5 – Plot
5 – Characters
5 – World Building
4 – Writing Style
4 – Heart & Mind Aspect
23/25 Possible Score
5 – Plot
5 – Characters
5 – World Building
4 – Writing Style
4 – Heart & Mind Aspect
23/25 Possible Score
Revenger does not play up to the strengths that Alastair Reynolds has as an author. When I first heard about this book I was excited because Reynolds was going to try something new, a first-person story with a tight focus. I realized through reading Revenger, that Reynolds has always been a big picture guy, and that is what I love about his books, an expansive and detailed universe with nuances that blow your mind. In Revenger, he is shackled by the perspective of one character, and it just didn’t work for me.
Adrana and Arafura are sisters wanting to run away from home in search of adventure and money. They leave because their father needs money for a possible heart surgery and their lives are being stifled into a direction that means they will have next to no freedom. There are hints of their father wanting them to stay little girls with the assistance of a creepy doctor too. The two of them join a spaceship that looks for lost treasure in the universe, a mash-up of pirates and treasure hunters.
The first thing I would like to mention is that this opening to the story just did not settle right with me. The beginning felt thrown together and too convenient. Within the first 20 pages, the girls are deciding to leave their home, and join a space vessel. These girls that have never done a day’s work in their life, are found to be able to have the ability to talk with magic alien skulls, immediately making them valuable to spaceship crews. I expect this type of beginning in an older fantasy book but not in a Reynolds science fiction book.
I never became invested in the story because I felt the entire story of Arafura was being started in the wrong place. There is no need to show the scenes of how they got aboard Rackamore’s ship. It would have been better to talk about these things in dialogue with other characters. I feel the real story doesn’t start until after they are in space and the main conflict scene happens. If the story started right before the main conflict scene, that creates the entire narrative, it would have been such a better book, but instead, the story starts in a very uninspiring place with a trope about girls running away from home, but have special abilities to make themselves valuable.
During the scenes of conflict, which I don’t want to talk about in great detail because I think the book is better without knowing what happens, the book was outstanding. I also saw hints of that expansive universe world building that I love from Reynolds during the space flight scenes. Because this is a universe that is exponentially old, technology has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, so this far future is nothing like what you would expect it to be. The space flying is somewhat similar to our current day space flight capabilities but with a few more advanced things thrown in.
The space treasure hunters are looking for baubles that are floating around in space. The ships use an alien skull to “hack” into the communication of other ships to find baubles before everyone else. Inside these baubles, there are a lot of old(more technological advanced) items that can be sold on the market. The big thing is that these baubles only open during a small window and there need to be people that can break into the vaults. It’s a cool idea but because we have this limited view of the story, we never get a good explanation why these baubles are even out there and why they open and close. In fact, there are a lot of things in this book, because they weren’t explained, just made me think of possible inconsistencies. There is a possibility I missed a lot of these clues, though.
I think that a lot of people’s experience with this book will revolve around their thoughts on the main character Arafura’s character growth. Either the reader will believe her character growth as believable or not. I personally did not believe her character growth at all. She changed so drastically in such a small period of time. I know that traumatic events change people quickly but her entire personality was different by the end of the story. There is a weird story element that explains why she changed so much but I never was on board with that explanation.
Revenger isn’t a bad book per say, I thought it was just an OK read, I didn’t hate it, but I found it to be a problematic read that just didn’t engage me much beyond a few crucial scenes. Reynold’s character writing was never the reason I read his books, it was always the world building, and in Revenger, Reynolds is trying to get better at character writing, but at the expense of what I enjoy most about his books.
8/25 Possible Score
2 – Plot
2 – Characters
2 – World Building
1 – Writing Style
1 – Heart and Mind Aspect
Recommendation: I recommend a buy on this if you like a dreary, noir like setting in your science fiction, that is mixed with mystery, and has a focus on figuring out the world building.
