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Revelation Space Mass Market Paperback – May 28, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 359 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Revelation Space Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Revelation Space (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (May 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441009425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441009428
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (359 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Beck on September 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
_Revelation Space_ belongs to a subgenre of hard science fiction that I label "eschatalogical" SF; that is, science fiction that attempts to explain the history of the universe, or at least a big enough portion of it. SF on an almost infinite scale of both time and space. SF that portrays a universe with a purpose, a big, hidden purpose, the discovery of which motivates the characters in the novel and the revelation of which (pardon the pun) forms its denouement. (As examples, read all four of Fred Pohl's "Heechee" novels, or David Zindell's "Neverness" series.) Such works promise much; and they had better deliver, for little is more disappointing than something that dares and fizzles.
_Revelation Space_ definitely does not fizzle, but it didn't quite deliver on its great promise, either. Not that I didn't enjoy the journey. It's one of the few even hard SF books that really depends on the relativistic effect of high-speed interstellar travel. The bells and whistles of authorial imagination (intended to make you admire his creativity - in this case, the Pattern Jugglers, Conjoiners, Ultras, the Shrouds, etc.) are clever and convincing indeed; the shape of human society is very original - different enough from our own day to seem plausibly futuristic, yet recognizable enough so that we can care about the characters as humans with whom we still have something in common.
The plot is fascinating - you really want to know what happened to the Amarantins, you really want Sylveste to make his ultimate discovery. You just hope the revelations, when they come, will be shattering ENOUGH, that the payoff will be truly galactic in scope. And that's where _Revelation Space didn't quite fulfill its mighty promise.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
With Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds' first novel, he aims high and hits the target almost dead on. It's a rarity these days to find an author capable of combining hard science fiction with good storytelling, but if this book demonstrates anything, it's that Reynolds is just such an author. And even more impressive, he does it on a grand scale, weaving together events that take place light-years and decades (and even centuries) apart.
I won't bother to outline the story here - I'm sure plenty of other reviewers have already done that. What I will say is that the author places his characters against the backdrop of human existence several centuries from now, when interstellar space has been colonized, trade ships spend decades plying the space between starts, and human beings exist in a variety of forms, from highly modified cybernetic beings to artificial simulations based on brain scans of the dead. Yet even on such a grand stage, the characters are never lost - Sylveste, Khouri and Volyova are each strong enough to hold their own, and even if you never find yourself caring about them, you will want to keep reading to learn of their fates.
The story is well written and very engaging, and despite the fact that it lost some momentum in the middle, I found myself eagerly turning pages to find out what would happen next. All in all, though this is not quite a perfect sci-fi novel, it comes close - and definitely deserves five stars! I would recommend it without hesitation to any fan of hard science fiction.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am conflicted by this book. On the one hand, Reynolds brilliantly imagines far-future human societies (like the genetically modified space-faring Ultras), giant, intelligent spaceships (like the miles-long Nostalgia For Infinity, partially taken over by a virus that feeds on computers), ancient alien races, and all the necessary technology to make these believable. In the hands of a better writer, the components - the content - of this book would be downright incredible.

However, Reynolds is not a good writer. His characters exist merely to move the story forward. I don't think any of the main three could seriously be called "heroes". It doesn't matter to me that they're all working against each other at certain times, but none of them ever seems real enough. Sylveste is a slightly egomaniacal scientist obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the disappearance of a race of aliens thousands of years ago. Ana Khouri is a mercenary hired by a mysterious stranger to kill Sylveste. Volyova is the commander (sort of) of a giant starship (mentioned above) that is also searching for Sylveste, because she needs his help. Beyond that, they are interchangeable. Only their motivations differ - they speak in the exact same voice, and their actions are hardly distinctive. You wouldn't recognize these characters if you happened to meet them anywhere else; they're just plot devices, and that is incredibly irritating.

The book takes about 200 pages too much in getting its plot worked out. It's very long, and I'm not sure how much of that length is really essential to the whole. Reynolds spends a lot of time with flashbacks - not important ones, just brief ones to tell you what a character was doing ten minutes before he/she was doing something else. Utterly superfluous.
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