-tech chase sequence and the plot development stalls. The editor should have been harsher here. More serious is the collapse of plot credibility. Why would the "extremist slashers" want to unleash their genocidal plan on E2? Both revenge and the quest for real-estate are equally implausible as motivations. And the ending is scrappy.

A shame really - this had potential for audience crossover, but SF folk will like it, even those who hang out at /.
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Format: Hardcover
Man, this one just didn't do it for me. Bear in mind, I *like* Reynolds - I devoured "Revelation Space," "Redemption Ark," even the turgid and unsatisfying "Absolution Gap," and was looking forward to seeing what he could do with a slipstream/counterfactual plot.

What have we here? Thin characterization, endless, tension-free chase sequences, and (surprisingly) lotsa pseudoscience. What I liked about Reynold's earlier work was the way he let nanotechnology, exotic-physics propulsion systems, and alien contact produce recognizably human cultural responses - but in "Century Rain" he's given us a mysterious, ancient "hyperweb" of wormholes interconnecting star systems throughout the galaxy, and it's the least interesting thing in the book! It barely figures in the plot except as an excuse to get us to and from the alternate history of "E2."

I dunno, man. Baxter's Manifold books did this better. Hell, even Carl Sagan did it better - and with less mumbo-jumbo around the physics of it.

Worse, Reynolds here commits the fatal error of cuteness. The wildly technophile Slasher culture derives its name and outlook from "a certain Web community of the late twentieth century" (ack), and there are at least three gratuitous in-jokes turning on famous lines from "Casablanca" - "stick my neck out," "beautiful friendship," and "Paris." (Don't get me wrong: I adore "Casablanca," but this ain't the place to celebrate it.)

In summary: this almost feels like a piece of juvenilia acquired and published after the success of the "Revelation Space" books. I'm not ready to write Reynolds off just yet, but I'm afraid "Century Rain" has knocked him off my auto-buy list.
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Format: Hardcover
I was happy to see Alastair Reynolds setting a novel in a different universe than his first several books, good those those were. And I was interested to see if his particular talents survived transition to a different setting.

In Century Rain, I can say unreservedly that his spectacular hard-SF imagination is as evident as in his earlier books. That said, some of Reynolds's weaknesses remain: this book is as long as the earlier ones, and I rather think each of his novels would have been better at 3/4 the length or less. His prose is serviceable but not really elegant. His characters (with a couple of exceptions) are fairly stock. But that is -- well, not quibbling, but acknowledging weaknesses that are not fatal weaknesses. So -- acknowledging its weaknesses, I still enjoyed this novel, and I was often fascinated, by the end quite moved, and occasionally awed.

The story begins on two threads. One concerns Wendell Floyd, an American in Paris in 1959. But his Paris is rather altered: its technology lags our own 1959 just a bit, apparently because World War II never happened: the German advance on France stalled in the Ardennes, and Hitler was shortly later deposed. But the evils of fascism were not eliminated, and France in 1959 seems ready to come under the sway of a nasty nativist politician. Floyd is a sometime jazz musician who mainly works as a private detective, and he is drawn into investigating the mysterious death of an American woman, a death the police seem only too quick to write off as an accident or suicide.

Meanwhile, three centuries in the future -- our actual future, it seems -- Verity Auger is an expert on Paris in the "Void Century": the 21st Century. It seems that late in this century something called the Nanocaust wiped out life on Earth.
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Format: Hardcover
What do I like about Alistair Reynolds books? As an intelligent person, but not an intellectual, I marvel at the imagination required to build worlds and factions, future technology and depth of story. I look for detail, a slow build, a gradual unravelling of information throughout the long journey ( not the space chases, but the reading of the book ). I look for believable characters that for a short period become part of your life.

I don't EXPECT an A.R. novel to be a literary masterpiece. I am not sure I would know one even if I read it (unless some high brow told me it was one!).. I am simply looking for a story that makes sense, leads me into situations and worlds that I would not be able to imagine, that creates technologies and cultures that take me away from the "9 to 5", and makes me yearn to know what will happen next.

I am a simple guy, not primarily looking for similarities and comparisons, not looking to make judgements on everything from writing style to plot holes. ... just whether I enjoyed the ride for a few days

Century Rain did it for me in spades. The concept of E2 leads to far more possibilities and questions than one book could hope to cover, and surely that in itself is enough to suggest the basic idea behind the book was brilliant? That is why the ending, with a raft of possible options for Reynolds to pick, was so enjoyable.

Yes, the pacing is patchy, there may be a few too many clichés, and "phew" that was TOO close" moments, but that is what happened in THIS story.

References to "Casablanca"? They are only relevant if you know Casablanca intimately enough to recognise any homage. Sorry I missed them guys, but what the hell, it did not lead to a lessening of the enjoyment of this novel....
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