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.)