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Revenger Paperback – February 28, 2017
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"A swashbuckling thriller--Pirates of the Caribbean meets Firefly--that nevertheless combines the author's trademark hard SF with effective, coming-of-age characterization."
"Revenger is classic Reynolds-that is to say, top of the line science fiction, where characters are matched beautifully with ideas and have to find their place in a complex future. More!"―Greg Bear
"Alastair Reynolds [is] one of the leading lights of the New Space Opera Movement . . . . Revenger is tremendous fun." ―Locus
"Reynolds has sketched in a galaxy littered with the relics of former civilizations (human and alien), with plenty left to the reader's imagination, and room for a sequel."―Library Journal on Revenger
About the Author
Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry, South Wales, in 1966. He studied at Newcastle and St. Andrews Universities and has a Ph.D. in astronomy. he stopped working as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency to become a full-time writer. Revelation Space and Pushing Ice were shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Revelation Space, Absolution Gap, Diamond Dogs, and Century Rain were shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Award, and Chasm City won the British Science Fiction Award.
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Top Customer Reviews
Adrana and Arafura Ness are sisters and when the precocious and disaffected Adrana formulates a plan to escape what she sees as their cloistered life on Mazarile, she drags into Arafuna into the adventure.
The setting is 'elsewhere' in the universe where a million little worldlets, most with what seem to be black holes in their cores generating gravity, orbit - or not, that aspect wasn't clear to me - a dying sun. It could be the future, it could the past but the main population is human with a smattering of alien races to spice things up and some robots for menial tasks. There have been a succession of civilizations, each of which has left remnants behind, including the fact that many of the worldlets are hidden by energy barriers that power up and down on irregular cycles. Predicting when these 'baubles' are accessible and then plundering the treasures that remain is a common way of life for the crews of various ships that ply the spaces between the worlds. The fact that those worlds are weeks apart and that the ships use solar sails for propulsion only adds to the claustrophobic nature of the novel, both in physical space and psychological impact.
Reynolds' milieu includes high-tech artifacts that are essentially magic to the current generation, and it is Adrana's and Arafura's ability as Sympathetic's that make them attractive new recruits for Captain Rackamore, a ship owner looking for a new "Bone Reader" to complement his crew. The Bones are left behind communications gear that humans of a certain age can interface with, though the message protocol is decidedly vague so Bone Readers apply a degree of interpretation to whatever is coming in over the wire.
Arafura - or "Fura Ness" as she proudly declares herself - is the protagonist of "Revenger" and the story is told first person from her point of view. It is a story of adventure, and personal discovery, and revenge and redemption, and I felt that Fura carries the spark of Reynolds' excellent character Ilia Volyova from "Revelation Space". That is no bad thing because, like Ilia, Fura is a well rounded character with the mettle to do what needs to be done and sufficient empathy to distress over the very same.
Now I do have to say that the opening sequence is gentle compared to what follows, and it might suggest a certain YA direction to the book. Don't be mislead, this is adult sci-fi with moral ambiguities, sudden and graphic violence, and subtle curves of plot that zing around later to hook you.
Simply put, if you enjoyed early Reynolds then I suspect you will enjoy "Revenger". It is complicated, has lots of interesting characters - and many of them die, gotta appreciate an author who is comfortable with that - logically builds to a climax and closes out as a single story...though includes potential for a sequel or two if need be. And I hope there is a sequel because unlike the star spanning adventures of the Akinya family in Reynolds previous run of novels, I found this tightly bound universe compelling.
It is unlike Reynolds' other novels because I have never found his characters, even the best and most interesting ones, to be particularly understandable or deep. They were mysterious and engaging but I never really felt I knew, understood or could relate to them. It is completely the opposite in this book. The characters are very engaging. They take you with them on their struggles, journeys, losses and wins. It is nice, but does lose some of the feeling that you are in an otherworldly cold, dark future that the odd impersonality leant to the characters in Reynolds other books.
The story line also has a nice arc and sequence. While isolated events are often surprising and fun, the overall plot line can probably be guessed pretty early on. That is also quite different than Reynolds' other works, which often involve ideas so fantastic that it is hard to put them into anything that could resemble a predictable pattern - their motives, reactions and goals might be unguessable. For better or for worse Reynolds' endings in his other books, while unpredictable, could also at times be head scratchers. In Revenger it is much more regular and sensible and still quite fun.
My guess is that Reynolds (under his own volition or at his publisher's insistence) got some heaving editing done on his work to make it more palatable to a general audience. The result is something quite good, but not what one would expect from Reynolds, even in his best prior works. It is imaginative, dark and intriguing, but missing that eerie uncertainty that was previously present. All in all it is definitely worth a read but if this is the only type of work Reynolds intends to publish in the future rather than his wildly speculative and unhinged space dramas, I would be disappointed.
Reynolds sets the scene wonderfully - we are in a far future, so far that several times civilisations have crumbled and rise again. Reynolds does this more believably than many other genre writers. The novel has good attention to the smaller interpersonal details as well. Of note is that his prose is more refined, and with much better dialogue, than in his powerful early books which sometimes got bogged down in detailed technical exposition.
Having a teenage protagonist who undergoes a character transformation, and written in the first person, it seems almost like a YA novel, and though interested teens should like it, it does not feel like a YA novel with the typical tropes. Hence my review heading: semi-YA-style. I recommend it to space opera SF lovers of all ages.
It is a standalone novel, yet the backdrop is rich enough for more stories. I would love to see Furia and Prozor return for another adventure.