Alastair Reynolds continues to put out novels, like The Prefect, that invokes in me the same feelings I felt when I first saw Blade Runner or Alien. The prefect is a space opera science fiction novel with focus on mystery and world building. This book is set in the Revelation Space Universe but other books are not required to be read before this book. The Prefect centers around Tom Dreyfus, who is a prefect for the Glitter Band, a large ring of space habitats that circle a planet. The Glitter Band is composed of individual space habitats that each are autonomous with their own weird sub-cultures but rely on the prefects at Panoply to protect them. Dreyfus is an investigator prefect, a kind of law enforcer, that is now investigating the destruction of a habitat that was purposely destroyed, killing over 900 people, just to hide something. Dreyfus must figure out why that habitat was destroyed and how it connects to events in the past.
The strongest aspect of The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds is the world building. This is only the second novel by Reynolds I’ve read, along with some short stories, but I can always tell I am reading a Reynolds book based out of the Revelation Space Universe. There is an atmosphere that is difficult to explain without comparing it to other mediums but the Revelations Space Universe can be dark and brooding. It has slow space travel(can’t go faster than light-speed), many bio-engineered and mechanically altered human beings have changed themselves to live in space flight and increase the longevity of their life. Because of these changes, the different “races” in this world are all from normal Earth humans, but they are so different now that they can’t be considered baseline human.
The Revelation Space Universe is set over 400 years into the future, with The Prefect being set in 2427. Technology has increased dramatically and when humans started to interface with machines, technology boomed. There are individuals that share thoughts with the collective hive think, there is the ability to transfer consciousness to a machine, and people have back up simulations of themselves. Reynolds tackles interesting ideas about what it is to be a person and integrates past events that have impacted the universe into his plot lines.
I really like Reynold’s writing but I do have to be in the mood for it. These are rather plot centered and world building centered books and when I’m in the mood for that, it works tremendously, but the characters can be too serious at times. Reynold’s characters are so serious that sometimes the books can be a bit of a slog. There is little emotion other than the bleakness of the circumstances and because of that these are not lighthearted novels. You would never call this a fun book.
The Prefect was a highly enjoyable plot centered story with a mystery element that worked well. Reading about Dreyfus figure out why that ship was destroyed and how it tied into past events, that are mentioned in all the Revelation Space books, was highly engrossing. I read these books because each book gives me a better understanding of this universe. No one book spells out this world in detail. Piecing together this universe by the clues given in these books is what I love. Because of this type of storytelling Reynolds throws the reader in pretty deep and asks them to just figure things out without much explanation.
The Prefect is definitely a book that I like more after I’ve read it than while I’m reading it. There were times when I couldn’t read much because I was getting a bit bored but the overall mystery kept me reading. I really liked The Prefect and highly encourage people that are into world building and piecing together things to check out Alastair Reynolds.
18/25 Possible Score
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 3(Good)
World Building – 5(Exceptional)
Writing Style – 4(Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 2(O.K.)
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds is an atmospheric space opera, with hard science fiction elements, that expects a lot out of its readers, but delivers a special mysterious narrative that captures the imagination.
5/5 24/25 possible score
Type of Story: Science fiction with elements of both space opera and hard science. Figuring out the unknown.
Plot – 5(Very Strong)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 5(Very Strong)
Writing Style – 5(Very Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 5(Very Strong – Mind part)
Revelation Space is set in the closest systems from our solar system. These star systems consist of Gliese 687, 61 Cygni, E Eridani, Delta Pavonis, and many others. The ability to travel light-years away is only through the use of cryosleep(reefersleep in the novel), while the ships themselves, which are alien in origin, can get close to light speed but never pass it. Because of the extremely long travel time to get from system to system, the human race has experimented, and delved into technologies that increase their life span.
The story starts out with three separate storylines that become intertwined with each other. Even though each character’s story is 10-45 years different from each other, cryosleep, and the long lifespans of the characters cause them all to end up at the same moment. The first storyline is a man named Dan Sylveste. Sylveste is an archaeologist and explorer of the galaxy. He is on Resurgam, a planet in the Delta Pavonis system, because he is investigating the archaeology evidence of a complex alien civilization that lived almost 1 million years ago. This alien civilization, called the Amarantins, were destroyed in an event that completely killed all life on Resurgam. Sylveste is looking into this archaeological evidence to find out what happened during this event, so that the people living on Resurgam now will be prepared if something like it happens.
