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Revelation Space Mass Market Paperback – May 28, 2002
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Alastair Reynolds's first novel is "hard" SF on an epic scale, crammed with technological marvels and immensities. Its events take place over a relatively short period, but have roots a billion years old--when the Dawn War ravaged our galaxy.
Sylveste is the only man ever to return alive and sane from a Shroud, an enclave in space protected by awesome gravity-warping defenses: "a folding a billion times less severe should have required more energy than was stored in the entire rest-mass of the galaxy." Now an intuition he doesn't understand makes him explore the dead world Resurgam, whose birdlike natives long ago tripped some booby trap that made their own sun erupt in a deadly flare.
Meanwhile, the vast, decaying lightship Nostalgia for Infinity is coming for Sylveste, whose dead father (in AI simulation) could perhaps help the Captain, frozen near absolute zero yet still suffering monstrous transformation by nanotech plague. Most of Infinity's tiny crew have hidden agendas--Khouri the reluctant contract assassin believes she must kill Sylveste to save humanity--and there are two bodiless stowaways, one no longer human and one never human. Shocking truths emerge from bluff, betrayal, and ingenious lies.
The trail leads to a neutron star where an orbiting alien construct has defenses to challenge the Infinity's planet-wrecking superweapons.
At the heart of this artifact, the final revelations detonate--most satisfyingly. Dense with information and incident, this longish novel has no surplus fat and seems almost too short. A sparkling SF debut. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
This distant-past/far-future, hard sci-fi tour de force probes a galaxy-wide enigma: why does spacefaring humanity encounter so few remnants of intelligent life? Excavating the 900,000-year-old Amarantin civilization on its home world, Resurgam, archaeologist Dan Sylveste discovers evidence of a splinter cult that abandoned Resurgam for the stars but returned, only to be swallowed up by a mysterious cataclysm that destroyed all the Amarantins. Aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity, a vast light-hugger ship in interstellar space, the ominous Triumvirate of cyborg starfarers seeks Sylveste to heal its captain, afflicted by the deadly Melding Plague, which turns once-humans into their own semisentient spaceships. In Chasm City on the slum-ridden world of Yellowstone, assassin Ana Khouri joins the Nostalgia's crew intent on killing Sylveste. Clearly intoxicated by cutting-edge scientific research in bioengineering, space physics, cybernetics Reynolds spins a ravishingly inventive tale of intrigue. Hard SF addicts will applaud the author's talent for creating convincing alien beings and the often uneasy merging of human and machine intelligence, depicted here as nearly too frighteningly real for comfort. Others, however, may find these human-cybernetic hybrid characters chilling, dispassionate (except for their built-in drives toward revenge and murder) and foreboding. Reynolds's vision of a future dominated by artificial intelligence trembles with the ultimate cold of the dark between the stars.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds is a stand alone novel and is also well-known as book 1 in the 6 book "Revelation Space" series published during 2000-2007.
In this story mankind has evolved into various conflicting factions and has established colonies on other planets all without the use of FTL - faster than light travel. Scientist-archeologist Dan Sylvester is excavating an alien artifact on the planet Resurgam. The hieroglyphical markings on this nine thousand centuries monument gives a picture of a planet destroying encounter with vastly superior alien technology. We learn that the aliens - referred to as the "Inhibitators" are ancient survivors of the "Dawn War". The Inhibitators, victors in a galaxy wide centuries long war are dedicated to prevent at all cost another species from spreading the seeds of conflict. Prevention is in the form of automatic sentinels that react with ferocious planet annihilating power if certain technological triggers are activated. Sylvester cunningly maneuvers himself to become involved in a fascinating and fantastical series of events that results in a mystical-like confronting with the Inhibitors artifact.
There are numerous ideas, characters and back story allusions peppered throughout this novel. At time I felt like I had mistakenly read the last book in a sequential series when I was in fact reading book 1. I can understand an authors' desire to materialize an all encompassing "outer space" theme for a series but without footnotes or a glossary this reader was somewhat dazed and confused.
Mr. Reynolds, with his Ph. D in astronomy is a master at technological extrapolation. Therefore this story exhibits many "hard" aspects of hardware type science-fiction that will cause long time fans weep with joy and others to whimper with annoyance.
My trades paperback edition of this title ran 600 pages with a small font. I enjoyed this story with one major reservation - it would of been a much better reading experience if the page count was 300 instead of 600. Mr. Reynolds takes three pages to describe an event or a dramatic situation when one concise page would do just fine. Where was the editor when this manuscript was submitted?
If you are ready to curl up with a snappy long winded tour-de-force of space war run amok then this is the book for you my friend. I will be on the look out for book 2 "Chasm City" (2001).
Despite these issues, I found REVELATION SPACE quite readable. Reynolds uses language nicely, the action moved along at a good pace, and the universe Reynolds has created is an intriguing one. So, while it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be, this is still better than average sci fi and I expect to read the next book in this series.
If you're looking for a light, breezy, superficial, unrewarding read,...then buy another book.
This one is deep. So deep, I've had to read it 3 times (voluntarily) to make sure I got everything that shows up later. Aw heck! I read the entire series 3 times. The details in this book and those that follow are inter-related, complex, and are a job to keep track of....which is what makes it an absolutely fun book to read. Hard Sci-Fi.
Dense, highly conceptual, strange and wonderful concepts and ways of thinking.
I enjoy books that make me think or make me say "Wow!". This one does that and more.
For those starting, it starts off slow. It takes awhile. You need to let yourself become immersed in it slowly. Do not give up after the first 100 pages. It's a good story. It's good storytelling. It's good futuristic science. Excellent character development.
I won't rehash the story, just to say that this book is a very good start for the author. It goes from a very good book to a WOW book when read in the context of the series.
Thank you Mr. Reynolds. I'd be even more thankful if you kept playing in this universe even more than the books that you published after this. Some details of the Dawn War. Even more about the space-faring Atamians and conflict with the traditional ones. The Wolves. This is a big playground with a lot that one could play with.