With Absolution Gap
, Alastair Reynolds completes the star-spanning Inhibitors trilogy in which the previous books were Revelation Space
and Redemption Ark
. The Inhibitors are a mechanical plague, mindlessly but very resourcefully wiping out space-going civilisations that come to their notice. Their latest target is humanity, which lost a round in Redemption Ark
. One small human faction now has stealth weapons and technologies that can almost fight Inhibitor assault to a standstill, but running away still seems the only long-term option.
From the same cryptic source as that supertechnology, filtered through a young girl's mind, comes the urgent message to make an interstellar trek to Hela, barren moon of the gas-giant Haldora. Hela is home to an obsessive religion fuelled partly by mind viruses and partly by the miracle of Haldora. This unpredictable, unbelievable event happens in an eyeblink, but more and more often. For the devout this increasing frequency is a signal of the End Times, which is why a group of vast mobile cathedrals lumbers forever around Hela--to keep Haldora at the zenith for best observation of its marvels. And on this last circuit, with a madman in command, the greatest cathedral of all plans an impossible short cut over the mysterious, delicate bridge spanning an immense rift in Hela's surface: Absolution Gap.
There's a lot of action with both familiar and enjoyably exotic weapons; there's suffering, deceit, loss and triumph; there's a hideous revenge straight out of Jacobean tragedy, a series of awesome revelations and the last voyage of the lightship Nostalgia for Infinity that was so strangely transformed in Revelation Space. Ultimately, behind the enigma of Haldora, a dreadful choice awaits: whether or not to bargain with powers that may be the answer to the Inhibitors--but may be something worse. Alastair Reynolds makes his huge story compellingly readable, with characters we care about, and gives impressive descriptions of beauty and cataclysm. This is very superior space opera. --David Langford
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From Publishers Weekly
The final volume in British author Reynolds's SF trilogy that began with Revelation Space
(2001) fulfills all the staggering promise of the earlier books, and then some. The world Hela, an airless moon of the gas giant Haldora, is remarkable for two things: relics of the extinct alien race called the scuttlers, and the Quaicheist faith, whose observers (aided by infection with a virus that induces religious fervor) watch Haldora in the hope of viewing one of its mysterious, split-second disappearances. Church records show the disappearances are slowly increasing in frequency and duration. Rumors abound, and arriving pilgrims confirm that Haldora's changing behavior is a sign of the end times. When his indoctrinating virus weakens on occasion, however, Quaicheist founder Horris Quaiche has other ideas—as does young iconoclast Rashmika Els, self-taught scuttler archeologist. Meanwhile, unhappy war veteran Nevil Clavain leaves self-imposed exile on the planet Ararat to help his friend, human-pig hybrid Scorpio, and rejoin the battle against the implacable Inhibitors, "wolf" machines that seek out and destroy star-faring civilizations. From a slow start, Reynolds's plot rapidly builds momentum, hurtling to a stunning conclusion. Cinematic imagery and strong characters ably carry this juggernaut of a story, with Big Ideas strewn about like pebbles on a beach. It's not the best book to introduce Reynolds to those who've never read him, but it's without a doubt a fitting finale to the series, a landmark in hard SF space opera.
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