The second storyline follows a crew member of the lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity, an enormous alien technology ship, used for system to system trading. Volyova is one of three leaders of the starcraft that is able to travel close to light speeds. These space traveling individuals have become something more than human, called Ultras, with a lot of machines integrated into their body, because of the amount of time they spend traveling, and in reefersleep. They are searching for Sylveste to cure their captain of a plague that is gradually taking over the captain while he is in reefersleep.
The last storyline is about an ex-soldier, turned assassin, named Khouri. Khouri takes a job that requires the assassination of Sylveste. After many years in reefersleep, she awakens when a lighthugger stops at her planet, bound to the planet of Resurgam, where Sylveste is located. Khouri becomes a part of the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity, and everyone’s destiny is heading towards Sylveste on Resurgam. Their are other mysterious individuals and possible other life forms that also are extremely interested in the outcome of this meeting. This is a story of figuring out the unknown.
Why you might enjoy this book:
Revelation Space is written by an ex-astronomer, astrophysicist, in Alastair Reynolds. Because of Reynolds’ background with the European Space Agency, he brings a specialization to the fiction that is difficult to surpass. The amount of detail within this book is outstanding. I absolutely love detailed books, and the amount of hard science present in this book is extreme. I learned quite a bit about interstellar space travel and the physics behind everything.
The amount of detail just doesn’t stop with the scientific examples but with description as well. This is one of those books where almost every movement is described in detail. Every surface of the space ship is explained and the scope of everything is just breathtakingly beautifully described. You can get a clear sense of the setting that Reynolds is trying to create in every scene.
Due to this detail to setting, the atmosphere of this book comes through remarkably. It is a gothic, dark novel, that uses atmosphere to ramp up the suspense, mystery, and unknown elements. It reminds me so much of the movie Alien, by Ridley Scott, one of my favorite movies. Revelation Space isn’t straight out horror but there are definitely some unsettling moments.
The focus of the story isn’t necessarily the characters, but the plot, and setting. It is all about figuring out the unknown elements in this galaxy. Reynolds keeps a lot back from the reader and really lures the reader in with the mysterious. I absolutely love archaeology and it is nice to see space archaeology an extremely important part of this future. Even though the characters aren’t super amazing, one thing I really found endearing is how Reynolds treated the women in this novel. The book has a relatively even split between men and women but at no time does the gender of these individuals really matter one bit. The women and men can all do the same things in this book.
Lastly, Reynolds brings up some big questions about a lot of different issues. Some of these issues are: the prolonging of human life and when a human stops becoming a human, the age of the universe and how young the human race is in compared to the universe, the ability to copy consciousness into a computer program to use later even after someone is dead, and the effects of relatively slow space travel. I absolutely loved having to focus and concentrate while reading this book. I understood it perfectly fine but this is not a light read. I loved thinking about all these big questions so much.
Why you might not like this book:
Even though I absolutely loved this book, it might not be for everyone. The scientific instances may drag on too long for some people and might not interest everyone. Some people might find some of the scientific description over their heads. This is not a light read and you should only take to reading it when you are in the mood for something a bit heavy on the mind. The descriptions might be a little too verbose for some. If you are the type that doesn’t care for wordy descriptions, this might be difficult for you to read. Because of all this, some people might find the pacing of the book to be off.
The mystery and unknown galaxy is really the driving force behind this novel. If you aren’t really into wanting to figure out things that the author has set up with their world building, this might not be the novel for you. The characters are there to further that mystery and plot forward. This really isn’t a character novel at all, even though at the end I did end up liking some of them quite a bit.
I absolutely loved this novel and will be reading more from the Revelation Space world by Reynolds. Considering this is his first main novel published, I am really looking forward to his other work. His writing style is right up my alley, descriptive, atmospheric, and suspense driven. If you feel like trying to untangle a science fiction suspense while reading extremely detailed prose, give Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds a try. This is one of my new favorite books and hopefully with more reading, Reynolds will continue to blow me away.